Why is Fedora not a Free GNU/Linux distributions?

Alexandre Oliva aoliva at redhat.com
Tue Jul 22 21:40:55 UTC 2008

On Jul 22, 2008, Les Mikesell <lesmikesell at gmail.com> wrote:

> Alexandre Oliva wrote:
>>> Yes, so if you want to distribute a copy under the GPL, you must agree
>>> to its terms, which then cover the entire work.
>> But that does not take away any other rights you might have as to
>> specific parts.

> Rights aren't the issue.

Of course they are.  A license is a grant of rights, nothing else.

> I don't see how you can agree to the GPL terms for a copy first, then
> distribute a copy of some dual or other licensed part of it in a way
> you just agreed not to do.

I honestly don't see any "agreement not to do".  I see permissions.

The closest to that, in GPLv2, are sections 4 and 5.  The statement
"These actions are prohibited by law if you do not accept this
License", in the case of dual licensing, or of a component under a
more permissive license, is simply not true in these cases.

It is at all clear, however, that section 4 does not apply in spite of
the 'you may not ... except as expressily provide under this License'
being false.

>> That's not the way it works.  You have permissions.  You can choose to
>> use them any time you like.

> Except that you agreed not to in that 2b clause.

Err, no.  2b is just a condition to one of the permissions.  You're
not even bound by 2b; you could instead use the permissions encoded in
1, 2a, 2c, 3, or any other permissions you have that are not subject
to this condition you object to.  2b is not a prohibition, just a
specification of one of the possible variants of the permission
granted in 2.

It's a "you're welcome into my home, as long as you don't smoke
inside, or you smoke a pipe with flavored tobacco".  You're not
agreeing to smoke a pipe with flavored tobacco, or to never smoke
again.  You can smoke, even inside my home, if you abide by the
conditions of the permission granted.  Or perhaps you don't smoke, in
which case you go "don't smoke inside".  And you can most definitely
smoke (or not) whatever you like elsewhere, if you have permission to
do so, or if there's no requirement for permission to do so.  It's a
permission, not a restriction.  (Given the assumption that, by law,
you need my permission to enter my home)

> but I don't see how the agreement to apply the GPL restrictions

You're still getting confused because you're thinking in terms of
restrictions.  There aren't any.  Think "permission to go that far",
in the absence of which you couldn't go anywhere.  The restriction on
not going any farther is not something you get from the GPL, so by
agreeing with it you don't agree with any such restrictions.  The
restrictions are encoded in copyright law.  If you accept the
permissions granted through the license, they won't take away any
other permissions that lifted restrictions from law.

> The point of that work-as-a-whole clause is to get you to agree to
> apply restrictions to other people's work

Rather to grant the same permissions over any work derived from the
work provided under the GPL, to ensure that the whole remains free.
You don't have to believe me, that's spelled out in the preamble of
the license.

When not combined into that single work, if they're not derived works
of GPLed works on their own, their copyright holders can apply
whatever terms they like to it.  The GPL can't and doesn't change

The condition for distribution of modified works only extends only to
works derived from the GPLed work.  If the combined work is derived
from a GPLed work, then its authors have granted you permission to
distribute the combined work under the GPL.  You also need permission
from copyright holders of any other works you have used.  If all of
them permit distribution under the GPL (say, because they granted you
a license that is more permissive than the GPL), then you have
permission to distribute the whole under the GPL.

And then, if you don't have any other permissions that would enable
you to distribute the whole under the GPL, then the GPL is only
license you could use to distribute the whole.

If you have permission from all copyright holders to distribute the
combined work under another license, you can do that too.  Even if the
licenses are incompatible, you can extend the permissions granted by
the copyright holders to all recipients of the program.  You don't
have to choose one and use it.  Even if you modify the program, as
long as you work within the permissions of both licenses, you can
extend those permissions to anyone else.

It's a bit like Schrödinger's cat.  Until you open the box and check
(i.e., do something that one of the licenses don't permit), the cat is
both dead and alive ( i.e., you are operating under both licenses at
the same time).

It's only when you operate out of the scope of a license than you are
then no longer permitted to modify or distribute the result of that
modification under that license.  You can still distribute the work
under the other.

> That's the reason the GPL is different from other licenses.

All copyleft licenses are like that, at least to some extent.  Some of
them don't piggiback on the copyright notion of "derived work",
though, and instead choose different lines to draw, such as "library
interfaces" and "source files".

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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