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Re: Mathworks hosting GPL'd software

From: Jordi Gutiérrez Hermoso
Subject: Re: Mathworks hosting GPL'd software
Date: Thu, 18 Feb 2010 07:20:29 -0600

2010/2/18 George Kousiouris <address@hidden>:
> Jordi Gutiérrez Hermoso wrote:
>> In addition, they added a clause to their website's Terms of Service
>> saying that the software they host is only to be used with Mathworks
>> software, in an attempt to lock the software to only Matlab and
>> disallow its use in Octave and similar, contrary to the spirit of free
>> software.
> Isn't this controversary? How can they restrict the use of a BSD licensed
> software?

I'm not sure. My guess is that it's allowed, since the BSD also allows
it to be restricted. They certainly wouldn't be allowed to distribute
GPL software under those terms, since the GPL has a "liberty or death"
clause (if you can't distribute under the terms of the GPL, you can't
distribute at all).

At any rate, it's a restriction they're trying to impose with their
terms of service, not with copyright law. My guess is that if you
ignore this restriction the Mathworks will forbid you from accessing
their servers, but it won't pursue a lawsuit.

But please don't do anything based on what I'm guessing. ;-)

> Furthermore, even if the authors of the code release it under BSD
> and add it  on the Mathworks site, why couldn't they also release the same
> code with the same license in some other similar web site?

They certainly could, and at least some software did get moved
elsewhere without relicensing changes. I found out for example that
Emacs' Matlab mode, under the GPL, got moved elsewhere and a note was
left in the Mathworks' servers on where to find it.

However, it's intimidating to many authors to move the software
elsewhere, since there is the threat of losing popularity and the
chore of choosing another place to host it. The Mathworks sent emails
to the tune of "relicense or else!" and we've found a couple of
projects hosted there who chose to relicense for whatever reason.

- Jordi G. H.

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