Changing GPGME's license

Robert J. Hansen cortana at
Sat Jul 19 01:23:03 CEST 2003

Uff da.  Nothing's more sure to set off flamewars than the free software

> in the proprietary code without changing LGPLed code.  As an author of
> Free Software I am usually not too keen to see my code proprietorized.

The LGPL protects your code from being taken proprietary.  It even
attaches itself to code you don't write; if I add a function to GPGME,
my addition is LGPLed.  This is not a fascistic addition by any means--I
have the freedom to not distribute my changes, and thus keep the LGPL
from applying to me.

What the LGPL doesn't do is attach itself to derivative works outside
the library.  If I write a MUA which uses an LGPLed GPGME, the LGPL
doesn't apply to me.  If I add to the library and distribute it, the
LGPL does.

I don't see how this amounts to taking your code proprietary.  All the
code you wrote remains free to the world.  Admittedly, the LGPL doesn't
enforce code-sharing as heavily as the GPL--but I think it's
disingenuous to claim that LGPLing software runs the risk of free
software being taken proprietary.

> systems, especially MUAs, for the time being.  I can image that GPGME,
> distributed under the LGPL, would be an incentive to some vendors to
> add OpenPGP functionality to their products.  From a crypto rights
> POV, this seems to be a sound decision.  Another important advantage,
> we should not forget about, is that an LGPLed GPGME helps Free
> Software which is not compatible to the GPL.

Another point--putting GPGME under the LGPL would encourage other
companies (incl. commercial, proprietary software houses) to use GPGME
in their own products.  While you're leery of the consequences of that,
the upside is that GPGME is pretty much useless without GnuPG and/or
other GPLed pieces of software.  In this light, you can view an LGPLed
GPGME as a way to get a "foot in the door", so to speak, with GPLed

If I was a commercial software developer, I might well be skittish about
using GnuPG for anything.  But given the choice between a very expensive
PGPSDK license and a (free) GPGME/GnuPG license... I might well decide
to support OpenPGP through GnuPG instead of PGPSDK.  In which case the
spread of GPLed software would actually be increased.

> OTOH, my company has put quite some money on the development of GPGME
> and is employing Marcus for maintaining it.  We don't make any
> revenues from GPGME development and it is questionable whether a new
> license will change this at all.  

If you're not making any money from GPGME now, and you won't be making
any money off GPGME if you LGPL it, then it's not going to have an
impact on your bottom line to LGPL it or if you keep it GPLed. 
Admittedly, noting this just marks me as a skilled observer of the
completely obvious, but... :)

> Therefore I think it is fair to ask for a financial compensation
> for a license change.

It's absolutely fair to ask this.  Have you considered the Street
Performer Protocol?  I.e., say "our goal is $5000 US; once this is hit,
it's LGPLed, until then it's GPLed"?

Robert J. Hansen <cortana at>

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