Frequently Asked Questions About the M-VIA and MVICH licenses

We receive a number of questions about the M-VIA and MVICH licenses. Here we attempt to answer some of them.
Disclaimer: This page is not written by lawyers and you should not rely on it for a legal interpretation. It is intended as background information only, and may contain errors. The license itself is the legal document that governs use of M-VIA and MVICH.

  1. What kind of license is it?

    The M-VIA/MVICH license is a BSD-style license. It allows modification and redistribution, and allows M-VIA and MVICH code to be incorporated into commercial products, without distribution of source code (though of course we strongly encourage distribution of source).

  2. Is the license an Open Source license?

    We believe it is an Open Source license according to the definition at We are planning to apply for OSI certification, but have not done so yet.

  3. Why the language about "subject to receipt of required Department of Energy approvals"?

    This is related to the contract between the University of California (UC) (which runs Berkeley Lab) and the Department of Energy (DOE). UC, which developed the software, has the copyright. The contract requires UC to obtain permission from DOE to "assert" this copyright. The Lab has applied for and received this permission for both pieces of software, so the language is there so that we can reuse the same license in many situations. If DOE refused permission, UC would not be allowed to enforce its copyright, so that for all practical purposes, the software would be in the public domain.

  4. Why do you need the language about bug fixes and enhancements that are submitted to LBL?

    M-VIA and MVICH are open source projects and we encourage contributions from the community. For most open source software, you send in patches, and the maintainers incorporate them into the code and distribute the patched code. However, you still own the copyright to code you wrote, and normally you have complete rights to it. When you send in a patch, you are implicitly giving permission for the maintainers to redistribute it, but there is always a potential for a future fight over intellectual property if your permission isn't explicit . The Berkeley Lab license just makes your permission explicit, and does so in a way that doesn't require a written licensing agreement every time you send in a patch to M-VIA or MVICH.

    ps. The GPL has an equivalent requirement, because it requires your patches to be GPL'd as well. The original BSD license does not spell out the requirement.

  5. The indemnification clause is rather unusual, isn't it?

    Yes it is, but for practical purposes it is a no-op. The clause is required by the contract between UC and the Department of Energy. However, the warranty disclaimer and disclaimer of liability are so strong that it is almost inconceivable that litigation could get to the point where the indemnification clause would be relevant.

  6. Does clause 8 about license termination mean that I have to worry that Berkeley Lab could rescind the license?

    No. The license granted by Berkeley Lab to you is "perpetual" (clause 1). Berkeley Lab can terminate only "in accordance with this agreement", meaning only if you violate the license. The GPL has similar language: "you may not copy, modify, sublicense, or distribute the Program except as expressly provided under this License. Any attempt otherwise to copy, modify, sublicense or distribute the Program is void, and will automatically terminate your rights under this License." The reason for including this clause is so that Berkeley Lab has some recourse if you abuse the license, for instance by using the name "University of California" without permission in marketing literature about a product descended from M-VIA.