Why is Fedora not a Free GNU/Linux distributions?

Alexandre Oliva aoliva at redhat.com
Thu Jul 24 17:55:26 UTC 2008

On Jul 24, 2008, Les Mikesell <lesmikesell at gmail.com> wrote:

> Alexandre Oliva wrote:

>> 1. a grant of rights cannot possibly impose restrictions to whatever
>> you could do before you received those rights.  It's a grant, so it
>> adds.  It's not a contract, so it can't take away.

> Per wikipedia, there are locations where is a difference between a
> license and a contract and locations where a license is treated the
> same as a contract.

Those that use the term 'contract' for unilateral grants have a term
to make the distinction.  Say, in Brazil, the GPL is regarded as a
"contrato benéfico" (=~ "beneficial contract"), i.e., a kind of
contract in which only one of the parts becomes encumbered with
obligations.  I.e., the licensor grants the license and becomes
required to respect the licensees' freedoms and to grant the same
license to anyone who comes across the program and derived works
thereof, whereas the licensee receives permissions (subject to
conditions) to modify, copy and distribute the work and works based on

>> 2. you can grant additional permissions as to any part of the whole,
>> if you're the copyright holder for that part.  Nothing whatsoever
>> stops you from doing that: not copyright law, not any copyright
>> license.

> You could make it available separately under a different or multiple
> licenses

It doesn't have to be separately.  You can grant multiple additional
permissions along with the program.  Have a look at GCC, and look for
the additional permissions for say libjava, libstdc++ and libgcc.
They're all different, but they're all part of GCC.  And GCC is linked
with libgcc.  And GCC contains libiberty, that has files under many
different licenses, and also files in the public domain.  I.e., the
whole is available under the GPL, but there are additional permissions
for parts.

> But it doesn't matter that someone else has given you permission to
> copy a part under different terms if you've agreed not to.

The faulty assumption is the "you've agreed not to".  See the other
message I've just posted.

>> Note: "you may do X as long as Y" is not a restriction, it's a grant.
>> "you may not do Z under this license" is not a restriction, it's a
>> statement of fact, if doing Z requires permission from the copyright
>> holder.

> It's at least equivalent to a requirement to pay for a copy.

Not quite.  In general, paying for a copy means you have to pay before
you receive the license and the copy, and you don't even get
permission to copy or distribute.  In fact, in general such copies
come with shrink-wrap license agreements (i.e., contracts) that try to
take away even fair use right you might have.

But the GPL requirements are different in an essential point: you
don't owe the author anything whatsoever if you receive the program
and just run it.  Furthermore, even if you choose to modify, copy or
distribute the program, you stil don't owe the author anything.

The conditions set forth make it clear that you "owe" the *recipients*
respect for their freedoms, and that there's nearly nothing you have
to do to clear this "debt": offer them the source code you have, under
the same terms and conditions you got yourself, and refrain from
getting in their way should they want to enjoy their freedoms.

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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