Posts tagged ‘GNU Public License’

Differences between the BSD/FreeBSD Copyrights and the GNU Public License (GPL)

The FreeBSD Copyright and the BSD Copyright

You may notice that FreeBSD uses the term Copyright while GNU uses the term License.
http://www.freebsd.org/copyright/copyright.html

The FreeBSD Copyright is free as in you don’t have to buy a license but you can do pretty much anything. The BSD Copyright is almost the same.

What you can do:

  1. Use it at home for no cost.
  2. Use it at work for no cost.
  3. Use it at work for a publicly accessible server than you make money on for no cost.
  4. Add or change code at no cost.
  5. Distribute the entire source code at no cost.
  6. Distribute the entire source code with your changes at no cost.
  7. Build binaries at no cost.
  8. Distribute binaries with your source at no cost if you also give it away at no cost.
  9. Distribute binaries without also distributing the original source and your changes.
  10. Write code that uses or links to this code and license your new code however you want.
  11. Embed the binaries in software you sell, at no cost, even if you don’t provide the source.

Note: This list was created by me based on my understanding of what people would want to do with the code.

Do I need a lawyer?
No. Basically, there is almost no instance in which you have to pay a fee to anybody to use a FreeBSD Copyrighted or BSD Copyrighted piece of code.

However, while 100% free in cost to use it, it is not 100% free. Notice I italicized the word almost in the above sentence.

For the FreeBSD Copyright, also known as the New BSD Copyright, there are two requirements you must meet.

1. Redistributions of source code must retain the above copyright notice, this list of conditions and the following disclaimer.
2. 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.

And for the BSD Copyright, there are four requirements listed, but as mentioned on the BSD Copyright web site, the third requirement is no longer required.

1. Redistributions of source code must retain the above copyright notice, this list of conditions and the following disclaimer.
2. 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.
3. All advertising materials mentioning features or use of this software must display the following acknowledgement:

This product includes software developed by the University of California, Berkeley and its contributors.

4. Neither the name of the University nor the names of its contributors may be used to endorse or promote products derived from this software without specific prior written permission.

So you can do anything you want with FreeBSD licenses and BSD licenses at no dollar cost, but you have to spend some time and resources to make sure you display some text as required.

I guess if you didn’t want to follow the 2 or 4 steps, you could find someone to pay so you didn’t have to, but the steps are so simple I doubt anyone would choose to try to license the software to not have to follow these steps.

The The GNU Public License or GPL

The The GNU Public License or GPL is not completely different but yet don’t be fooled. It is not the same and is far more restrictive than most realize. And it is harder to explain or describe, especially since there is GPLv1, GPLv2, GPLv3, and I am not even discussing the LGPL here.

You can get more info here:
A Quick Guide to GPLv3

What you can do:

  1. Use it at home for no cost.
  2. Use it at work for no cost.
  3. Use it at work for a publicly accessible server than you make money on for no cost.
  4. Add or change code at no cost.
  5. Distribute the entire source code at no cost.
  6. Distribute the entire source code with your changes at no cost.
  7. Build binaries at no cost.
  8. Distribute binaries with your source at no cost if you also give it away at no cost.

Do I need a lawyer?
For home use, no.
For a business, yes.

If you are doing anything NOT on the above list, you probably need to involve a lawyer. If you stick to the above list, then no, you probably don’t need a lawyer. However, the GPL is so long and wordy you may need a lawyer to determine if you need a lawyer.

The Difference between the BSD/FreeBSD Copyrights and the The GNU Public License or GPL

The first noticeable difference is that the FreeBSD Copyright is 25 lines (when wrapped at 78 characters with some lines blank due to section separation) while the GPL is 339 lines (when wrapped at 78 characters with some lines blank due to section separation). So it is much more difficult to learn and understand the GPL and there is a higher likelihood to take a wrong step.

The following items were removed these from the GPL’s can-do list because you can’t do them without permission from the author, which most likely will come at a cost but not always. Sometimes, the author will just say, “Yes, you can use it in your proprietary software” and sometimes they will charge a fee. However, even in those instances you probably need to pay a lawyer to draft and agreement and get it signed. However, one problem with GPL is that there are usually many different authors and so obtaining such permission becomes impossible.

  1. Distribute binaries without also distributing the original source and your changes.
  2. Write code that uses or links to this code and license your new code however you want.
  3. Embed the binaries in software you sell, at no cost, even if you don’t provide the source.

Lets put this in a table:

What you can do? BSD/FreeBSD Copyright GNU Public License or GPL
1. Use it at home for no cost. x x
2. Use it at work for no cost. x x
3. Use it at work for a publicly accessible server than you make money on for no cost. x x
4. Add or change code at no cost. x x
5. Distribute the entire source code at no cost. x x
6. Distribute the entire source code with your changes at no cost. x x
7. Build binaries at no cost. x x
8. Distribute binaries with your source at no cost if you also give it away at no cost. x x
9. (Commercial) Distribute binaries without also distributing the original source and your changes. x
10. (Commercial) Write code that uses or links to this code and license your new code however you want. x
11. (Commercial) Embed the binaries, without a license fee, in software you sell, even if you don’t provide the source. x

Conclusion

For use at home or work or school or play
In all practicallity there is no difference to a home user between the BSD/FreeBSD Copyrights and the GPL.

For Free Distribution
There is one slight difference in free distribution. Any code you write that uses GPL code must be GPL too. With the BSD/FreeBSD copyright, that is not the case. If you write software that uses or links to BSD licensed software, you can still choose your own license.

For Commercial and Enterprise Use
This is where the difference mainly resides between these two licenses.

For use internally for an enterprise or any use that doesn’t distribute the code, there is no difference.

However, when it comes to including the code or a binary in software that you sell, you are not free to do so. The BSD/FreeBSD Copyrights are much more business and enterprise friendly.

DISCLAIMER

I am not a lawyer. I am not responsible in any way for the misuse of a license based on this post, even if the post is has some piece of data that is blatantly wrong. It is the responsibility of the user of licensed or copyrighted software to make sure the license agreement or copyright is adhered to properly.