WordPress Licensing Issues – the third day

    Wordpress development goes on every day. At least for that part that has a committing developer. In case there is none, it gets stuck.

    Licensing issues only seem to be interesting in the beginning. You get comments by core developers that they care and all the like. But when the real work starts, you’re pretty much alone and need to shift mountains before something get’s traction.

    I know that I have support by other fellow free software developers and users out there even if it’s hard to formulate the right approach directly from the beginning. It’s about finding a way to go through together. And licensing is an issue that’s not easy to take in many directions. If you confront yourself with it, you might end up with more questions then you have answers. But it’s worth it.

    Asking for shipping the BSD license with the wordpress package (as we do with the GPL license text) seemed to somehow cross a line in the sand. It’s neglected by the project (core in specific, other devs are actually providing own ideas). I absolutely do not understand why this is a problem. We have BSD licensed code in the package (at least right now we think we have). And for the sake of the users safeness, why not provide what the license asks for – the license text and disclaimer? Here, this is an example BSD license that is not within the code while worpdress is including and extending the Incutio XML-RPC Library:

    IXR - The Incutio XML-RPC Library 
    
    Copyright (c) 2002-2005, Incutio Ltd. 
    All rights reserved. 
    
    Redistribution and use in source and binary forms, with or without  
    modification, are permitted provided that the following conditions are met: 
    
      - Redistributions of source code must retain the above copyright notice,  
        this list of conditions and the following disclaimer. 
      - Redistributions in binary form must reproduce the above copyright  
        notice, this list of conditions and the following disclaimer in the  
        documentation and/or other materials provided with the distribution. 
      - Neither the name of the Incutio Ltd. nor the names of its contributors  
        may be used to endorse or promote products derived from this software  
        without specific prior written permission. 
      
     THIS SOFTWARE IS PROVIDED BY THE COPYRIGHT HOLDERS AND CONTRIBUTORS "AS  
     IS" AND ANY EXPRESS OR IMPLIED WARRANTIES, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO,  
     THE IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY AND FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR  
     PURPOSE ARE DISCLAIMED. IN NO EVENT SHALL THE COPYRIGHT HOLDER OR  
     CONTRIBUTORS BE LIABLE FOR ANY DIRECT, INDIRECT, INCIDENTAL, SPECIAL,  
     EXEMPLARY, OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES (INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO,  
     PROCUREMENT OF SUBSTITUTE GOODS OR SERVICES; LOSS OF USE, DATA, OR  
     PROFITS; OR BUSINESS INTERRUPTION) HOWEVER CAUSED AND ON ANY THEORY  
     OF LIABILITY, WHETHER IN CONTRACT, STRICT LIABILITY, OR TORT  
     (INCLUDING NEGLIGENCE OR OTHERWISE) ARISING IN ANY WAY OUT OF THE  
     USE OF THIS SOFTWARE, EVEN IF ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGE. 
    

    Read yourself, I can not help but for me it says, that it requires that the license ships with the software. Not that I’m a fan of the BSD license (Disclosure: I normally use GPL), but if a coder has released his stuff under that license, why not to comply with it? When using his code, why not pay respect for his license choice? Why to hide the license from users? To save some bytes? If you have an idea, please let me know. I just don’t see it.

    Ryan Boren, another wordpress lead developer said it’s enough to place a link in there that is pointing to a how to write your BSD license-website. I’m not that sure if linking that really matches the BSD license requirements – to say at least.

    And I’m not sure as well if the the original author provided the software in such a form that makes it available under the BSD while being able to match requirements by the BSD. Sounds curious? Right, what I just mean is that someones says: This is licensed under License XY but writes his copyright statement in a way that it breaks the license requirements of XY. Copyright prohibits to change the copyright notice (we had that topic the first day already), so this just creates a situation in which we have someone who says : yes it’s licensed under XY but you can never make use of what XY offers, so to say, that the copyright statement will prevent usage and redistribution of a software w/o saying it word by word but just by the license and copyright mechanics / tests. That’s somehow a special legal case I must admit, but while doing research today I’ve read many legal papers and you do not want to know which scenarios those lawyers are playing. That is a simpler one.

    No wonder I have the feeling that the current doing is insecure rightly spoken. That and from what I can see in many, many, many other projects I’ve been looking up over the day, they all ship the with license(s) as if there is no other option to it. It’s not questioned at all. No idea what makes wordpress so special that those developers think they can stand out of the mass.

    I have decided that I let this IXR BSD license issue in wordpress looked over by a free software organisation. I’d like to get clarification for myself as an active wordpress user/contributing developer as well as for anybody who is using the software. I’m also considering to contact the SFLC as I know that Matt Mullenweg as head of the wordpress foundation accepts their expertise. The steps/questions are literally simple:

    1. Show that there is a link to a BSD-License-Template.
    2. Ask if linking to a license text on a third party server fullfills retainment requirements of the BSD license in general
    3. And ask if linking to that template fullfills retainment requirements in specific.
     

    Basically those are the interesting questions, also for some other FLOSS projects maybe.

    From what Ive experienced today, nearly anybody else just seems to be clear to provide license texts with their packages. I mean we’re talking about some hundred bytes and that’s it, so naturally this is not a problem for packages these days. But now I’d like to know, which implication the last six years had. Don’t you? Hopefully there is someone who at least knows something about BSD and licensing. Any recommendations and feedback is highly appreciated.

    The other still big part that needs some attention are the other incompatible licences that according to lead Developer Mark Jaquith are in the code. You might remember the “wordpress is GPL, but errh, we introduced some code later on that is not compatible”-like statement from the last days.

    But there is no need to rush, one day more or less does not count right now.

    – hakre

    Read On: WordPress Licensing Issues – Why I care (Day 4)
    Previous: WordPress Licensing Issues – the second 24 hours
    Series: WordPress Licensing Issues

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3 Responses to WordPress Licensing Issues – the third day

  1. Pingback: Wordpress Licensing Issues – Why I care (Day 4) | hakre on wordpress

  2. Jacob Santos says:

    I’m learning a lot, thanks for all of the hard work you are doing.

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