SongBird Preview Released – Under GPL

The first preview version of SongBird, a XULRunner-based media player, has been released. Unfortunately, their site has been Dugg, so it may be a while before you can read all about it. The Digg comments have links to mirrors of the download itself, however.

A particularly interesting thing about this release is that, because they are combining Mozilla code with VLC code to provide the media playback functionality, they are using the XULRunner codebase under GPL terms. This is possible because of the ongoing effort to relicense the Mozilla codebase under a disjunction of three licences – the MPL, the LGPL and the GPL – thereby making the code available for use in many more projects. SongBird is the first in what will hopefully be a long line of innovations enabled by this change.

SongBird actually had to remove various bits of still-unrelicensed code to make their release, but they have managed it – which shows we are close. We are still hoping to get permission to relicence the code they had to remove – there has been movement on this very recently – but if not, it will be removed or rewritten, and then I’ll make a formal announcement that the process is finished.

14 thoughts on “SongBird Preview Released – Under GPL

  1. Looking at their license and their FAQ (back when their site was responding) did raise a lot of licensing questions. First of all, their FAQ mentioned something about “most of our code will be open source”. Also, their license (Help > About) says “These files may include modifications which are Copyright 2006 Pioneers of the Inevitable LLC” and “This *binary* is licensed to you under the GNU General Public License”. As far as I understand, once you use GPL components, the whole thing, binary *and* source must be released under the GPL. I also saw some restrictions on how Songbird can be re-distributed, which also violates the GPL.

  2. So did flock also re-write all of those components?
    I ask because I believe all the flock source is also GPL.

  3. Songbird’s pretty damn cool. All I need is it for to import itunes dbs and playlists and I’m set.

  4. Gah. Such incestuous linkage with a pre-release XULRunner. I’ve spent most of the night trying to get it to play nice with a stock 1.8.1 and it’s having none of it, not even with all the VLC and sqlite bits liberally thrown in. Still, it could really shape up, and I’m glad the license is sane.

    – Chris

  5. Regarding the “most of the code will be open source” point: isn’t it possible to write non-open-source Firefox extensions? If they distribute some of the code as addons/plugins to the main package, then those won’t have to be GPL’ed. And I think they’ve mentioned that that’s exactly what they plan to do with some of the components. (Out of legal necessity, I think.)

  6. what code did they have to remove? do you have a list of files or something?

  7. I also saw some restrictions on how Songbird can be re-distributed, which also violates the GPL.

    Firefox does this. You can’t modify the code and still call it Firefox/use the artwork. From what I gathered by reading the site yesterday, they’re saying you can’t call it “Songbird” and/or use their logos, but you’re free to do whatever you want with the code. I don’t think that violates the GPL, but then again, what do I know :)

  8. Neil Paris: Firefox is not distributed under the GPL terms. Official Firefox binaries use the code under the MPL, and are distributed under the Firefox EULA. This is permitted because the MPL has an “alternative binary licence” clause, which permits binaries built from MPLed code to have a different licence.

    biesi: I can provide you with a list if you like.

  9. Right, I remember you talking before about how Firefox binaries aren’t “Free”, or at least I think so…

    But Firefox is tri-licensed, right? So, if I wanted to release it under the GPL, I still couldn’t use the artwork or the name, right? Or am I in over my head on this licensing business? The tri-license has always confused me anyway.

  10. The license and the trademark thing are totally different issues. If you release your own binaries with the branding you’re breaking the trademark but not the license.

    – Chris

  11. > biesi: I can provide you with a list if you like.

    yeah, I’d be interested, if it’s not too much trouble.