Category Archives: Free software licenses

PHP7 replaces non-free JSON extension

For many the PHP JSON extension license might look like a storm in a teacup, but for many Linux distributions the bits of the free software licenses are very important. That was the case when Debian decided (#692613) to remove the non-free JSON extension as part of the transition to PHP 5.5 in May 2013 (after the Debian 7 release).

This change was done with the help of Remi Collet (from Fedora / Red Hat) who wrote an alternative extension based on JSON-C implementation. A similar change was done by other Linux distributions, and this became the defacto standard for most Linux users.

The situation has recently changed with the acceptance of the Jakub Zelenka’s jsond RFC to replace the current non-free implementation with a free one. The change was committed to the code base on early February (Closing #63520) and expected to be released later this year as part of PHP7.


Filed under Free software licenses, PHP

US Supreme Court: Copyright can be extended to foreign works once in public domain

Oh, shit… yet another step to shrink the public domain.

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Filed under Free software licenses

A simple world without license hell

Linux Journal reports about Sun re-licensing its past contributions to the xorg project to its default license, which is very short and simple:

Permission is hereby granted, free of charge, to any person obtaining a
copy of this software and associated documentation files (the “Software”),
to deal in the Software without restriction, including without limitation
the rights to use, copy, modify, merge, publish, distribute, sublicense,
and/or sell copies of the Software, and to permit persons to whom the
Software is furnished to do so, subject to the following conditions:

The above copyright notice and this permission notice (including the next
paragraph) shall be included in all copies or substantial portions of the


I wish most projects would use familiar licenses, instead of creating the license hell which already includes GPL compatible licenses, non GPL compatible licenses, apache style licenses, BSD/MIT licenses, private licenses (each company “must” have it’s own license) and a few others as categorized at . And of course – dual or triple licensing which for most people doesn’t make their life easier. See how many licenses there are to compare:

Sun’s re-licensing is a step forward for a simpler life for the xorg project. It’s usually hard enough to make sure you track all the copyright info of files in a project, and having a different license to each file just makes things harder.

This isn’t the first time Sun helps to solve a licensing issue. It began in 2005 with retiring the Sun Industry Standards Source License (SISSL) which led to remove dual license. It continued (2005) to solving some license issues with Java that we couldn’t even have it in Debian’s non-free

In 2007 Sun started releasing most of java in GPL to help OpenJDK and IcedTea which now makes java available in main (lets not forget that there were a few free software projects already half way through like gcj, GNU classpath and others).

So – Thank you Sun for helping free software. I think that resolving licensing issues are very important for free software community, and for Sun itself by using free software. It’s specially important to fix such issues if and before the company changes owners.


Filed under Debian GNU/Linux, Free software applications, Free software licenses

Open Content Awarness

My relation to open source and free software made me aware of the license issues not only on software but also on content. Debian thoughts about the GFDL where one of the first issues I encountered, and also the use Wikipedia does with that license.

Today, I try to make all my writings open content with the GFDL or with Creative Commons. I started with changing the license of all my guides to GFDL and asking other to so in one of my websites: This is much more noticeable in my university where I send my papers with CC, mention the quotes from wikipedia are under GFDL and so on, while most people don’t even think about licensing their works.

This year I had the opportunity to lecture one of my classes about open source and free software in information science and open content is very related phenomenon with a lot of ties to open source.

Talking about open content and universities – it’s a shame not all content created with public funding is required to be released as public domain or open content…

Anyway – go and open your content. Make it available to evryone.


Filed under Free software licenses

New php-doc package

A month ago I uploaded a new version of php-doc, the PHP Manual. While the package waits in the NEW queue, you can download the source package from and the binary package here. The package is now available in the official archive.

The main change in this package is the license change from the Open Publication License to CC v3.0. This of course means the package is returning to main after 3 years in non-free.

The new version of the manual has reference to PHP 5.2 removes most of obsolete reference to PHP 4.x.


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Filed under Debian GNU/Linux, Free software licenses

Thanks to free software – Google uses Microsoft’s code

Scott Hanselman noticed in his “The Weekly Source Code” that Google’s new Chrome browser uses Microsoft’s Windows Template Library (WTL) licensed under the Microsoft Public License (Ms-PL).

Chromium is the open-source project behind Google Chrome. A list of the libraries that Chromium uses is available here:

I wonder if Microsoft will consider it’s free software strategy or not. On the other hand, it might be just what Microsoft wants – to get more application running on Windows than on other operating systems.

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Filed under Free software applications, Free software licenses, Proud to use free software

MovableType goes Open Source

MovableType, the blog infrastructure, is announcing today the availability of an open source version.

