License Question

Ted Mittelstaedt tedm at
Fri Nov 25 10:58:37 GMT 2005

>-----Original Message-----
>From: owner-freebsd-questions at
>[mailto:owner-freebsd-questions at]On Behalf Of Manolo
>Sent: Thursday, November 24, 2005 11:27 PM
>To: freebsd-questions at
>Subject: License Question
>  Hi All
>  I'm new to this forum. I am a bit confused about the FreeBSD 
>license and keep getting conflicting answers from different 
>people. Would like to know you guys think. Here goes.
>  If I make modifications to FreeBSD and then distribute it 
>(the modified FreeBSD) to others:
>  1. Must I provide the source code or can I choose not to?

This depends.  What do you mean by "FreeBSD"  FreeBSD contains
some programs that are not under the BSD license.  For example
the compiler.  That is under the GPL.  If you modify the
compiler the GPL license says you must distribute the mods.

Anyone doing what you propose would presumably be not so lazy
that they would not actually read the source code they are
working on, it will say at the beginning of the code what
license it is under.

Read the FreeBSD website it contains some text of some of
the licenses.  Read the text.  The text will tell you what is
allowable and what is not.  If you still have questions
about the licensing ON A SPECIFIC SOURCE FILE or questions
on A SPECIFIC LICENSE then come here and ask.

Otherwise, asking general questions like you are doing is
just looking to cause trouble.  There is no "get out of jail
free card" in the FreeBSD licensing that covers every source
file.  You do indeed have to actually do the work of looking
at everything you are linking into, the source files of it,
and check their licenses.

Effort has been made to try to get the base system as unencumbered
as possible, but this has mainly been done with the idea of
not causing problems for users when they compile programs and
run them under FreeBSD for their organization or for other
people, and not making companies selling FreeBSD binaries have
to spend months rewriting critical parts of the system.
It is a different ballgame when you are proposing 
taking source in the FreeBSD distribution and modifying it then
distributing only the modified binaries.  There are many
companies doing this, but all of them had to vet their source
the same way you are going to have to do.  Sorry, but there
is no free lunch here, you cannot just assume everything in
FreeBSD is covered under the FreeBSD license.


PS  Keep one other thing in mind.  If you make mods to
the FreeBSD files and do not contribute your changes
back, you are going to have to be forever rewriting your
mods when a new FreeBSD version comes out.  If however
you contribute your mods back, and they are accepted,
(some mods are not accepted) then you will be freed from the
burden of having to maintain them.  What is more important
is that you will get advice and direction from the core as
to where they intended to go with FreeBSD, and this will
help you to avoid writing mods that later have to be 
extensively rewritten.

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