Why is Fedora not a Free GNU/Linux distributions?

Gordon Messmer yinyang at eburg.com
Sat Jul 26 22:38:30 UTC 2008

Les Mikesell wrote:
> Gordon Messmer wrote:
>> 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.
> The GPL doesn't change terms on anything else and I've never implied 
> that it can or does.

You have repeatedly insisted exactly that.

 > However, it only grants permissions beyond
> copyright restrictions if you comply with its terms

There's a cost associated with someone using a product that someone else 
created?  Shocking!

>>> 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.
> I understand that there can be some contention about what a 'derived 
> work' is.  But there can be no confusion about what the GPL says about 
> the components, once you agree that a work is derived and thus 
> encumbered by the terms.

You're changing the basis of your argument, but you're not providing any 
more or better evidence for the position that you're arguing.  The GPL 
does not and can not "encumber" works that were included under 
compatible licenses.  Their original terms continue to apply.  This is a 
fundamental component of copyright law.

>> In the context of a legal interpretation of a distribution license 
>> (copyright license), "work as a whole" does not mean each individual 
>> part.
> Of course it does, or proprietary parts could be included - or linkages 
> that make them a required part of the work as a whole.

Proprietary parts can not be included because the GPL specifically 
prohibits terms more restrictive than its own to be applied to the work 
as a whole.

I'll reiterate my previous point:  The work as a whole is a functional 
sum of all of the parts.  If some component of a work contains 
restrictive licensing, then the sum of the licenses would be more 
restrictive than the GPL.  Since the GPL forbids this, you may not 
distribute a work that includes GPL licensed parts and proprietary parts.

Exactly the same thing, said another way: Including a proprietary 
component would create a de facto proprietary work as a whole.  The 
terms of the GPL prohibit using GPL components in a proprietary work as 
a whole.

"Work as a whole" does not mean all of the components, it means the sum 
of the components.  A work which is partially GPL and partially some 
other compatible license does not become licensed only under the GPL by 
law, by intent, or by magic.  The work is licensed under several 
licenses, each of which apply to separate components.  The terms of the 
GPL don't override the terms of any other license; instead they prohibit 
creating a whole work which includes components under incompatible licenses.

In other words, when a work contains GPL and BSD licensed code, and you 
distribute that work to another party, you are required to offer them 
the source code to both the GPL and BSD licensed code.  This is not 
because the terms of the GPL apply in some way to the BSD components, it 
is because if you do not agree to distribute the source code to the BSD 
components, then you aren't allowed to distribute the GPL components either.

>> 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.
> Yes they do.  The concept of 'compatible license' shows specifically how 
> you must give them up.   Compatible licenses are ones that permit you to 
> do what the GPL demands.  If you weren't required to apply the GPL terms 
> to all parts, then all other licenses would be compatible.

That argument is founded on the incorrect understanding that "work as a 
whole" means all of the parts individually, rather than the sum of the 
parts.  The former meaning is unenforceable under copyright law.

>> 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.
> If, and only if, they have no need to agree to the GPL terms.  Doing 
> both at the same time is a contradiction in logic and dishonest even if 
> you are unlikely to be sued over it.

I think you have a warped sense of honesty.  As a developer, and as a 
vocal advocate of the GPL as a license, I can't imagine anything that's 
dishonest about using someone else's code according to the terms of 
*their* license.

That is, if I receive a work composed of both GPL and BSD parts, and I 
want to use the BSD parts under the BSD license, there is nothing 
remotely illegal or unethical about doing so.  I'm obeying the terms of 
the license set forth by the only person with the legal or moral right 
to dictate them.

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