[cairo] License question

Carl Worth cworth at cworth.org
Thu Jan 8 15:23:04 PST 2009

On Thu, 2009-01-08 at 13:55 +0100, Jens Saathoff wrote:
> I'm Jens from germany and just found the cairo-library, tested it and 
> think it works well for my purposes. But there's  a question left. A 
> licensing question which i couldn't find out to 100% while reading the 
> LGPL and MPL.

Hi Jens,

I'm glad you're happy with cairo.

> Is it allowed to use cairo for commercial projects? I don't change 
> source-code of cairo...i just use the dll and cairo-code in an app. so i 
> don't have to release my sources as open source or something else, right`?
> I understood that this is allowed until i only use the dll of cairo.

Of course you can use cairo to develop commercial projects. And those
commercial projects can even be free-software and open-source projects
distributed under a license such as the LGPL or the GPL. That's
certainly the easiest way to ensure that you are complying with all
legal requirements of cairo's license.

But I think what you meant to ask was whether you could use cairo to
develop a proprietary project. And yes, you can do this with either the
LGPL or the MPL, but you must take care to understand and follow the
requirements of the license that you choose (either LGPL or MPL) for

For example, with the LGPL, this situation is described in Section 6
where it talks about combining "a work that uses the Library" (your
original code) with "the Library" (unmodified cairo) to produce a "work
containing portions of the Library" (your final, cairo-using product).
And note that this section gives you permission to "distribute that work
under terms of your choice" (including proprietary licensing if desired)
but only when also following several conditions as enumerated in section
6, (terms must permit user modification and reverse engineering, you
must supply prominent notice of the use of cairo and a copy of the
license, and you must do at least one of 6.a through 6.e, etc.).

The MPL similarly allows for the distribution of a proprietary product
incorporating an unmodified cairo with its own list of terms.

Again, the text of the licenses themselves is what is authoritative
here. So please read and understand that text, and obtain a professional
legal opinion as appropriate.


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