While this is a good step in the right direction, it seems that it will take a while for this project to stand on his feet. The status page shows that the required infrastructure for an open source project isn’t available yet. The nightly build link at the getting-the-source page leads to an 404 message which contains info about how to purchase a license.

The download links use the word free (as in gratis) , and show a non-free (as in libre) license. Quite shameful after reading the “we’re going open source” announcement.

On the other hand, the source code is already available on the SVN, including the appropriate GPL headers.

To conclude, it seems that the release announcement was a bit too early, and it might have been better to build some more infrastructures for the project first. But it will be very interesting to see the blogoshphere hitting up while MovableType and WordPress compete, and hopefully also cooperate.

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Filed under Free software licenses

Hebrew, Perl and a License Hell

Three months ago Gal-Gur Arie asked me to package a Perl module named Locale::Hebrew. The goal is to enable Hebrew support in xmltv which uses a Perl script to pull the Israeli TV schedule. See #432748.

Gal’s request falls under my Debian Hebrew category, otherwise I would refer his request to the Debian Perl Group.

I started to work on the package, and reached the part of creating the debian/copyright file. In the Perl code, everything was OK, as it’s licensed under the Artistic License. But then I notice a bidi.c file with the following “license”:

Source code in this file and the header file may be distributed free of charge by anyone, as long as full credit is given and any and all liabilities are assumed by the recipient.

But it also had this:

Copyright (C) 1999, ASMUS, Inc. All Rights Reserved

As the “license” isn’t free, and the previous line pretty much makes that clear, I couldn’t upload the package to the archive. Maybe to non-free but I prefer that would be my last option.

I was able to contact the copyright holders, and ask for clearing the license. Preferably with re-licensing the code with the GPL or other OSI approved license. Asmus Freytag answered me that there’s an updated version of the file in with a proper references to a license, and suggested that I should check if it that’s OK for me.

That license isn’t a free software license, but has en exclusion clause for certain files:

Permission is hereby granted, free of charge, to any person obtaining a copy of the Unicode data files and any associated documentation (the “Data Files”) or Unicode software and any associated documentation (the “Software”) to deal in the Data Files or Software without restriction, including without limitation the rights to use, copy, modify, merge, publish, distribute, and/or sell copies of the Data Files or Software, and to permit persons to whom the Data Files or Software are furnished to do so, provided that (a) the above copyright notice(s) and this permission notice appear with all copies of the Data Files or Software, (b) both the above copyright notice(s) and this permission notice appear in associated documentation, and (c) there is clear notice in each modified Data File or in the Software as well as in the documentation associated with the Data File(s) or Software that the data or software has been modified.

To me, this seems free according to the DFSG. So I got a second opinion at debian-legal just to be sure.

Well, now that the licensing issues are over, I needed to check that the software can work with the new bidi.c file. Audrey Tang (the original upstream) was kind enough to help with the testing, but here tests showed that too much have changed in the new bidi.c file, and the program doesn’t build correctly. So I’m back in square one…

I got back to Asmus Freytag for a license change, this time asking for the license. Asmus didn’t approve my request, and referred me to for an answer. Full correspondence is available in the liblocale-hebrew-perl’s ITP.

The problem is that I can’t be sure the file originated at, as there isn’t any reference to them. And anyway, any license change should be done by Asmus Inc. and not

Any one with contacts in Unicode, Inc. ?

The best solution would probably be writing a Perl bindings around libfribidi as was done for Python. The problem is that I don’t have a volunteer for that. Bummer.


Filed under Debian GNU/Linux, Free software licenses

OpenProj and the Common Public Attribution License

On August 20th, Projity have released OpenProj which is a Java based project management software (like Microsoft Project). With the release they made a .deb file available for download, which caught my attention.

I checked the deb file, and while it probably does the work of installing the application, it’s far from being a valid Debian package. I contacted the company though the package maintainer (Laurent Chretienneau) to suggest they would invest time to make their software an official part of Debian, and I’m willing to help if needed. Laurent said they would be happy for OpenProj to be officially a part of Debian.

Today, I decided it would be smart to open an ITP for the package, so other people won’t spend time doing the same packaging work as the company already did. For the ITP license field I had to check the license of the software. While it’s webpage states: ” OpenProj is a free, open source project management solution” I thought that would be a no brainer, but it seems they use the Common Public Attribution License, a recently OSI approved license.

Of course the license should go though the usual debian-legal review, but I guess it would be non free due to some attribution requirements and limitations.

I was disappointed to find that OpenProj isn’t licensed under the GPL or other common free software (and DFSG compliant) license. I’m still not sure if I want to invest time of they software due to this issue, I guess I’ll give it much lower priority now.


Filed under Debian GNU/Linux, Free software licenses