Why is Fedora not a Free GNU/Linux distributions?

Alexandre Oliva aoliva at redhat.com
Tue Jul 22 19:26:57 UTC 2008

On Jul 22, 2008, Antonio Olivares <olivares14031 at yahoo.com> wrote:

> Just like the Mepis/Zenwalk examples I used previously in the
> thread, they modified the code and released it, yet they were not
> releasing the changes/what they modified back to the community.

They didn't have to.  All the GPL required of them that they allegedly
didn't do was to offer those who got their binaries from them a chance
to obtain the corresponding sources.

> They got into some kind of trouble and were forced to release the
> code/make it available

AFAIK, nobody can be forced to do so.  The most a copyright holder of
GPLed sotware can get from a court for the defendant to cease
distribution, so that the infringement stops, plus damages.  Releasing
the code to rectify the harm caused by the infringement can be part of
the negotiation to reduce or even remove the damages.

I don't know of any court who's ever ordered someone to release source
code to satisfy the requirements of a copyright (pure) license.  How
could it?  It migth very well be the case that the infringing party
doesn't even *have* the source code, and can't possibly get it.

> The restrictions or the viral part of the GPL is what bites many
> people and what turns them against it :(

Please don't call it viral.  It isn't viral.  Not even close.  That's
a lie spread by the enemies of the GPL.

It only applies to derived works, i.e., its freedom is an inheritance
that a GPLed program leaves only its descendants.

> Many authors have changed licenses to others besides the GPL,
> because according to them, it restricts their freedoms :(

As long as they still respect others' freedoms, that's fine.
Unfortunate, but fine.

> http://www.slax.org/modules.php?author=151

> Not all the modules are GPL, there is one GNU/Grub.  I use the
> source and build it according to rules of creating modules for Slax.
> Is there any chance I can get sued because I created those modules?

Of getting sued?  Sure, anyone can sue anyone else for any reason :-)

I think the question you wanted to ask is, is it likely that such a
lawsuit would be legitimate and successful, right :-)

I don't have all the facts right now, and I'm not a lawyer anyway, so
I won't comment on the specifics.

In general, if you combine into a single program code under some
specific version of the GPL with code under other licenses, you only
have permission to distribute the result if the other licenses are
compatible with that specific version of the GPL.

For a (not necessarily complete) list of licenses that are compatible
with the GPL, see

If you need help to determine whether some Free Software package
you're working on is in compliance with applicable Free Software
licenses, or have doubts about Free Software licensing in general, the
FSF offers a service to Free Software developers and users: just
e-mail your question to licensing at fsf.org.

> Am I violating any GPL rules when I posted those modules on the Slax
> website?  The sources are freely available, the build scripts is
> contained within each module, does that satisfy the GPL?

>From what you say, you're clearly not in intentional infringement, but
this is not enough to tell whether there is any unintentional
infringement.  The important questions are:

- whether you copied code whose copyright is held by someone else, and
that you don't have permission to sub-license, into these packages,
and whose licensing terms do not permit you (or any other person) to
extend to others the permissions encoded in the GPL, over the whole of
the combined work.

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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