stupid GPL questions

Discussion in 'Mac Programming' started by wala, Jul 6, 2006.

  1. wala macrumors member

    Jun 3, 2005
    I am a newbie in every sense of the word, but I would like to redistribute code under the GPL and have questions regarding copyright.

    I have obtained some code which is released under the LGPL, but under the terms I have decided to use the GPL instead (LGPL, Section 3), and have changed all files previously bearing LGPL notices to GPL ones. I would also like to modify some other code; but all I basically want to do is change some spelling errors in a Makefile. The GPL section 2a states that any modified code must carry "prominent notices" of modification, but does that mean that any code I modify is copyrighted to me? In other words, so do I put on top of every file "copyright 2006 wala", or do I put "modified by wala in 2006"? I have browsed GPLed code on etc, and not a single file says "modified by ..."; they all say "copyright".

    Also, certain header files in the source code say "Types defined within this file are Copyright (c) 2003 Apple Computer Inc." and do not contain any other notices. Am I allowed to distribute those files?
  2. caveman_uk Guest


    Feb 17, 2003
    Hitchin, Herts, UK
    So you want to release code that you've obtained from others and modified only superficially and you want to release that code under a more restrictive licence than they did. Without asking them...

    Even better, you're considering misappropriating source code by claiming it's yours

    I hope you've got a good lawyer.:rolleyes:
  3. wala thread starter macrumors member

    Jun 3, 2005
    This is me: :confused:
    Of course I'm going to keep all previous copyright notices intact; I'm just not sure if what I do to the files means that the modifications belong to me.
    Doesn't the LGPL allow redistribution under the GPL?
    Doesn't changing the notice on top of the files from LGPL to GPL constitute modification? Are the modifications I make copyrighted to me or do I just put "modified by wala" on top of the files?
  4. caveman_uk Guest


    Feb 17, 2003
    Hitchin, Herts, UK
    The LGPL is chosen for a reason. The GPL is extremely strict in what it allows. The authors have chosen the LGPL because the GPL wasn't suitable - I don't think you have the right nor the authority to go releasing their code under the GPL. The LGPL yes, the GPL no.

    Changing the license declaration doesn't make you an author of the code.
  5. wala thread starter macrumors member

    Jun 3, 2005
    Another thing: even though the source code described itself as being released under the LGPL, a copy of the GPL was included. Could it be possible that the author made a mistake? Even worse, the original author cannot be reached any more. If so, is the code's license no longer valid?... so much for the GPL trying to promote free software. And as for those files whose contents are copyrighted by Apple....

    Finally, if I cannot legally change the license of the code from LGPL to GPL, then what is Section 3 of the LGPL all about?
  6. AlmostThere macrumors 6502a

    The copyright is largely irrelevant in the LGPL and GPL. The licences allow redistribution. Where it is an issue is if the licence was to be changed to a different one (say, a typical EULA type licence) where all copyright holders would have to be contacted. The fact that the project contains files where the copyright is owned by Apple does not preclude their inclusion, providing Apple are the ones who put them there.

    You changes would normally be documented in a changelog, which might occur at the top of each files or as a file in the top level directory. If there isn't one there, you can create one. This would be useful as you are not contributing to the project directly but creating a fork.

    Yes, you can release LGPL code under the GPL. In choosing the LGPL, the original creator(s) has elected to give people that choice. It does not stop the original project remaining under the LGPL. Whether the original author is available or not is irrelevant - the L/GPL in this case allows to to revive the project and maintain, update and distribute your fork, something traditional licences would not. This is in fact one of the key purposes of free software.

  7. wala thread starter macrumors member

    Jun 3, 2005
    Thanks, but one last question: Section 3 of the LGPL states that I can apply the terms of the GPL version 2 or any newer version if I so choose. It mentions nothing about a licensee's choice. Does this mean that I cannot use the standard GPL notice on the files, which allows the licensee to select the particular version if it is version 2 or above?
  8. AlmostThere macrumors 6502a

    You download a copy of the software, make your changes and re-release the new version under one of the approved versions of the GPL.

    WRT copyright, as the copyright holder of your changes you may not feel that the LGPL is suitable. Your changes cannot then be appropriated for use in an LGPL project (hence you have effective forked the project).

    There is a reasonable summary of the GPL (and LGPL) here here with a section on the LGPL which might help.

    Oh, and not that you can change the thread header, but I don't think any of these are stupid GPL questions - every time I look at these issues I seem to find something new.
  9. Krevnik macrumors 68040


    Sep 8, 2003
    IANAL, so don't take this as legal advice, but here is how I see the situation:

    - You can redistribute a LGPL'd product as GPL. You should likely make a comment about this change in the changelog, as you have effectively forked the project at this point, and it would be a good idea to make a note of when it happened, and more importantly, why.

    - The code changes you make are 'yours'. Changing the license /isn't/ a change to the source code, and not copyrightable (and rather pointless by itself). However, by putting your changes into the melting pot, you do lose some say as to what is done to them. Someone else can come along and make changes to your changes, fork the project again, and so on. Since you must make the code public if you make the binaries public and other parts of the (L)GPL, the 'owner' of a piece of code usually doesn't mean too much down the road, other than to ask the originator of the change how/why they did it, or to assign some claim of ownership if there was a GPL violation and you wanted to take it to court.

    - You make a note about the GPL being included, but the files being marked with LGPL notices... this might be due to the project being two pieces: app and library, where the library is LGPL (pretty common in places), while the app USING the library is GPL, designed to be a 'sample' of sorts (ffmpeg does this, IIRC). If this is the case, I would caution AGAINST changing how things work, as IMO, libraries are LGPL for a reason, and making them GPL would cause them to taint any closed app that wanted to use them. You would limit the lib's usefulness by moving away from LGPL in that case.

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