GPL vs BSD Licence

Ted Mittelstaedt tedm at
Wed Oct 27 02:30:54 PDT 2004

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Danny MacMillan [mailto:flowers at]
> Sent: Tuesday, October 26, 2004 11:24 AM
> To: Ted Mittelstaedt
> Cc: Graham Bentley; freebsd-questions at
> Subject: Re: GPL vs BSD Licence
> I will preface my reply with the following disclaimer:  I am no
> lawyer.  However as it's clear that you're not either, it makes
> little practical difference.
> On Tue, Oct 26, 2004 at 01:51:02AM -0600, Ted Mittelstaedt wrote:
> >
> > ...
> >
> > What is ignored is that the GPL contains a loophole - it DOES allow
> > itself to be violated by a very specific person - the code copyright
> > holder.
> There is no violation.  The copyright holder is the licensor, not the
> licensee.  No one needs a license to use the materials to which she
> holds the copyright.  A license is used to grant (usually limited)
> rights to people who do not hold the copyright.  The copyright holder,
> by definition, has those rights and does not need them to be assigned.

It is a violation of the intent of the GPL license, not a legal violation
of copyright rights.  You are correct in that, I should have made this
more clear.

> > The reason is that the GPL is a license that DOES NOT CHANGE the
> > copyright.
> No license changes the copyright; see below.
> > In short, if you apply the real live BSD license to your code, you
> > are explicitly transferring your copyright to the Regents of the
> > University of California.
> This is nonsense.  Copyright assignment and licensing are separate and
> discrete.  You certainly can assign your copyright to the Regents if you
> wish.  This has no doubt been done.  However, you can assign your
> copyright to anyone you wish, regardless of the license that is used.

No, not for the BSD license, if you are using the term "BSD license"
as it is understood by most people.  You do know what
the B in BSD stands for, right?

I didn't say "the FreeBSD license" or a "BSD-like" license.

Granted, from a legal perspective licensing and copyright assignment
are separate.  But, what the public understands as "BSD licensed" code
is just that - code licensed by Berkeley.  Copyright assignment to
UCB is implicit here.

Truthfully, the term "BSD license" is slang anyway.  You will note
on the following:

that the FreeBSD project uses the legally correct term "BSD Copyright".

> In fact, the instant you assign your copyright you no longer have the
> right to decide under what license the copyrighted material will be
> provided (if at all), although when assigning to the Regents "BSD" is
> a pretty safe bet.  Furthermore, licensing material under the BSD
> license does not imply that the copyright will be transferred to
> the Regents.  The copyright holder is identified at the top of the
> BSD license; this information is important as it identifies the
> licensor, one party to the agreement represented by the license.
> For material you wrote, you are the copyright holder unless and until
> you explicitly assign the copyright to another entity, or you're under
> some agreement with someone (with your employer, for example) that
> causes the copyright for the product of your work to belong to them.
> Identifying the Regents as the copyright holder at the top of a BSD
> license pertaining to material you wrote probably is legally
> sufficient to transfer the copyright to them, but you are not
> obligated to identify them as the copyright holder or relinquish
> your copyright just to use the BSD license.
> I refer you to the license itself:
> Note the placeholder for <owner>.

You might consider that is NOT a BSD site, it was
setup by Linux people not BSD people.  There has been little interest
from in FreeBSD or anything other than Linux.  In
fact, they are so bigoted that Bruce Perens, who was one of the
founders of OSI, got completely disgusted with them and left.
Details of this were documented in an interview Bruce did for
the September 2001 issue of Linux Magazine, pages 35-38

You would get far better information about the BSD license from
a BSD-related site, like the FreeBSD link I supplied above.

> I fully expect you to argue that a BSD license that does not identify
> the Regents of the University of California is not "the real live
> BSD license".  I would disagree.  By what criteria can an authentic
> BSD license be distinguished from lesser imitations?  I doubt that
> whether the Regents are the licensor are not is a criteria in common
> use -- see above web site, which is about as authoritative a
> reference as exists for free and open source licenses.  It's also
> instructive to peruse the source code for the ostensibly BSD-licensed
> FreeBSD operating system and see who holds the copyright.

I would argue this because it's true.  You saying that a BSD
license is the same thing as a BSD-like license is simply
false.  And FreeBSD already has made it's statements regarding
the source code copyright statements, as detailed on the
FreeBSD site link above.

You know, RMS when he wrote the GPL was worried about people like
you.  That is why he copyrighted the text of the GPL itself - to
prevent historical revisionists like yourself from coming along
and making statements like "By what criteria can an authentic
GPL license be distinguished from lesser imitations"  The BSD
license wasn't copyrighted because back then nobody thought that
someone would come along like you who would twist the meaning
around through pure semantic games.  People were more reasonable
and figured that someone could read the BSD license affixed to
the top of every source file!

The Open Source Initiative is not "about as authoritative a
reference as exists for free and open source licenses"  It is
a political PR machine that exists to keep Eric Raymond able
to command expensive speaking fees from ignorant people
who don't know any better.

> Most of the rest of your arguments, being based on this fallacy, is
> invalid.  To the extent that your arguments against the GPL are
> valid, they are equally valid arguments against the BSD license.

The OP wanted to know the DIFFERENCES between GPL and BSD based
on ignorant comments made by a Linux bigot.  (I would of course
expect that Linus has a perfect right to be bigoted about an OS
that he himself wrote, naturally!)  I illustrated one of the
great holes of the GPL in order to show that it is very different
from the BSD license.  I think that illustrated this point very
well.  If you would like to extend the discussion to one of the
pros and cons of BSD vs GPL I would love to see your arguments.

> Ah, so your point is that people should transfer their copyrights to an
> organization dedicated to keeping the code free.  Well, maybe they should,
> but that has nothing to do with which license is used.

The people that WROTE the GPL ie: Richard Stallman - are TELLING THE
DEVELOPERS THAT USE IT that they should transfer copyright to the FSF.
This isn't MY point, it is the stated position of the authors of the

I would think that if I was a developer that was so all-fired up
about the GPL that I would pay attention to what the authors of
it were telling me to do with my code!

> >
> > The day that Linuc transfers his Linux copyright to the FSF I will
> > start respecting what he has to say about licensing.  Until then,
> > what he is saying is pure bullshit.
> An interesting turn of phrase.

OK, penguin shit.


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