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EarthWeb: There's an open source license that's right for everybody; a closer look at the LGPL

Dec 23, 2000, 15:36 (0 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Jason Compton)

"There are literally dozens of open source licenses, and new combinations and permutations of terms and conditions seem to emerge with every new open source initiative. Nevertheless, the Free Software Foundation's General Public License (GPL) remains the center of the open source licensing universe. But even the FSF acknowledges that one license may not be perfect for all situations. Thus was born the Lesser General Public License (LGPL.) Far from deserving its name, SourceForge.net lists over 300 projects being developed under the auspices of the LGPL, and OpenOffice.org has incorporated it as well. The GPL's "lesser" cousin certainly gets around."

"The selling point of the LGPL is that it is an open source license that enforces sharing between the original and subsequent developers, but it does not require derivative works to be equally open. Any changes made to an LGPL program must be repatriated, but the resulting code may be embedded in software licensed under any circumstances--even a closed-source commercial license--without penalty or reprisal. While the LGPL backs down from the political stance that "all software should be free," it enables open source code to be used where the GPL's viral qualities would be unwelcome."

"The poster child of the LGPL (and to a large extent its reason for being) is the GNU C library that lies at the heart of the gcc compiler suite and is a core resource in Linux. Putting the library under the terms of the GPL would have restricted its use to fellow GPL-licensed programs, which seemed an unreasonable restriction for a compiler system seeking to gain acceptance and widespread use. As Richard Stallman explains in his GNU Project manifesto, "[T]o make our C library available only to free software would not have given free software any advantage--it would only have discouraged use of our library."

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