I am working on a Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), library released under an MIT license, however, the sources contain XML specifications which are owned by the Bluetooth SIG.

As an example, here is an excerpt from the file, org.bluetooth.characteristic.alert_level.xml.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<!-- Copyright 2011 Bluetooth SIG, Inc. All rights reserved. -->
<Characteristic xsi:noNamespaceSchemaLocation="http://schemas.bluetooth.org/Documents/characteristic.xsd" xmlns:xsi="http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema-instance" name="Alert Level" type="org.bluetooth.characteristic.alert_level" uuid="2A06">

[ . . . TRUNCATED . . . ]

Is this allowed?

Note: I am not the original author, just a contributor.

1 Answer 1


Firstly, the mere fact that it's copyrighted isn't cause for alarm. Every work that qualifies for copyright protection acquires this protection at the moment of its creation, according to the Berne Convention, so anything that's contributed to a piece of free software is copyrighted.

Therefore, the free software world has licences that make it clear which of the rights normally reserved by copyright are made available to the world, and that spell out the conditions under which this is done. It is also why well-behaved software licences (eg, GPLv3) advise that each source file clearly state what licence it is distributed under. They also generally require you to leave pre-existing copyright notices alone, so the presence of such is really nothing to worry about.

The All rights reserved (ARR) bit is perhaps more worrying. As Wikipedia makes clear, this is a now-meaningless declaration which is often used, cargo-cult-style, by companies who don't realise it adds nothing to modern copyright's default protections. Worse yet, some companies that intend to distribute content under a free licence use ARR as well as a free licence declaration, which is tantamount to saying "you cannot use this work; feel free to use this work". This is at best confusing; Debian advise against it, and it leads to other questions here.

Moreover, it is possible to get org.bluetooth.characteristic.alert_level.xml - still carrying the ARR notice - from a repository which is clearly Apache-licensed. Does that other project owner have the right to distribute this code under a free licence? We can't tell, but (s)he is certainly advertising that (s)he does.

Where does that leave you? I presume from your question that though you are a contributor, you didn't contribute that particular file. My advice from here - and bear in mind IANAL/IANYL - depends on your personal relaxation level.

  • If you are feeling relaxed, note that there is a path to get that file under the terms of Apache 2, which is probably free enough for you (if you dig around you can probably find a copy under MIT). Should you need to, you can point to a good-faith effort to find a legitimately-reusable copy of the file.

  • If you are not feeling quite that relaxed, find out who checked those particular files into your repo, and ask them whence the files came, and why they think they have rights to MIT-license them.

  • If you are feeling distinctly tense, delete any copies you have of the files, and walk away from the project.

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