3-clause BSD or LGPL (or…)?

| | August 6, 2015

Ok. First to all those who would say this should go to Lawyer exchange it is not necessarily so, because it’s directly linked to software and it’s usage. If it still is to be posted in Lawyer exchange, please say so in comments and I will remove the question.

So my company in the current state (recently created, early development) does not have a copyright OR a license.
From what I saw in BSD 3-clause defenition, it seems to be a copyright AND a license in one. I can see that anyone using our software if we publish it under new BSD can:

  • Redistribute our software (source or binary) as long as it contains the license in it.

and cannot:

  • Use our name or contributor name to gain money from the redistribution.

Does this mean they can technically change 1 line, not mention our name and get money from that?

The product is technically a game (there will be our animation at the start) but it COULD BE taken off since source code is available to all. What we technically would like is a license that has these features:

  • Anyone can distribute it (source or binary) as long as they keep the license in.
  • They can modify it only for personal needs and cannot distribute modified versions. They can however send us the modified version showing the changes and suggesting them.
  • They can add “extensions” (similar to what firefox and/or skyrim has) using the tools we provide and distribute those under whatever license they want to.

Something similar to this was LGPL but after reading all of new BSD my head was already cracking open and I’m not sure I got everything LGPL implied.

So can anyone please suggest if BSD actually does do what we want it to, whether LGPL does or whether any other OSI approved licenses do that.

One Response to “3-clause BSD or LGPL (or…)?”

  1. BSD and LGPL will not do what you want, because both allow for modification and redistribution of the software. If you look at the FSF license list, you see that the BSD license is described as

    non-copyleft free software license

    and LGPL is described as

    a free software license, but not a strong copyleft license, because it permits linking with nonfree modules.

    And free software in this context includes freedom 3:

    The freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others (freedom 3). By doing this you can give the whole community a chance to benefit from your changes. Access to the source code is a precondition for this.

    So that fails your test of wanting to prohibit distribution of modified copies.

    That being said, I’m not sure which if any license will do what you want, but you should stay away from anything that the FSF considers to be a copyleft or free software license if those are your requirements.

    In fact, it’s probably not worth considering even the broader category of OSI-approved licenses, since the definition of open source that OSI goes by includes as its third condition that

    The license must allow modifications and derived works, and must allow them to be distributed under the same terms as the license of the original software.

    So you probably don’t want to use an open source license for your code. You could try looking through the section of non-open source licenses that the FSF provides and seeing if any fit what you’re looking for. Or more likely, find a lawyer and draft one that does exactly what you want and no more or less.


    A little bit about copyrights vs licenses:

    In the US and many other jurisdictions, copyright is automatic when you write code, you don’t need to apply for it in any formal way. At that point, no one else has the right to use your creative work except for fair use rights, etc. You have the option to provide a license to others to use your code under whatever terms you so desire. So it’s incorrect to say that you need to find a copyright and a license – you already have a copyright on your own code. If you want someone else to be able to use it, you need to give them a license.

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