Why is Fedora not a Free GNU/Linux distributions?

Alexandre Oliva aoliva at redhat.com
Sat Jul 19 20:27:52 UTC 2008

On Jul 18, 2008, Antonio Olivares <olivares14031 at yahoo.com> wrote:

> However, we now now that there are GPL police out there and
> enforcing the GPL on people who modify the freely available code out
> there, but do not share their modifications :(

This is not a very accurate picture.

There's no GPL enforcement whatsoever involved in the actions you
describe above.

It's not a GPL violation or copyright infringement to modify software
under the GPL.  It's not a GPL violatino or copyright infringement to
keep your modifications private to yourself.

What is a violation that may amount to copyright infringement is to
distribute the software, modified or not, under conditions other than
those established in the GPL, such that recipients are unable to enjoy
the same freedoms that the distributor could enjoy as to the software.

> Does the GPL protect Linux users across the globe against malicious
> lawsuits claiming ownership of programs that are used?

It can't.  Anyone can sue anyone else for any reason whatsoever, no
matter how reasonable the reason is.

The GPL can't possibly say anything as to the authorship of a program.
Say, if I take some program you wrote and, without your permission,
distribute it under the GPL, as if it was mine, myself and everyone
else can be sued by you for copyright infringement, no matter what the
GPL says or could say.  That I attached the GPL to it doesn't make it
a legitimate licensing action, because I don't have authority to grant
any license whatsoever over the code you wrote.

> I also wonder if the GPL is a true open source model?

Does this matter?  The GPL is about Free Software.  The Open Source
Definition was an attempt to spell out the Free Software Definition in
criteria easier to assess.  A failed attempt, while at that, because
it accepts licenses that most definitely don't respect the 4 essential
freedoms that make up the Free Software definition.

But yes, all 3 existing versions of the GPL match both definitions,
and, perhaps more importantly, are within the spirit of both

> Some posts here are pointing that it is not :(

Those stem from confusion between freedom and power.  One's freedom
doesn't invade others'; one's power is used to do so.  GPL doesn't
grant power, it only goes as far as respecting freedom.  Its
conditions don't stop anyone from enjoying any of the four freedoms;
if someone feels prohibited from doing something by the GPL, odds are
that they're dismissing some other more fundamental restriction
they're under, or accepted from someone else, and are shifting onto
the GPL the blame for this other restriction.

, I am still confused because of too much jargon present.  

> The GPL then violates #9 in the definition

> 9. License Must Not Restrict Other Software
It doesn't, really.  It applies to a program, and to other works
derived from the program.  It doesn't apply to works that are merely
aggregated in the same distribution medium, without forming a single
program under copyright law.

Alexandre Oliva         http://www.lsd.ic.unicamp.br/~oliva/
Free Software Evangelist  oliva@{lsd.ic.unicamp.br, gnu.org}
FSFLA Board Member       ¡Sé Libre! => http://www.fsfla.org/
Red Hat Compiler Engineer   aoliva@{redhat.com, gcc.gnu.org}

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