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Re: Licensing practice

From: Paul Kienzle
Subject: Re: Licensing practice
Date: Wed, 21 Apr 2004 08:17:31 -0400

On Apr 21, 2004, at 6:27 AM, Javier Fernandez Baldomero wrote:


If I make a collection of .oct files to be used together with octave...

1.- What's the name for that? Package? Toolbox?

Whatever you want.  I thought "toolbox" was a trademark term, but
it isn't on the list of trademarks on The Mathworks website.

2.- What is compulsory to do?

    I think I must include "This is a part of Octave".

It is only part of octave if John declares it to be so.   In m-files,
you need a particular structure to the copyright statement in
order for the help system to ignore it.

        Copyright (C) <anything you want here>

        This program is free softwar<anything you want here>

 It is enough
that I include it in the main include file which is in turn included
by all the other .oct files? (they could be easily more than 150
files...) or should I include that text in every file?

    I think I found the "standard" text somewhere, and for some of
the 150 files, the suggested text is bigger than the file itself, IIRC.

The FSF recommends including the copyright notice in every
file.  If the file is so short that the GPL notice is longer than the
program itself, you may want to include a line such as "this
program is public domain".  It is not clear to me what your
legal liabilities are if you release code into the public domain.
Without the explicit disclaimer of BSD or GPL style licenses
you may be more liable!

I've included a copy of the standard text for GPL, BSD and public
domain in edit.m available at octave-forge.  You can also get them
from OSI:

3.- I think I have read that the toolbox/package must be gnu-licensed.

No, they must be GPL compatible.  The combined work will be
GPL licensed.

    So I should include a file with the gnu rules. Is that right?

    Would it be valid if I simply copy the text file
and/or the web page
found linked in
in the top directory of the package, or should I do something else?

The standard GPL text says "You should have received a copy of the
GNU General Public License along with your program".   The top
directory is fine.

4.- If the toolbox/package is to be used together with some other
    software with more relaxed rules... are there any legal problems
    with that?

Not so long as the software can be relicensed as the GPL, which it
will be when you use it with octave.  The glue layer (DEFUN_DLD,
etc.) makes sense to license as GPL since nobody is going to produce
a non-GPL library with the same interface.

I don't know what the implications are of using a mex interface.  Can
you run GPL software against a proprietary environment?  BSD license
sounds more reasonable if you want to run under both Octave and

    I think there shouldn't be. For fixing concepts, let's imagine
the other involved software was LAM/MPI whose rules may be found in

(it's just an example, any similar rule would serve to pose this

    Does anybody see any (licensing) problems in an (hypothetical)
octave package/toolbox using (say) LAM/MPI _and_ Octave, to be
(compulsorily) licensed under the GNU licensing scheme?

Octave uses plenty of software which is not GPL in libcruft.

Paul Kienzle

Octave is freely available under the terms of the GNU GPL.

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