#477 Conflict in license

Jens Seidel

The license file contains:

"The ProGuard user documentation represents an important part of this work. It may only be redistributed without changes, along with the unmodified version of the code."

The part "may only be redistributed without changes" contradicts with the GPL which clearly allows modifications. The phrase "important part of this work" seems to confirm that the documentation is a part of the "work" which itself is GPL, so there is a cantradiction!

Please resolve.


  • Eric Lafortune

    Eric Lafortune - 2013-08-13

    The code is copyrighted, but under the GPL. The user documentation is copyrighted, but it can be redistributed without modifications. The GPL typically isn't used for documentation. I've clarified the wording on-line and for the next release.

    Is this a theoretical remark or a real problem?

  • Jens Seidel

    Jens Seidel - 2013-08-14

    I found this issue after downloading the Android SDK which includes a copy of ProGuard. I really prefer to use Open Source software. I was mainly interested in the basic components of Android such as adb and fastboot and it was very hard to find license information. That's why I digged into the SDK and inspected various parts of it to get a feeling whether it is save to use it or not.

    So even when I'm no user of ProGuard (yet) I really like that you chose the GPL license. Thanks for it! It also allows the integration into common Linux distributions such as Debian GNU/Linux which contain only Open Source software. Nevertheless I wondered about the unclear license file and was sure that it cannot be part of Debian because of it. Now I see I'm wrong, it is included in Debian (http://packages.debian.org/unstable/devel/proguard), including the manual and stating it is GPL! So either the Debian guys made an big error (normally this should not happen) or you changed the license file after they packaged it. But in the current form the documentation is clearly not distributable in Debian and has to be removed!

    That's sad, using software without documentation is not a good thing. Can you maybe choose something which is free in DFSG sense (http://www.debian.org/social_contract#guidelines)? Why not license also the manual as GPL? You know, so you can accept patches, corrections, ... Otherwise it is even illegal to send you a patch fixing typos.

    Thanks for considering this. Will also file a bug against the Debian package ...


  • Eric Lafortune

    Eric Lafortune - 2013-08-14

    The licenses of ProGuard and its documentation have been the same since I started the project, more than 10 years ago, and noone has ever reported any problems with it. I don't plan on changing it. I generally don't accept external code, but anyone is free to submit feature requests, bugs, and typos. That is obviously not illegal.

  • Eric Lafortune

    Eric Lafortune - 2013-09-02
    • status: open --> closed-works-for-me
    • assigned_to: Eric Lafortune
  • Emmanuel Bourg

    Emmanuel Bourg - 2014-04-10

    Hi Eric, could you please reconsider this issue? If the documentation remains unmodifiable and thus non-free it will have to be removed from Debian. That wouldn't be convenient for the end users. If the documentation was modifiable we could create a manpage derived from the HTML pages for example, but the current license forbids it.

    Thank you

  • Martin Ellis

    Martin Ellis - 2014-04-22

    Hi Eric,

    To be clear, this isn't a theoretical issue for users.

    You can see on the package's QA page that this issue will cause the ProGuard package to be automatically removed from Debian testing (i.e. what will become the next release) in the next few days.

    I realise the licensing for the documentation hasn't changed for some time. However, it seems that the licensing issue was overlooked before. The issue wasn't reported until last year. Now that the issue is tracked, it will result in removal from Debian (and likely derivative distributions).

    The best case with the current license is that the package maintainer will repackage ProGuard without any documentation. But by default, the package will simply be removed.

    For reference, here's a link to the issue in Debian:

    For what it's worth, I also hope you'll reconsider.


    • Eric Lafortune

      Eric Lafortune - 2014-04-24

      Hi Martin, hi Emmanuel,

      I appreciate your concern.

      I have great sympathy for Debian and for its developers. I don't mind ProGuard being distributed as part of Debian, with or without documentation, or links to the documentation on-line.

      It did rub me the wrong way that Jens made this an issue ("the manual is not free in any sense"), putting pressure on me to change my ways, without much further interest in ProGuard and without constructive efforts for its integration in Debian. All good intentions, but it didn't help.

      The documentation represents a lot of work. It contains personal experiences, opinions, jokes, acknowledgements. It is not perfect, but I prefer to see it distributed without changes. I don't plan to change the license at this time.




Log in to post a comment.