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A client of mine wants to static link its proprietary commercial work to a library that is licensed under LGPL that is sold by VMime in France. VMime's website purports to explain that the purchaser does not need to comply with LGPL Section 6 even if statically linking. From my understanding this is not allowed, to contract around provisions of the LGPL and still license the library under LGPL.

Any thoughts?

Here is the link to their public 'Commercial License' overview: https://www.vmime.org/licensing.html#commercial-license

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    If VMime is the sole copyright holder of the library they can offer other licenses as well. Their commercial license is apparently similar to the LGPL but allows said linking. – CodesInChaos Jul 21 '16 at 20:52
  • ^^-- This. The commercial license is not LGPL. If your client doesn't want to comply with Section 6, he needs to purchase the commercial license. – Robert Harvey Jul 21 '16 at 21:04
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    @ShortLegalGroup I'm not sure what your clients reason for wanting static linking is, but note that dynamic linking is not a hard & fast requirement of the LGPL -- the only requirement is that some method for using an alternative version of the library is provided. If they are able to provide their application as object files along with a script to relink them to a new version of the LGPL library this would satisfy the license, and may be adequate for their requirements. – Jules Jul 21 '16 at 21:59
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    I'm not a lawyer, and neither is anyone else here. If your question is whether or not the license is legally enforceable, I suggest you consult a lawyer on that point. – Robert Harvey Jul 21 '16 at 22:38
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    Only on TV, though, and I don't even play one on TV. – Robert Harvey Jul 21 '16 at 22:56
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The source code repository clarifies the author and copyright holder of the software. This author is also the owner of the website that distributes this software according to a dual license principle.

As he is the owner of this software, he can licenses it with the terms and conditions that he wants (as long as he doesn't infringe copyrights of others). The fact that he licenses the software for free since 2003 under the terms of the GPL doesn't prevent him to license it also according to another license schemes. And the fact that LGPL doesn't allow the change of the license document doesn't prevent the copyright holder to grant you an LGPL-based license with exceptions stated elsewhere.

The deal that the author offers is simple and seems very fair:

  • you enjoy the software for free but you release your work as open source as well,
  • or you pay a license fee and you get license conditions that allow for proprietary software.

So if your customer want closed source he'll have to pay for the commercial license.

Disclaimer This is not legal advice. This is my personal opinion as IT professional. For legal advice you should contact a lawyer or an authorized legal expert of your jurisdiction

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GPLv3 section 7 begins with the following text:

“Additional permissions” are terms that supplement the terms of this License by making exceptions from one or more of its conditions. Additional permissions that are applicable to the entire Program shall be treated as though they were included in this License, to the extent that they are valid under applicable law. If additional permissions apply only to part of the Program, that part may be used separately under those permissions, but the entire Program remains governed by this License without regard to the additional permissions.

The Lesser GPL is simply the GPL modified by exceptions under section 7. The first point listed in the VMime link you provide is not an interpretation of the LGPL, but an additional permission, allowing static linking to the VMime code.

The second point is simply a paywall. Copyright holders, and anyone who distributes FLOSS, are permitted to charge as much as they like.

The third point states "You may NOT relicense the VMime code to anyone." If we interpret this as prohibiting you from distributing the software, this effectively creates a "frankenlicense" from the GPL. Luckily, the GPL has you covered in section 7 paragraph 4:

All other non-permissive additional terms are considered “further restrictions” within the meaning of section 10. If the Program as you received it, or any part of it, contains a notice stating that it is governed by this License along with a term that is a further restriction, you may remove that term.

Of course, I wouldn't advise you to do so unless you're willing to test the GPL in court, but know you have the right to ignore point 3 and redistribute the library code.

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