Licensing FAQ

  1. What open source license covers FDO Open Source?
  2. Why are you using the LGPL?
  3. What does the LGPL allow me to do with FDO Open Source?
  4. Can I use FDO Open Source to create my own proprietary applications?
  5. How does the LGPL benefit me as a developer or end-user of FDO Open Source?
  6. May I take a portion of the FDO Open Source code and use it to extend and improve another application?
  7. What are the terms of using the third party software that is included within FDO Open Source?
  8. Autodesk contributed the original code for FDO Open Source. Can Autodesk ever take it back?
  9. What if I want to contribute my code to the FDO Open Source project?

1. What open source license covers FDO Open Source?
FDO Open Source is licensed under the LGPL (GNU Lesser General Public License). This license complies with the open source definition set forth by the Open Source Initiative and is on the Open Source Initiative’s list of approved open source licenses.
2. Why are you using the LGPL?
We have chosen the LGPL for a number of reasons, the most important of which is that we believe the LGPL strikes the best balance between two important yet often competing goals. The LGPL gives FDO Open Source users the assurance that any modifications or enhancements to the source code will remain open and freely available. At the same time, the LGPL allows commercial vendors to build and distribute proprietary applications and systems using FDO Open Source without any requirement that their commercial products also be licensed as open source. We believe that offering an open yet “business-friendly” license is necessary to promote the widespread adoption of FDO Open Source, and this is precisely why we chose the LGPL.
3. What does the LGPL allow me to do with FDO Open Source?
The LGPL allows you to use FDO Open Source software on a standalone basis or as a component of your applications, provided that if you link your proprietary software to FDO Open Source, you do so using dynamic linking. You may make unlimited copies of FDO Open Source and distribute unlimited copies of the software without payment of any royalties or license fees. And, as with any open source license, you are free to make enhancements and modifications to FDO Open Source. The LGPL does not require you to share the source code of your enhancements unless you distribute changed versions of FDO Open Source to third parties. However, if you distribute your changed versions to others, you must make the changed source code available to parties to whom you distribute your changed versions under the LGPL.
4. Can I use FDO Open Source to create my own proprietary applications?
Yes. Unlike the GNU General Public License (GPL), the LGPL does not force you to open source your application just because you integrate it with code from FDO Open Source. If your application merely links dynamically to FDO Open Source software at runtime, and does not include a changed version of FDO Open Source, you have created what the license refers to as a “work that uses the library” and you need only comply with the requirements in Section 6 of the LGPL. Broadly speaking, this section requires you simply to give notice that your application contains LGPL code and pass along a copy of the license and a copyright notice for FDO Open Source.
Only if you modify the FDO Open Source software itself have you created what the LGPL refers to as a “work based on the library”, in which case your application would have to be licensed as open source under the LGPL. The bottom line is that you never have to disclose proprietary source code that links to FDO Open Source if you don’t want to.
5. How does the LGPL benefit me as a developer or end-user of FDO Open Source?
Apart from the clear advantages of making available free and open source code for development and maintenance purposes, the LGPL gives FDO Open Source users the assurance that any modifications or enhancements to the source code will also remain open and freely available. Under the LGPL, anyone that makes enhancements to the FDO Open Source source code is required to reciprocate by making those changes available when the code is redistributed. Some open source licenses such as the MIT or BSD licenses do not contain this reciprocity obligation. The result is that although the software initially distributed under those licenses is open source, modified versions of that software are not required to be open source. Companies can take this software and create closed proprietary versions, or create “forks”, which can result in incompatible versions of FDO Open Source being distributed by different vendors.
The LGPL makes it far less likely that FDO Open Source will be forked into incompatible versions, because no one can prevent changes from being distributed freely within the community. The LGPL thus helps to promote a single worldwide standard for FDO Open Source that is available to everyone for free.
6. May I take a portion of the FDO Open Source code and use it to extend and improve another application?
Yes. You may freely modify, extend, and improve the FDO Open Source source code, either for use with FDO Open Source itself or in connection with another software application, as long as your extensions integrate with FDO Open Source through dynamic linking. Of course, if you distribute the modifications you must comply with the LGPL’s requirement that the changed source code be made freely available.
7. What are the terms of using the third party software that is included within FDO Open Source?
FDO Open Source relies on a number of third party modules that are included in the source code distribution. Many of these modules are made available under either the LGPL or under permissive, non-reciprocal open source licenses such as the MIT, BSD or Apache licenses. The exception to this is the Berkeley DB XML database and XQuery query engine, which are used by FDO Open Source for data storage and querying and which are described in more detail below. We have no legal authority over third party modules used in FDO Open Source. You should carefully read the license requirements for each of these modules and contact the respective authors for any clarification on allowed uses and requirements. For a complete listing and associated license requirements of the third party software included in the FDO Open Source distribution, see the “license.htm” file included in the source code.
8. Autodesk contributed the original code for FDO Open Source. Can Autodesk ever take it back?
No. Once code is released under the LGPL, it cannot be withdrawn. Autodesk is firmly committed to the FDO Open Source project and has no plans to return to a closed development model for this product. Like other developers working on the FDO Open Source project, Autodesk expects to contribute further enhancements to the code base that will be licensed under the LGPL.
9. What if I want to contribute my code to the FDO Open Source project?
The governance model currently being formulated by the Open Source Geospatial Foundation members will define how code will be added to Foundation software projects, and what contributor agreement will be required. The Foundation will emulate other successful open source projects utilizing an active meritocracy model.