Licenses and Distribution (WAS Re: XFree-4.4.0)

Bill's LFS Login lfsbill at
Sat Mar 6 12:41:10 PST 2004

On Sat, 6 Mar 2004, Kelledin wrote:

> On Monday 01 March 2004 08:25 pm, Larry Lawrence wrote:
> > I have given this some thought.  A lot more than I usually
> > give these political beasts. If an individual is allowed to
> > download, compile and use the resulting binary for personal
> > use, it is eligible for inclusion in the book.  If individuals
> > want to use BLFS for other than personal use, they need to
> > learn about licenses.
> In this vein, something I've been considering is whether we
> should add a license tag for each package--i.e. in the "Package
> information" section, have a brief note of what license(s) the
> package falls under.

Duplicate already available doc? Since every pkg dir contains various
README, LICENSE, etc. files that clearly spell out their licensing
(usually a requirement of the license itself), this seems bad for three
reasons. First of course, the duplication of effort. Then, the
possibility that the BLFS book might inadvertently specify the wrong
license. Last, BLFS must now monitor each new version of every package
it considers to see if a package changed its licensing.

Finally, each user is responsible for conformance to licensing
restrictions, not BLFS. If BLFS takes on the responsibility of trying to
inform the user, there may be a possible liability if some legal action
were ever undertaken.

Better to just tell the user to read the docs that come with each

> Then, for each separate license, we could link to part of an
> appendix describing the basics of that license, what it allows,
> what it doesn't, etc. as well as where an "official" copy of the
> license can be found.

Nothing wrong with providing a summary a various salient features of
each type of license, as long as we don't enumerate which license
applies to which packages. Of course, a standard disclaimer about
responsibility should be mentioned even in this scenario.

> In particular, the licenses for XFree86, j2sdk, pine, and others
> could use further description, as the legalese is a bit
> brain-twisting for beginners, and the restrictions are pretty
> important for distributors to note.  Whoever maintains a BLFS
> package should probably be at least marginally responsible for
> understanding the license on it.

And BLFS should not be responsible for that education. Other sources
exist for that information. It is the user's responsibility to
comprehend, and research further when appropriate. If BLFS makes them
aware that there are license restrictions of various types, points them
to the docs for the package, our service should be done.

> One problem with this idea, though, is variants like the XviD
> license, which is GPL-with-important-geographic-restrictions.


NOTE: I'm on a new ISP, if I'm in your address book ...
Bill Maltby
Fix line above & use it to mail me direct.

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