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AGNULA - A GNU/Linux Audio distribution
IST Project n
Libre Software Copyright/
Report version number:
Report Classification: Pub
Contract Start Date: 1st April 2002
Duration: 2 years
Coordinator: Centro Tempo Reale
Partners: IRCAM - Institut de Recherche Acoustique/Musique; UPF -
Music Technology Group - Institut Universitari de l'Audiovisual -
Universitat Pompeu Fabra; FSFE - Free Software Foundation Europe;
KTH - Kung Tekniska Högskolan; RedHat France.
This document provides information about AGNULA recommendations on
copyright and licensing. This document includes information regarding
issues about audio/multimedia Free Software licensing; information
about the assessement of audio/multimedia applications in terms of
Free Software presence/functionality (such as strong points, weaknesses,
empty slots, etc); and the strategy of Free Software diffusion.
The technical foundation has already been prepared for an improved
development environment for Free Software audio and music software.
The ALSA sound API is currently included with the 2.5.x development
series of the Linux kernel, Paul Davis's JACK audio connection kit
provides a simple transparent means for audio software developers to
remain focused on their application's feature set instead of low-level
driver issues, and Andrew Morton's low-latency patches have proved the
effectiveness of a properly tuned Linux kernel in professionally
demanding realtime recording and editing situations. AGNULA
incorporates all of those advances into its core distribution and adds
a variety of useful libraries and toolkits for developers of Free
Software audio and music applications. By doing so the AGNULA project
intends to raise awareness of the quality of the available development
environment, while at the same time encouraging development of more
and better applications targeted to the normal user.
Software licenses may vary radically with regard to issues of copyright,
distribution, and even usage. Therefore the AGNULA project distinguishes
between four software-licensing categories:
- Free Software under a GPL-compatible Copyleft license approved by
the Free Software Foundation.
- Free Software under a GPL-compatible non-Copyleft license approved
by the FSF.
- Free Software under a GPL-incompatible license approved by the FSF.
- Proprietary Software.
For documentation, AGNULA distinguishes between three licensing
- Documentation under a Free Documentation license approved by the
- Documentation that is freely redistributable in any medium (also
for commercial purposes).
- Documentation not falling into the first two categories.
AGNULA's primary definition of Free Software is that of the Free
Software Foundation. Software licensed under categories 1 to 3 may be
included without legal issue in the core AGNULA distribution although
category 1 will be preferred. For documentation, categories 1 and 2
are acceptable for inclusion in AGNULA.
Sometimes Free Software (category 1-3) depends on proprietary software
(category 4). For example, Java-based applications present a
difficulty. There are some attempts at creating a Free Software Java
implementation, but many Java applications will not run on them
and have been written for the proprietary Java implementations by Sun
and IBM, which can not be included in AGNULA.
In these cases the AGNULA consortium will work on convincing the
publisher of the proprietary software to release the problematic under
an acceptable license. If this is not possible, AGNULA will try to
break their dependency on proprietary software by either getting it to
work with a Free alternative or by porting it to another technology.
Surmounting these issues and similar problems is a key goal in
AGNULA's early development stage. Although very real difficulties
must be dealt with, AGNULA aims for the harmonisation of license and
redistribution policy. As far as possible, AGNULA strives to provide
software covered by a license of category 1 or 2.
In questionable instances, the FSF Europe will work on finding a
solution with the other project partners and determine whether a
package can be included.
All software written within the AGNULA project will be released under
the GNU General Public License (GPL) or (if advisable) the GNU Lesser
General Public License (LGPL). Documentation will be released under
the GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL).
In special cases, another license from categories 1 and 2 might be
chosen; the FSF Europe offers guidance and advice for this.
The aim of the AGNULA project is to provide two GNU/Linux distributions,
entirely based on Free Software. To ensure persistence and longevity
of the work within the AGNULA IST project, it will be important to
provide adequate measures to protect this work.
Free Software is (and must be) work in permanent evolution. Only if
it can be adapted, modified, and built upon will it be truly successful.
Technical methods are evolving steadily, so it becomes important to
ensure that the licensing for the work done within AGNULA is permanently
maintained and adapted (if necessary).
The legal framework inside which the licenses operate is also subject
to change and may require adaptation of the licenses employed within
Finally it is necessary that work done inside AGNULA remains
accessible to the people it was done for and protected from
appropriation. This requires monitoring and may require occasional
These aspects of legal maintainability are a prerequisite for technical
maintainability, which is a necessity for success of the AGNULA project.
The Free Software Foundations have over 16 years of experience
ensuring legal maintainability for Free Software, so all work done
within the AGNULA project will be assigned to the FSF Europe to
maintain legal maintainability of the AGNULA project during the time
it is funded by the European Commission and afterwards.
The assignment will be performed with the "Fiduciary License
Agreement" of the FSF Europe, which has the following effects:
- Copyright/Exclusive exploitation rights are assigned to FSF Europe.
- An unlimited amount of single exploitation rights is assigned back
to the assigning project partner.
- The FSF Europe guarantees that the rights assigned will only be used
to benefit Free Software. In case of violation of this guarantee,
all rights fall back to the assigning project partners.
This will allow the FSF Europe to act as the fiduciary of the AGNULA
consortium for the project duration and after its dissolution, making
sure the work on AGNULA will continue to benefit users as per the
goal of the AGNULA project.
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