Why is Fedora not a Free GNU/Linux distributions?

Les Mikesell lesmikesell at gmail.com
Tue Jul 22 22:42:58 UTC 2008

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.

Licenses often impose terms you must meet as a condition of granting 
those rights.  In the GPL case, the only way you can meet those 
conditions is to apply the GPL terms on all parts of the work on all 
subsequent distributions.

>> 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.

Permissions you get when you agree to the license terms.  Otherwise the 
restrictions of copyright apply.

> 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.

If you don't accept the GPL terms you would have any permissions granted 
by sub-components.  If you do accept the GPL, it demands its own terms 
be applied to all components.

>> 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.

2b says that if you accept the license - and you are not free to 
redistribute the gpl-only parts if you don't - that the terms must apply 
to all components.

>> 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.

No, I'm not confused.  You can't accept the GPL on a sub-set of a work. 
  You can ignore the GPL and use other terms available for a subset, but 
if you agree to the GPL, you've agreed to apply it to the whole.

> There aren't any.  Think "permission to go that far",
> in the absence of which you couldn't go anywhere.

Permissions aren't the point - it is what you agree to do.

> 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 terms of a license have nothing to do with copyright law.  You can 
agree to anything in a license as long as it isn't actually illegal.  An 
exclusion of copyright rules is simply what you get in return.

>> 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.

It doesn't matter if you believe the misleading preamble or not.  It is 
the fine print of 2b that demands that all combined parts of the 
work-as-a-whole have the GPL terms applied, or you don't have the 
freedom to redistribute any that don't have separate licenses.

> 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
> that.

But then you can't distribute the strictly-GPL part of that work because 
you didn't agree to the terms of the license.

> The condition for distribution of modified works only extends only to
> works derived from the GPLed work.

The condition makes it impossible to combine third party code that can't 
be covered by the GPL.

>  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.

Yes, if it is all-GPL, then no new problem happens with additional GPL 
distribution of the whole work.

> 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.

Yes, if the whole work is dual-licensed it can be distributed under the 
other license terms without agreeing to the GPL terms.

> 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).

At this point you've agreed to apply GPL terms to the whole work.  If 
you are going to break that agreement you need to hide back in the box 
so no one knows if it was before or after you accepted the GPL license 
on that work.

> 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".

Even though they can't exactly force you to apply their terms to other 
people's work, it is as close as you can get.  They withhold your 
freedom to redistribute until you have agreed to their terms - and in 
the GPL case these must apply to all other combined work.

    Les Mikesell
     lesmikesell at gmail.com

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