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License of SailfishOS for commercial distribution [answered]

asked 2018-02-24 17:45:45 +0200

jsommer gravatar image

updated 2019-02-11 15:07:51 +0200

jiit gravatar image

I have inconsistent or at least inconsistent information about the license of SailfishOS. It's clear, that SailfishOS is based on Open Source with different open source licenses like MIT, GPL or LGPL. It's also clear that Jolla's official SailfoshOS includes proprietary, commercial additions like Alien Dalvik, that is licensed by Jolla itself. Official partner can benefit from this bundle in a partner program.

But what's about SailfishOS without the mentioned additions but with the components, which goes beyond the pure Mer project, namely the UI layer and standard apps, which are developed by Jolla? They have likely the exclusive use of right, if no other explicit license is published. Unfortunately, I can't find a license in projects of the mer core Git repository like Lipstick, for example. This is different to popular projects in Github, which include a license document.

The license an important question for commercial products using SailfishOS because of the risk and its impact on any violation of intellectual property. It even starts with the name of the operating system itself. Its a registered European trademark of Jolla, of course. Furthermore, Jolla has applied for several international patents. This makes the legal evaluation even more complicated.

The fact, that Jolla offers developer tools for platform development and community ports, is not relevant. Of course, Jolla wants to motivate the community to contribute to their operating system and companies to develop ports. But if it comes to commercial products, it may need a special license and contract. I currently don't think that commercial ports without a contract with Jolla are possible.

My company has contact with an experienced patent attorney firm for software and another law office specialized on open source, but a legal report will be expensive. Maybe there are further community members, who are interested to share the cost in that legal report to evaluate this really great product for commercial use.

SailfishIOS is really different to iOS and Android. It has a great cutting edge user experience and it is compared to other Linux alternatives mature enough for a commercial product. But clarity about the legal situation is a presupposition of any investment in product development based on SailfishOS.

I have already asked Jolla, but it's difficult to get a response. I assume the reason is, that they are focussed on leading players of regional markets.

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The question has been closed for the following reason "the question is answered, an answer was accepted" by JSEHV
close date 2018-02-26 22:16:50.923885



Why do you need an outside company to "make an expensive legal report" on SFOS when you can ask Jolla themselves for it?

Did you already call Niilo Ristmeri and present your questions to him?

juiceme ( 2018-02-26 10:51:42 +0200 )edit

Simple question, simple answer: I didn’t get an answer by Jolla. And yes, I’m in contact with Jolla.

jsommer ( 2018-02-26 11:28:46 +0200 )edit

thanks, @jsommer.

I find this very odd since I'd assume they want to sell commercial licenses of SFOS to potential partners.... and there are not too many partners knocking on doors, right?

juiceme ( 2018-02-26 12:23:02 +0200 )edit

Yes, but Jolla is a rather small company either like we are. So I can understand, that they are focussed on market leaders of regions like Russia or Bolivia. Anyway I think it would be good decision to standardise a partner program for SMEs. In this case Jolla wouldn’t spend to much resources in the partner management for these companies, but would benefit form successful SMEs. I think it’s a strategic decision. Jolla can negotiate better prices, if they license SailfishOS exclusively for specific regions. On the other hand, they are dependent on the performance of this partners. We have decided not to close exclusive contracts with the distributors of our enterprise solutions. In the end the ISV scores an own goal with exclusive licenses. Look at the history of the iPhone. The sales went up after customers could buy it independently form any telekom providers.

jsommer ( 2018-02-26 12:47:29 +0200 )edit

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answered 2018-02-25 21:50:11 +0200

schmittlauch gravatar image

You mentioned lipstick – that one is clearly licensed under LGPLv2 as can be seen here

About all other proprietary packages: If no license is mentioned copyright laws are usually such that the author/ creator – in this case Jolla – has the copyright on it and all the rights regarding distribution and changing of it. This is even true for GitHub projects showing the source code but not specifying a license. Free Software Licenses usually grant you rights you wouldn't have without them.

If you still think that the legal situation for community ports is not well defined (better ask on IRC #sailfishos-porters first) this may be a topic for the IRC community meetings you can bring up.

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Thanks for your answer.

