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Re: Regd. use of libtool in commercial applications

From: Eric Blake
Subject: Re: Regd. use of libtool in commercial applications
Date: Thu, 14 Mar 2019 12:07:44 -0500
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On 3/14/19 11:11 AM, reshmi ravindranathan wrote:
> Dear Team,
> I would like to understand the usage of libtool in commercial applications
> from a license perspective. We are planning to use libtool for one of our
> application for commercial purpose. We will be using the libtool directly
> without doing any modification. We have been searching for the license
> related information for libtool; but not able to get a clear idea on the
> same. We want to specifically understand the distribution clauses regarding
> libtool
> 1. Please advice if there are any specific licenses for commercial
> applications. Please share if any.

The bulk of libtool is released under the terms of the GNU Public
License; this license is applicable to anyone, commercial or otherwise,
such that there is no need to do a separate license for commercial use.

If you link your project with the standalone libltdl wrapper library
that ships with libtool, that library is under the Lesser GNU Public
License with an additional exception allowing redistribution of libltdl
sources without forcing the rest of your application to be bound by the

At any rate, since the [L]GPL is involved, you need to make sure that
your commercial product that uses libtool complies with the respective
requirements and exceptions (using libtool will not necessarily make
your product GPL, depending on how you use it, but if your usage DOES
result in your product becoming GPL, you need to be prepared to share
your source code to anyone having access to your binaries that asks for
source).  I will also point out that merely using libtool to build your
product does not make your product have to comply with the GPL, any more
than what you would have by using gcc or GNU make to drive your
product's build (since in those cases, you are not copying the source
code from a GPL product into the sources of your product).  And the most
common part of libtool that DOES affect your product by direct use would
be libltdl (if you choose to link your project with -ltdl) - but there,
the choice of LGPL with exception rather than GPL should likewise allow
you quite a bit of freedom for using libtool without your own product
becoming GPL.

> 2. Is it possible to get some community edition of libtool

And what would differentiate that edition from anything already
available?  We strongly believe in the principles of Free Software,
where having two different releases under different licensing schemes
would be at odds with our views of preserving the freedoms of ALL
recipients.  There is no need for a community edition, either with more
features than the normal edition, or with features stripped out -
libtool should be equally powerful regardless of who is using it.

> Please help us out with this.

For help in understanding the implications of use of GPL software, you
are better off consulting an actual lawyer well-versed in open-source
law matters. This list tends to reach more engineers, who have no idea
how to answer you other than telling you that the files "COPYING" and
"HACKING" should contain everything your lawyer should need.

[Disclaimer: I work for Red Hat, and will mention that Red Hat and other
companies exist which would be happy to take you on as a customer and
help you figure out the legal ramifications of incorporating Free and
Open Source products into your company - but you're still better off
contacting a sales rep than an engineer if you want to engage another
company's services]

Eric Blake, Principal Software Engineer
Red Hat, Inc.           +1-919-301-3226
Virtualization: |

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