[webkit-dev] Licenses for WebKit contributions

Maciej Stachowiak mjs at apple.com
Thu Jan 8 13:20:24 PST 2009

On Jan 8, 2009, at 12:31 PM, Mike Hommey wrote:

> On Thu, Jan 08, 2009 at 12:31:09AM -0800, Maciej Stachowiak wrote:
>> On Jan 7, 2009, at 2:13 PM, Sam Weinig wrote:
>>> I just noticed several patches have put up for review that contain  
>>> new
>>> files using the Apache license.  Current WebKit policy is that code
>>> should be licensed under either a BSD license or GNU Lesser General
>>> Public License v.2.1 (mentioned explicitly when submitting patches  
>>> on
>>> bugs.webkit.org).  In order to change this policy, we would need to
>>> have a larger discussion as this is not a decision that can be  
>>> made by
>>> any one person.  If you have submitted a patch recently that is  
>>> under
>>> another license, please consider re-submitting it with either of the
>>> two allowed licenses as we cannot land them as they are.  I am  
>>> sorry we
>>> did not notice this sooner.
>> In addition, according to the FSF the Apache License 2.0 is not
>> compatible with the GPL 2.0, and therefore likely also not compatible
>> with the LGPL 2.1. It is possible the FSF is wrong in this opinion,  
>> but I
>> would say it is a pretty good reason for the WebKit project to avoid
>> Apache-licensed code.
> Incompatibility with GPL has no implication with (in)compatibility  
> with
> the LGPL. You can even link proprietary code with LGPL without
> compatibility issues (though there are some rules to respect).

When WebKit is distributed in binary form it is not normally in the  
form of individually relinkable object files, but rather as a single  
shared library. So it would be a problem for WebKit distributors to  
include source files in WebKit that do not have an LGPL-compatible  
license when linked statically into a single binary. I do not believe  
it is the case that code with any license whatsoever can be statically  
linked to LGPL code.

> In fact, the Apache License is compatible with the LGPL.

The reasons the FSF gives for incompatibility with the GPL seem prima  
facie like they would apply to the LGPL as well, although I am by no  
means an expert on the legal issues <http://www.fsf.org/licensing/licenses/index_html 

"Please note that this license is not compatible with GPL version 2,  
because it has some requirements that are not in the older version.  
These include certain patent termination and indemnification  

The LGPL v2.1, much like the GPL v2, forbids adding additional  

> But multiplying the number of licenses is not a good idea IMHO.
> I'll take advantage of this thread to reiterate my request: please  
> don't
> license new code under *either* BSD or LGPL (the actual policy is
> *either* 2-clause BSD, or 3-clause BSD, or LGPL). Please license new  
> code
> under BSD *and* LGPL.

Why would that be beneficial? Note that the current project policy is  
to use one license or the other per source file, though of course  
source files can end up with both licenses due to refactoring or the  
desire of some authors to relicense.


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