Subject: Re: Mechanics of Contributing with a New License
From: David Barrett <>
Date: Sun, 24 Jul 2005 02:44:23 -0700

Chris Zumbrunn wrote:
> On Jul 23, 2005, at 9:22 PM, David Barrett wrote:
>> Actually, you bring up a good point.  Given that each file is 
>> typically licensed as a whole, but modifications are done in part, if 
>> you submit changes under a new license, how is this represented?
> A contributor cannot relicense code covered under the OVPL. This is the 
> case with any license. Only the copyright holder can relicense code. The 
> idea is that when the ID receives a modification from a contributor, it 
> receives this modification under a BSD style license, which allows for 
> reuse inside the OVPL licensed project. 

Well, yes I get this.  But my questions is at what granularity do 
licenses apply?  So far as I can tell, virtually all code is licensed on 
a per-file basis.  Perhaps there are exceptions, but I've never 
encountered them.

Based on this observation, I see a reasonable argument that making any 
modification to a file constitutes modifying the whole file, and thus 
justifies -- indeed requires (according to the OVPL/BSD proposal) 
releasing the entire file under the BSD license.

Furthermore, were this simply done for every file in the entire project, 
then this would justfy releasing the entire project under the BSD 
license, because the entire thing has has been "modified".  And once 
released under BSD, I (and anyone else who wants one) now have a 
proprietary copy of the entire project, at no cost, effectively 
nullifying any potential commercial value the ID might have been able to 

Personally, I wouldn't be eager to defend myself against the argument:

Person A: "Your honor, the OVPL mandates I release contributions under 
the BSD.  In order to comply with this requirement, I followed the 
industry standard (see exhibits A through ZZZZ) and recorded the new 
license at the top of the modified file, and posted it on my website."

Person B: "Your honor, I downloaded a copy of a BSD-licensed project 
from some website and made changes, and now this man says something 
about an 'OVPL' license?  Look for yourself, there is no mention of this 
'OVPL' anywhere in the entire codebase.  Because this project is plainly 
licensed under BSD (just check the tops of the files), and because the 
BSD does not require me to reveal my changes to anyone, I am clearly 
under no obligation to share future modifications with this man."

Whether or not the court would uphold this decision is impossible to 
tell, but I wouldn't want to be the guinea pig to find out.

But to bring me back to the topic I really want to discuss, I still 
haven't heard why making 3.3 opt-out on a per-file basis doesn't neatly 
solve this whole dillema.