Indeed. At least according to European law, the developer has non-transferable copyrights. Only the right of use can be transferred. If a developer is a hired or freelancer, that usually happens through the employment or service contract. Therefore Jolla has likely the exclusive right of use for published code of mer core, that has no license reference. Our developers are advised not to use libraries with no license reference. The license check part of our automized quality assurance process.

I agree, that the legal situation of community ports are not clear, while the situation for the official SailfishOS is clearly stated in the EULA and the list of license references, which can be derived form an official release. The developer pages point out open source and proprietary components. My current conclusion is, that all apps and other UI components including keyboard, graphics and translations are proprietary software of Jolla. They are not part of the Mer core project. I don’t them in the repository. But I’m not sure, whether this distinction is correct. I think the only way is to build the Mer core project on our own and create a report of licenses. I’m afraid, that this will take some time. The build on the public server failed.

The fact, that the developer documentation suggests a port, does not mean, that someone is allowed to publish a port. But hardware vendors seem to need a license, except they just use Mer core and build their own UI and apps like LineageOS and FairphoneOpen did for AOSP. The difference is, that this is much more easy for AOSP, because of the huge number of open source apps for Android.

For commercial vendors it is a comparison of costs for bundling or developing own apps and UI or costs of a license. I would prefer the second one to save time to market. On the other hand we will implement another UI anyway. Thanks for the recommendation for the IRC chat. I will do that.

jsommer ( 2018-02-26 10:46:32 +0200 )edit

answered 2018-02-24 19:04:02 +0200

ossi1967 gravatar image

I am not sure if I understand your question correctly. Of course you'd have to license SailfishOS from Jolla. It's their business model.


We are always excited to establish new Sailfish partnerships and show the world that independent mobile solutions can thrive.
Contact our team to discuss more!
Niilo Ristmeri
Sales & Business Development
Tel. +358 40 824 6180

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I would be really glad, if we would come to an agreement.

It’s still not clear, whether community ports are legal or not. The license situation is not transparent, because I’m missing the license references in the Git repositories.

A positive example is CopperheadOS, they published their Android distribution as open source. Each component has a license reference in their Git repository and the overall License is clearly published as well. Potential partners get immediately a clear offering with price tables for commercial licensing including the option for negotiation.

I also like the approach of Redhat or Datastax. They publish real open source (The fact, that code is published doesn’t make it open source). The business model is clear. If a company license their products, they buy support and legal security to cover corporate compliance.

Our company did benefit from this model more than one time. We contributed to the open source part and could use products for free. If we deliver our product for enterprise solutions we or the customer buys a license for compliance reasons in large corporations. It’s a win-win-game even for SMEs.

jsommer ( 2018-02-25 12:25:45 +0200 )edit

@jsommer: It's still difficult for me to understand what you try to ask. Community ports can hardly be illegal as they are actively supported and encouraged by Jolla. Jolla has published all the information about the process, including a list of components that must not be part of a community port for legal reasons.

Furthermore, the general Sailfish EULA as linked to from the community port site includes this license:

... we grant you the right to access and use our Software for your own personal non-commercial use. […] For licensing our Software for wider use, please see for further details. You agree not to use the Software for any other purposes without a separate agreement with us.

ossi1967 ( 2018-02-25 13:17:39 +0200 )edit

@ossi1967 I think that the question is fairly clear: some of the components and/or prerequisites of SailfishOS don't have a licence attached. This means that if someone wants to make commercial use of SailfishOS they need to be sure that they are not infringing any intellectual property that might expose them to legal problems later on. Jolla itself can offer a guarantee along these lines, but full information about this is not generally available. Presumably they have done this for Accione, Planet Computers, Youyota and several others.

The question is about how to clarify the situation for a port that doesn't include the components that Jolla licence from third parties, when Jolla themselves seem reluctant to discuss it, i.e. is there any interest in a group off SME's to join together to try clarify the situation by seeking legal advice independently. @jsommer Have I got that right? Please feel free to correct me if I have misunderstood.

pakman ( 2018-02-25 13:59:16 +0200 )edit

@pakman Maybe I have difficulties in understanding because I studied law and my understanding of the word "license" might be different from yours. A license is not an attribute of the software. You can't expect software product X to just "have a (=one) license". There the person/company who holds the rights to the software (in this case, Jolla) and the person/company who wants to use it (me as a private user, or some commercial entity). Jolla is free to negotiate a new license for each such user depending on the user's role in Jolla's business plans. In the text I linked to above Jolla gives me the right to use SailfishOS for private an non-commercial purposes. If I or anybody else want to use Sailfish beyond that, they will have to negotiate a new license with Jolla. (They give an address, a name and a phone number for doing just that.) I assume (but have no means of knowing) that Jolla will change the terms of the license depending on how important the parter is, how much he is willing to invest into the ecosystem, etc. etc.

