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SubjectReiserfs licencing - possible GPL conflict?
This message is not intended to start a negative discussion, but 
rather to clarify some licencing confusion. I hope that after
reading this, a quick and simple change to the distribution of
reiserfs which will eliminate licencing confusion, and possible
legal holes. (Might even be a good idea to have a lawyer look
over the text.)

I just downloaded the latest 2.2.13 reiserfs patch for linux, and
just read the file:


Inside this readme file it contains the 'licence terms' of the
reiserfs code.

Here is the relevant portion from that file reformatted for
email, but otherwise intact:

---- Reiserfs licence ------------------------------------------
Reiserfs is hereby licensed according to the Gnu Public License,
but with the following special terms: you may not integrate it
into any kernel (or if not added to a kernel, into any software
system) which is not also a GPL kernel (software system) without
obtaining from Hans Reiser an exception to this license.

Along with that exception you will probably also obtain support
and customization services, all of it for a fee. In the event
that you (or a court) do not accept this interpretation of the
GPL, you may choose to not use Reiserfs. I (Hans Reiser) retain
all rights to license it as I desire in ways other than this

Note that it is the policy of Namesys to license its software on
reasonable terms which are in accord with the antitrust laws.
While one might argue that the GPL violates the antitrust laws,
you should contact us and I believe you will find that we are
willing to license in accord with those laws.

I have not compiled or used reiserfs yet due to licencing

Once again, let me state that the purpose of this email message
is to CLARIFY the reiserfs licence terms, and if in fact it is
licenced using the GNU General Public Licence V2 or later, to
have the relevant text of the file changed to reflect this, and
to also include the relevant and required GNU "COPYING" file
which contains the full text of the GPL licence.

There, now that that is said...

The text above from the reiserfs readme file states "Gnu public
licence". Strictly speaking - legally - no such licence exists
to my knowledge. A court of law would probably not equate "GNU
public licence" to be the same as "GNU General Public Licence",
and as such I would like to see this clarified if possible.

The GPL is referenced later in the statement, which makes me
believe that reiserfs is in fact intended to be under the GPL
licence. However, the first paragraph goes on to mention what
appear to be "further restrictions" which are explicitly
prohibited by the GPL licence. Further inspection seems to show
that the "restrictions" are not really so - even though worded as
such, because any GPL work must remain GPL anyways. So basically
the "following special terms" are not necessary to begin with
because the GNU GPL allready explicitly forbids inclusion in a
non GPL work.

One other thing: Hans, et al. are perfectly free to licence
their code under any number of different licencing schemes, as
stated more or less in the above blurb from the readme. This is
perfectly ok, and doesn't in any way muck with GPL issues.

What is certainly unclear however is WHAT the EXACT licencing of
this filesystem code is, and not in writing that is open to

Thus, I suggest openly, that to rectify any confusion, and also
make things more "legally sound":

1) If reiserfs is in fact licenced under GNU GPL, that the GNU
GPL licence file be included with it. This is the "COPYING"
file which is available from, or comes with
virtually any official GNU software. Lack of inclusion of the
actual text of the licence leaves room for legal
"assumptions". Don't assume - include the actual licence
text explicitly.

2) The GPL licence actually states that the licence text must
be included with the code for which is licenced with. In
other words, to licence something under GPL, you must include
the full text of the licence. Also, any code which is GPL
licenced, needs to have text in the source code in comments or
whatnot that claims something along the lines "This code is
licenced under the GNU GPL licence version 2 or later"...

Reference from the GPL:

1. You may copy and distribute verbatim copies of the Program's
source code as you receive it, in any medium, provided that you
conspicuously and appropriately publish on each copy an
appropriate copyright notice and disclaimer of warranty; keep
intact all the notices that refer to this License and to the
absence of any warranty; and give any other recipients of the
Program a copy of this License along with the Program.

Also from the GPL:

How to Apply These Terms to Your New Programs

If you develop a new program, and you want it to be of the
greatest possible use to the public, the best way to achieve this
is to make it free software which everyone can redistribute and
change under these terms.

To do so, attach the following notices to the program. It is
safest to attach them to the start of each source file to most
effectively convey the exclusion of warranty; and each file
should have at least the "copyright" line and a pointer to where
the full notice is found.

<one line to give the program's name and a brief idea of what
it does.>
Copyright (C) 19yy <name of author>

This program is free software; you can redistribute it and/or
modify it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as
published by the Free Software Foundation; either version 2 of
the License, or (at your option) any later version.

This program is distributed in the hope that it will be
useful, but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied
See the GNU General Public License for more details.

You should have received a copy of the GNU General Public
License along with this program; if not, write to the Free
Software Foundation, Inc., 59 Temple Place, Suite 330, Boston, MA
02111-1307 USA

If the reiserfs code and licencing were modified using the
guidelines given directly in the GPL licence document, it would
make things much more understandable and "unambiguous".

Further licencing of reiserfs code could be included in a
"LICENCE" file of sorts. Something like:

[LICENCE] This software is hereby licenced under the GNU General
Public Licence version 2 or later. Please see the file "COPYING"
which should have accompanied this software distribution for
details of that licence.

Further licencing options are available for commercial and/or
other interests directly from the author at: <email address>

Well, this is just a suggestion, meant in good - for both
reiserfs, and for Linux and GNU as well. I hope that the
licence text is updated in a similar way to what I've suggested
above, and I hope to soon try out the reiserfs code!

Who knows, perhaps we'll even see it in-kernel eventually?

Well, take care everyone!

Mike A. Harris Linux advocate
Computer Consultant GNU advocate
Capslock Consulting Open Source advocate

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