Why is Fedora not a Free GNU/Linux distributions?

Alexandre Oliva aoliva at redhat.com
Mon Jul 21 01:09:35 UTC 2008

On Jul 20, 2008, Matthew Saltzman <mjs at clemson.edu> wrote:

> On Sun, 2008-07-20 at 16:15 -0300, Alexandre Oliva wrote:
>> So, let's see, just because you're prohibited from using software for
>> stealing money from others' bank accounts, and you could decide to
>> change any piece of software to do just that, then no software
>> whatsoever can be free, because it's under a restriction?

> This sort of trolling

Wow, trolling!  So I expose an absurd consequence of Les' mistaken
notion of freedom, you join the discussion announcing you resent what
you mistook for an accusation, and *I* am the troll?  Got a spare
break to give me? :-)

You might enjoy reading this:

> I can't imagine that they would use the term if they didn't believe
> that all of these licenses effectively protected the "four
> freedoms".

Not quite.  Protecting is not what the Free Software is about, it's
about respecting them.  Protecting them is what copyleft is about.

> For that, they are no less "free".

Exactly.  They respect the 4 freedoms just the same: their conditions
and requirement don't amount, by themselves, to any substantial
impediment to the recipients' enjoyment of the 4 essential freedoms.

> What I want to do is take a GPL work and a work licensed under one of
> those other free licenses and combine them with code that I write and
> release under some free license (not necessarily GPL, but still free)
> and release the whole to the world.

There's no such essential freedom as "releasing a program under
whatever license you like".  The freedoms #3 and #2 are about
distributing the software, with or without modifications,
respectively.  Specifying that some license is to be used does not
prevent you from distributing the software.  It only gets in the way
of your adopting of an incompatible license without consulting the
authors of the other works that you derived "yours" from.

> As a scientist, my interest is in building on knowledge created
> before to create new knowledge and solve new problems, and in
> telling the world about my discoveries.

Nothing in the GPL or any other copyleft license stops you from doing
just that.

> I have no interest in "using software for stealing money from
> others' bank accounts",

Good for you.  Now, the important issue, that appears to have been
lost in the noise of your emotional reaction, is whether you take that
law prohibition as a restriction on your freedom.  Do you?

> If the free license of the second work or the free license that I would
> choose for my own work is GPL-incompatible, my freedom to disseminate
> the new knowledge I create is restricted by the requirement of the GPL
> that the work as a whole be licensed under the GPL if any part is.

I've already dealt with the choice of license for "your" work, so let
me deal wit only the case of another work under an incompatible
license here.

Are you sure you want to blame the GPL because the other license
doesn't permit you to combine with or relicense under the GPL the
second work you want to build upon?

> And to whoever said that the end user's freedom is what's being
> protected, I'd point out that the end user's freedom to obtain my code
> and reap the benefits of the knowledge I create is equally as
> restricted.

The GPL is not designed to ensure everyone can have access to a work.
That's not even part of the 4 essential software freedoms.

It's designed to ensure that everyone who receives the software can
enjoy the 4 freedoms over it.

> I'm only interested in what I'm permitted to do with *my* code.

You can do whatever you like with *your* code.

Just remember that the moment you derive a work from others' works, no
matter how much of your own code you put in there, it's not just
*your* work any more.  Other authors (or, technically, copyright
holders) have exactly as much say as you do on the way that particular
combined work can be modified, distributed, sub-licensed, published,

> Many of the free licenses protect code I might want to incorporate
> in my work without restricting what I'm allowed to do with *my* code
> that *I* created (or other code that I might obtain from other
> sources).

No Free Software license has any say on what you do with *your* code
that *you* created, because if it's *your* code, then you're a
licensor, not a licensee; and you're not by any license unless you
choose to.

Even if you're a licensee of third party's code, no Free Software
license has any say on *your* code that *you* created; if it tried to,
it wouldn't be a Free Software license.

What you're talking about is not *your* code that *you* created, but
rather code that *you* derived from say mine.  Surely you shouldn't
claim it's *your* code, and deny me any say whatsoever on it, right?

> The LGPL is one such license.

It has requirements for code combined with LGPLed code, in case you
don't know.

> As far as I know, the GPL is the only "free" license that places
> restrictions on code that is not part of the program being licensed.

Even the most permissive Free Software licenses establish conditions
and requirements on how you can use, modify, combine and/or distribute
the code.  The arrangement you're looking for is called public domain.
For example, none of the Free Software licenses permit you to place in
the public domain a whole work containing a work licensed under them.

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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