The misconception that a piece of software "is licensed under ..." and that's it then is common because we're all spoiled by the Free Software ecosystem. Most projects choose a license for everybody and that's it because they want to code, not negotiate licenses for each individual user. But that's like a hotel using the same key for each of their rooms: Saves a lot of administrative trouble, takes away a lot of control.

EDIT: ... and about "the situation for a port": Jolla states your can use their software (=Jolla's own code that's part of community ports) for your own personal non-commercial use. To me, this has always been pretty clear.

ossi1967 ( 2018-02-25 14:35:13 +0200 )edit

@ossi1967 - some months back, I gave a similar response to yours, by posting an address/number/contact to jsommers - but he was quick to state that my information was wrong, that there was no contact, he also informed me that Jolla and SailfishOS are not the same thing. Upon checking back on that post, I can see you have cited the same website address but with different details/number/contact - so clearly, Jolla have updated that page since my last response. I can't wait to see his response.

Edz ( 2018-02-25 15:38:11 +0200 )edit

answered 2018-02-25 13:59:15 +0200

bocephus gravatar image

@jsommer Whatever it is you're asking - which, as has been noted, is not clear - you'd do well to direct your question to the email address posted in the answer above. Maybe the reason it has been, as you stated, "difficult" for you to get a response from Jolla has to do with the fact that they didn't understand your question either...

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The questions are clear:

  1. Which components of Sailfish are proprietary?
  2. Are these proprietary components necessary for a working OS or is there a core system like AOSP?
  3. What are the legal and commercial conditions for modification and redistribution?

I need a clear license offering and prices, preferable tiered prices. Something written. Jolla already knows details of our inquiry and should understand the questions. Because of slugging communication, I asked the community for this issue. In particular the answer of the second question could be an alternative option.

Howsoever this ends, I will stay a fan of SailfishOS. But my company may has to choose another platform. Our communication with KDE is very promising.

jsommer ( 2018-02-25 17:19:39 +0200 )edit

@jsommer: I answered question 1 and 2 last November. Question 3 cannot be answered because you refuse to disclose what you want to modify and how you want to re-distribute it.

ossi1967 ( 2018-02-25 17:35:10 +0200 )edit

The third question can only answer Jolla for sure. I just have listed the third one to make my questions clear. The first two questions could be answered by the community, while I have addressed the third one directly to Jolla outside of this forum.

Your answer with the listing of licenses was related to the official SailfishOS, wasn’t it? Another thread and the slugging communication with Jolla motivated me to ask for the legal situation of community ports. I conclude from your quote above, that community ports are only for private use. Can you tell me the source of your quote? Thank you for your support.

jsommer ( 2018-02-25 17:51:13 +0200 )edit

@jsommer: It's a bit frustrating that I search all the information for you (I hadn't known all that before, you know? I asked Google and had a result a few seconds later) and you don't even readmy comments or answers then. The sorce is and I had linked to that text when I first cited it yesterday.

ossi1967 ( 2018-02-26 10:50:00 +0200 )edit

Thanks for your support.

The EULA is related to the official SailfishOS. The legal situation of the official SailfishOS is clear, but not of community ports. It seems, that published community ports are tolerated by Jolla without a clear official legal statement. This is a risk for community members.

A commercial distribution is not explicitly allowed of disallowed. I can just infer, that the commercial distribution of community ports are likely not allowed, because the standard apps and some UI elements including graphics and translations are proprietary software of Jolla.

Further more commercial distributions of a modified system based on mer core seems to be legal, because it doesn’t contain the mentioned proprietary components.

jsommer ( 2018-02-26 11:24:53 +0200 )edit

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Asked: 2018-02-24 17:45:45 +0200

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Last updated: Feb 26 '18