Why is Fedora not a Free GNU/Linux distributions?

Alexandre Oliva aoliva at redhat.com
Wed Jul 23 08:06:32 UTC 2008

On Jul 23, 2008, Les Mikesell <lesmikesell at gmail.com> wrote:

> 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.

It's the kind of the opposite, actually.  By modifying the program or
distributing it under the terms of the license, you indicate your
acceptance, and there's no other way AFAIK to indicate acceptance.

> In accepting it's terms you give up your freedom to
> distribute any part of the work under different terms

This is factually incorrect, and the most trivial example is that in
which a program is available under more than one license.

>> 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.

Where in the GPL is the "agreement not to do", or even the
"requirement not to do" that you claim one would have to agree with in
order to receive the 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.

That's the result of a mistaken reading, see above.  You're still
holding to this notion of restriction that you made up or were misled
to believe in.

>>> 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.

Yep.  No denying you have the rights you accepted.  So what?  How
*could* that take away any other rights you had before, given that a
copyright license can only grant rights?

> 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.

Can you back this up?  Why do you think dual-licensing of the whole is
special in any way?

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

That's not *re*distribution, BTW.  If you had received it like that,
then someone else had a right to give it to you; if it was under a
Free Software License, you most definitely have a right to pass it on,
i.e., to *re*distribute it.  You're talking about a work you created
yourself, so that's distribution of a modified work, freedom #3, not
redistribution, freedom #2.

Other than that, your statement is correct.  You chose to create a
program that you cannot distribute.  You chose to create non-Free
Software.  That's quite unfortunate, but there are many other ways to
do that, and as much as we might wish there wasn't, there's nothing a
copyright license can or should do to prevent non-Free Software from
being created.

>>> 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.

Now you're talking about freedom again.  Your freedom to improve the
work exists.  Your freedom to distribute the improvement is respected
by the GPL, but not by the combination of the licenses you accepted.
Power to distribute the improved work in ways that don't respect the
recipient's 4 freedoms is not granted by the GPL.

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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