Why is Fedora not a Free GNU/Linux distributions?

Les Mikesell lesmikesell at gmail.com
Thu Jul 24 03:29:26 UTC 2008

Alexandre Oliva wrote:
>>> Your freedom to distribute the improvement is respected
>>> by the GPL, but not by the combination of the licenses you accepted.
>> Why do you consider that acceptable?
> It's undesirable, indeed, but what's to stop people from inventing
> intentionally-incompatible licenses or accepting them?
> The GNU GPL was the first copyleft license.  It was incompatible with
> other licenses that preceded it because they did not grant the rights
> the GPL was intended to grant, and it was not deemed appropriate to
> give up those rights for the sake of compatibility with them.  Can't
> really fault the GPL for that, can you?

Yes, it has always been immoral to demand that others give up their rights.

> Other copyleft and non-copyleft licenses followed that were designed
> specifically to be incompatible with the GPL, to prevent code sharing.

You have the both motives and the timeline backwards. For example, the 
BSD license whose intent is obviously to permit code sharing but not 
take away anyone's rights predates the GPL and certainly GPLv2.  The GPL 
was intentionally incompatible because it's only purpose is to force you 
to choose between giving up your rights or sharing code.

> Can't fault the GPL for that, can you?

Of course I do.  There's never a reason for anyone to give up their 
rights, and no need to withhold  the ability to share code.

> If you think that's
> unacceptable, why did you accept the less permissive or artificially
> incompatible license that got you into this situation?

In general the terms I'm speaking of are more permissive than the GPL 
and the GPL is the one that was intentionally incompatible, but that's 
not the point.  The point is that the work-as-a-whole clause is an 
immoral restriction.

> If you
> accepted them, you think that's acceptable.  If you don't want to
> accept them, talk the copyright holders into changing their minds and
> permit you to respect others' freedoms while not granting them the
> power to not respect third parties' freedoms.

The thing that's not acceptable is forcing a decision to give up your 
rights or to not be able to share the code.

> Anyhow, where does this leave you?  Does "barking up the wrong tree"
> mean anything to you?
>> That is, why do you believe is it right for one license to have any
>> affect on the terms of another?
> Moo.  Does "when did you stop beating your wife?" mean anything to
> you? :-)

No, but it means you haven't read or understood what accepting the 
license takes away from you.

> I don't believe that is right, and the GPL doesn't do any such thing.
> This license you invented that you call GPL and spend your life
> complaining about might do that, but then, that's between you and your
> imagination.

Depending on your legal system there may or may not be a difference 
between a license and a contract, but having agreed to:

   "b) You must cause any work that you distribute or publish, that in
     whole or in part contains or is derived from the Program or any
     part thereof, to be licensed as a whole at no charge to all third
     parties under the terms of this License."

consider all of the possibilities you have given up the right to create 
and share.  Just in sheer volume it prohibits much more than it can ever 

And here's a more pragmatic take on the issue.  Someone who says they 
got more contributions back after changing their licenses from GPL to 
something non-copyleft along with eliminating the moral issue of taking 
away the choices of subsequent contributors:

   Les Mikesell
    lesmikesell at gmail.com

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