Why is Fedora not a Free GNU/Linux distributions?
yinyang at eburg.com
Sat Jul 26 19:20:07 UTC 2008
Les Mikesell wrote:
> The context is that it is a part of what you must agree to do if you
> want to do anything with _every_ GPL-encumbered work that copyright law
> alone would not permit.
That statement is a little ambiguous. The GPL does not have any power
which copyright law does not grant. Specifically, it can not change the
terms of work licensed under any terms other than its own and it can not
force you to accept any other or additional terms on such work.
> If the FSF doesn't not believe that the work-as-a-whole clause actually
> means the terms must cover the work as a whole, why don't they make
> another license that says what they want it to mean?
You're still not getting what "work as a whole" means. First, you have
to understand that legal interpretation of terms is not like English
interpretation. Legal terms have specific meanings which are sometimes
different than English meanings because language tends to change and
evolve with people's use of it. Legal terms do not change.
In the context of a legal interpretation of a distribution license
(copyright license), "work as a whole" does not mean each individual part.
If it did mean each individual part, then the GPL would have used a
different term. If the GPL had said "each individual part" or something
equivalent, then no license other than the GPL could be compatible with
the GPL. Copyright law does not allow you to change the distribution
terms for a work to which you do not hold the copyright.
Instead, "work as a whole" means the functional work that is a sum of
all of the parts. Since this meaning does not require that all parts
have the same license, it allows for the work as a whole to contain some
parts under different but compatible terms. Thus, a GPL protected work
may contain BSD licensed code. The BSD license does not place any
requirements on distribution that the GPL does not, so it is compatible.
When you distribute a work that is GPL licensed and contains BSD
licensed code, you are meeting the terms of the BSD license and are
allowed to distribute that code. However, since you can not change the
license on a work to which you don't hold copyright, both you and your
users are distributing the BSD licensed code under the BSD license.
The terms of the GPL state that (among other things), you must
distribute the source code corresponding to any modified or unmodified
"work as a whole" that you distribute. That means that if you start
with a GPL licensed work that contains BSD licensed code, then among
other options, you may:
* distribute the unmodified work, containing the compatibly licensed
* distribute the GPL licensed code without the BSD licensed parts.
The result may not function, and I'm not sure why anyone would want to
receive a non-functional work from you, but you have that right.
* distribute a compiled version of the unmodified work. In this
case, the terms of the GPL require that you also distribute or offer to
distribute the source code to the "work as a whole". That means that
you may not withhold any of the source code, or offer any of the source
code under an incompatible license. It does not mean that each part of
the source code must be GPL licensed.
* distribute a compiled version of a modified (derived) work. In
this case, you must still distribute or offer to distribute the complete
source code, and any changes that you've made must be under a compatible
None of the terms of the GPL require that you give up the rights that
you were granted by the copyright holder who gave you -- either directly
or indirectly -- code under a compatible license. It merely requires
that when you distribute a work, then you must meet the distribution
terms for the entire work. Even after distributing a work under the
GPL, you may extract the parts under a compatible license and distribute
those parts, only, under the terms of their own license. The recipients
of your GPL licensed work as a whole may do the same.
No other interpretation of the terms of the GPL is allowed by copyright
law. You may continue to argue otherwise, but you're arguing about an
imaginary situation which does not exist and can not exist under
existing copyright law.
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