Subject: RE: Compatibility of the AFL with the GPL
From: "Lawrence E. Rosen" <>
Date: Wed, 12 Mar 2003 17:46:43 -0800

Brian Behlendorf wrote:
> *Sigh*.  OK, now I get it.  W+X and W' has *two* licenses, 
> one each to two different parties.  The terms of *both* must 
> be followed by Person C.
> My common-sense, non-lawyer brain says that if person B says 
> W+X or W' are under the GPL, it's really "GPL to Person B 
> plus AFL to Person A." It appears to be Stallman's opinion, 
> and it would be mine as well, that this cannot be the case, 
> as the GPL prevents "additional restrictions", without a 
> qualifier as to which party those restrictions are enforced by.

I'm sorry, Brian, I just don't view these things as "additional
restrictions" -- yet another example of vagueness in the GPL.
Regardless, the explicit exclusion of a trademark license and the mutual
defense provision are not going to disappear from the AFL.

I've assured you, as the license author, that the AFL-licensor doesn't
care if his work is incorporated into a GPL-licensed or Apache-licensed
work.  The GPL/Apache-licensor who includes AFL-licensed components also
shouldn't care; his work is licensed as he wishes, under the
GPL/Apache-license, without warranty of any kind.  Neither of these
parties would ever sue each other.  After all, they're both into free

You keep worrying about the downstream licensee, but let's think about
his concerns more carefully.  Why should he care, for the most part,
about the AFL-licensed component?  By law he cannot use the
AFL-licensor's trademarks anyway, so as a practical matter who cares
whether he's actually read the AFL license.  As for the mutual defense
provision, if he's planning to sue for patent infringement he would be
well-advised to write a cease-and-desist letter first and understand the
risks of suing against open source software that very well might have
been incorporated into his own company's infrastructure by now.  I
simply don't care about him and our community owes him no consideration

Bottom line: I can assure you, as the license author, that the AFL is
intended to be used for software that can be incorporated into
GPL-licensed software, and I will almost certainly so advise my clients:

***** If you combine AFL-licensed software with GPL-licensed software,
***** and license the result under the GPL,
***** nobody will ever sue you for doing so!

I guess that's compatibility in fact, if not in RMS' mind.

If RMS continues to believe that the licenses are incompatible, he
should either change the GPL or stand out of the way of progress.  There
is no possible reason to assume that the GPL states all the important
rules of behavior in the open source community or expresses each
licensor's view of what is truly free software.  No license ever could.
But this obstinate refusal by FSF to declare compatibility of the AFL,
or to change the GPL to allow compatibility, is encouraging the creation
of islands of free software that people erroneously think cannot be
re-used in GPL-licensed software.  That will be our community's loss.  

/Larry Rosen

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