Why is Fedora not a Free GNU/Linux distributions?

Les Mikesell lesmikesell at gmail.com
Wed Jul 23 03:06:59 UTC 2008

Alexandre Oliva wrote:

>> Licenses often impose terms you must meet as a condition of granting
>> those rights.
> Those are not (pure) licenses, those are license agreements.
> Agreements as in contracts.  Contracts are meeting of minds and mutual
> obligations.  The GPL is a unilateral grant of rights.

Not even close. You must accept it or you are not free to redistribute 
existing code.  In accepting it's terms you give up your freedom to 
distribute any part of the work under different terms, including any of 
your own that you might want to add.

>> Permissions you get when you agree to the license terms.
> Still, where's the "agreement not to do" you allegedly agree to when
> you accept the license, that you referred to as "prohibitions" and
> "restrictions" of the GPL?

The restrictions are what apply if you don't give up the freedom to 
choose you own terms for your own additions, or to add third party 
components already under different terms.

>> 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.
> Point is, even if you do apply those terms, they don't take anything
> away, because they are unilateral permissions.

You don't have just have 'permission' to redistribute under GPL terms, 
you have a mandate not to distribute any part of the whole under any 
other terms.  It's not unilateral - you must give up your freedom.

>> Permissions aren't the point - it is what you agree to do.
> You agreed to accept the right to do a number of things.

But what you must agree to in the GPL covers the work as a whole, not 
separate parts.

>>> 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.
> Nope.  You can always claim you merely distributed the work under the
> other license.

Yes, if the whole work is dual-licensed.  But if only a component is, 
you'll have to choose how you want to handle the work as a whole.

>> Even though they can't exactly force you to apply their terms to other
>> people's work,
> No pure copyright license can.  The farthest it can reach is derived
> works.  If other people's work are not derived works, they're
> necessarily outside the scope of the GPL, unless you choose to make
> them part of a derived work.  If you can decide whether to combine
> them or not, you're not being forced.

And then the code is not free, and you are not free to redistribute.

>> They withhold your freedom to redistribute
> Your freedom to redistribute is respected.  There's no such thing as
> "freedom to choose whatever license you want" in the FSD.  Choosing
> licenses is not freedom, it's power.

Then your power is taken away if you would like to improve a work 
covered by the GPL.

   Les Mikesell
     lesmikesell at gmail.com

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