[Haskell-cafe] Hmm, what license to use?

Jeremy O'Donoghue jeremy.odonoghue at gmail.com
Tue Sep 30 06:01:49 EDT 2008

On Mon, 29 Sep 2008 14:39:33 -0700, "Don Stewart" <dons at galois.com>
> magnus:
> > 2008/9/29 Bit Connor <bit at mutantlemon.com>:
> > [..]
> > 
> > Basically it seems to me that you believe in the benevolence and
> > enligtenment of companies.  Something I don't.  I believe you are
> > right in splitting the LGPL into two different objectives, and you are
> > right in saying that I really only care about getting changes back.
> > 
> > > So in summary, if user freedom is important, then GPL is the way to
> > > go. If it's about encouraging the submission of patches and
> > > contributions, then the license won't help you, you simply have to
> > > rely on the good will of people. (But BSD will allow for a larger
> > > community)
> The big problem with the LGPL and Haskell is static linking. We can't
> use anything we wish to ship commercially that relies on
> LGPLd-statically linked-and-inlined Haskell code at the moment.
> So if you use LGPL for your Haskell libraries, all of which are
> currently statically linked and non-replaceable at runtime, it is
> unlikely any commercial Haskell house can use the code.
> Note that this *isn't* the case for C libraries, which are dynamically
> linked, like libgmp, which is just fine.

I am not allowed to use such an interpretation. The (expensive and very
carefully researched) legal advice used to shape the use of Open Source
code at my employer has resulted in a "no LGPL under any circumstances
whatsoever" policy.

I believe that the core issue is that the terms of the LGPL are far more
open to differing interpretations than GPL (which is pretty clear in its

Therefore, I have to say that for at least some commercial users, LGPL
will never be acceptable, and GPL is actually more acceptable because we
know for sure what obligations it places on us.

That still leaves anyone free to use LGPL if they want to, but please
don't assume that it allows commercial use by all potential users.

> This is why the OCaml guys use their untested LGPL+static linking
> exception, I guess.

The key word here being "untested", although in *most* jurisdictions,
clear intention behind such a clause would probably be respected.

wxWidgets (and wxHaskell, to which I contribute, and which of necessity
takes the wxWidgets license) uses a similarly untested LGPL + "you may
use, copy, link, modify and distribute under your own terms, binary
code versions of works based on the Library" clause.

I can live with this as it's a hobby project for me, but my employer
probably never distribute software based on wxHaskell (Haskell is
a hard sell (for non-license reasons), although we're sneaking it in,
by bit :-)

  Jeremy O'Donoghue
  jeremy.odonoghue at gmail.com

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