[riot-users] [riot-devel] Switch to BSD?

Kaspar Schleiser kaspar at schleiser.de
Mon Dec 15 14:21:53 CET 2014


On 12/03/2014 10:59 PM, Emmanuel Baccelli wrote:
> But in the first place, we would like to debate this topic. In
> particular: is anyone violently opposing the idea of migrating to a less
> restrictive license, such as BSD? If so, why? On the other hand, if you
> explicitly support the license change, feel free to indicate this as
> well. Please send your opinion to the list before Dec. 10th.
I'm violently opposing the switch to a less restricitive license.

IMHO the floating interpretations on LGPL (e.g., [1]) pose the following 
restrictions on any product using LPGL'ed RIOT:

1. The entity distributing such a product must mention the use of RIOT.

E.g., the user manual has to state that RIOT has been used.
This is common practice, just pick your favirote gadget and look for that.

2. The entity distributing such a product must make a copy of the used 
RIOT version available via means specified in the LGPL.

This is also common practice. Nowadays, about all vendors of Linux based 
routers provide a "GPL tarball" containing copies of any used GPL stuff.

3. The entity distributing such a product must release any part of RIOT 
that it modified under LGPL.

4. The entity distributing RIOT must provide means to exchange the RIOT 
part of the product's software with a (newer) version of RIOT.

This requires the device to be field-upgradable and also it requires the 
distributor to provide at least the object files that were used in the 
final linking step.

Mind that 4. doesn't require the released object files to be compatible 
with *any newer version* of the library.

So basically, LGPL forces changes to core RIOT to stay under LGPL and it 
also forces vendors to sell products which can be updated.

As far as I interpret the opinions of the RIOT community, we mostly 
agree that the actual license does what we expect our license to do 
(apart from patent protection).

The only reason why we think about another license change is FUD on the 
company side, as the perception of the license scares away potential 
users. We don't want to push away potential users, so we try to find a 
license which takes away the FUD by giving up all rights to the code 
that we develop in order to please those companies.

IMHO, we don't need those companies to succeed as a community project 
which will play a large role in IoT.

Also IMHO, the advantages of LGPL, like the forced upgradability 
(implying possible security advantages), impossibility of sell out of 
community contributions, higher value of devices due to lack vendor 
lock-in / repurposability, complete vendor independence, ... outweigh 
the promise of a stream of contributions by companies selling products. 
Companies which are unwilling to comply to our fairly unrestrictive license.

That said, if most of the community agrees to switch to a less 
restrictive license, I will agree to that, too. That is not because I 
have been convinced that the change is the right choice, but because I 
really like the biggest strength of RIOT: the community and the actual 
people behind it.


[1] http://copyleft.org/guide/comprehensive-gpl-guidech11.html#x14-9400010

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