Is Bazaar's document distributed under GPL?

Stephen J. Turnbull stephen at
Tue Sep 22 05:59:45 BST 2009

Martin Pool writes:

 > The closest thing I can see is: Stephen wants to give his sister an
 > improved copy of the user guide that contains some quotes of
 > gpl-licenced code.  He can do this, but only if the resulting manual
 > is covered by the GPL.  Alternatively, he can give us a patch that
 > makes those changes and we will (handwave) rubber stamp the
 > relicensing.

Right, but I must do this *before* distributing a copy to my sister.
Nor can the patch be put up for public review before you have either
(1) an assignment from me or (2) granted permission.  This is a
massive PITA in a system where you're trying to do review by Launchpad

You also don't want to give blanket permission to relicense to
Launchpad branches, especially if you use a permissive license for
documentation.  Somebody will have the bright idea to add an appendix
containing all the code in bzr to the manual, and as soon as the patch
is posted to Launchpad that version of bzr is CC-BY ... oops.

It's a mess, and before you say "handwave", ask your lawyers.  I don't
think they'll think it's so easy.  Moglen certainly doesn't, cf. the
ickiness of FDL section 11 (

 > I don't know.  I'm trying to work out why people want CC-BY-SA and
 > whether it justifies the hassle of two licences.  I was hoping other
 > people would either add points to that list, or say "yes, and that's
 > super important" or say "huh, that doesn't add up to much."

I'm with Ben Finney: the difference between GPL and CC-BY-SA is mostly
a matter of presentation, and therefore education.  (Maybe a statement
from Canonical Legal Dept. clarifying Canonical's understanding of the
meaning of the GPL in the context of the documentation aspect of self-
documenting software would be useful.)

While as an ethical principle I prefer permissive licenses[1], in this
practical instance I see little to be gained by using a permissive
license.  As Mats points out, the documentation the project produces
generally has the wrong "voice" for training materials.  If
proprietary documentation is desired, someone can easily generate it
separately and "merely aggregate" it with copyleft documentation
produced by the Bazaar project as required.

[1]  "If you love something, set it free.  If it returns to you, it
is yours forever.  If it does not, it was never yours in the first

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