Misunderstanding GPL's terms and conditions as restrictions (was: Re: Why is Fedora not a Free GNU/Linux distributions?)

Antonio Olivares olivares14031 at yahoo.com
Sun Jul 27 23:39:13 UTC 2008

> I'm changing the Subject: header because some people who
> are not
> reading the thread seem to have inferred, from the
> unchanging subject,
> that the original huge thread was all about a single topic.
> Although this particular topic would probably be a better
> fit for
> fedora-legal, I believe most of its subscribers are
> sufficiently
> familiar with Free Software licensing to tell that Les'
> theory is
> flawed, whereas many Free Software users in this list
> operate under
> the same false assumptions and the influence of FUD against
> the GPL,
> so I think this sub-thread will remain more useful here.
> For those who somehow got the impression that this list was
> supposed
> to be limited to technical matters, please update your kill
> files to
> ignore this thread as well.
> On Jul 26, 2008, Les Mikesell <lesmikesell at gmail.com>
> wrote:
> > A lawyer can't change what it says.
> Indeed.  But a lawyer you trust could be able to convince
> you you've
> misunderstood it.
> > 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,
> It does.  The terms are permissions, the conditions are
> requirements
> for the exercise of the permissions.  It doesn't take
> away any other
> permissions you might have.  That it does is the incorrect
> assumption
> that's misleading you.
> Consider this scenario:
> John A. Hacker develops, from scratch, a program that
> contains two
> source files: lib.c and main.c.  lib.c was developed to be
> released as
> a separate library, under the modified (3-clause) BSD
> license (so
> these are the headers it carries), whereas main.c was
> developed to be
> released under the GPL (so these are the headers it
> carries).  John
> A. publishes the whole, named gnothing, under the GPLv2+,
> and never
> publishes lib.c in any other way.
> Wanda B. Foreman downloads gnothing, and notices lib.c
> would be really
> useful in his project, linstall.  She thus modifies
> gnothing by
> removing main.c and the build scripts, and then adds lib.c
> to her
> version control system, along with changes to the build
> machinery to
> have lib.c built and linked into his own program.  She then
> publishes
> linstall, under the GPLv3+.
> Ken C. Farsight has access to Wanda's VCS repository,
> and sees lib.c
> show up there.  It provides just the feature he wanted for
> his bsdown
> Free Software program, that he's always distributed
> under the 3-clause
> BSD license.  He copies lib.c into bsdown and releases a
> new version
> of bsdown.
> Evelyn D. Scent maintains a non-Free fork of bsdown called
> macrash, so
> she takes this new release containing lib.c, merges the
> add-on
> features she maintains, and publishes a new release, under
> the usual
> restrictive EULA, known to be compatible with the 3-clause
> license.
> Please ask your lawyer questions such as:
> - Has any party had his/her license to distribute gnothing
> or lib.c
>   automatically terminated?
> - Can John A. Hacker stop any of the other 3 from
> distributing lib.c
>   in linstall, bsdown, or macrash, under the licenses given
> or implied
>   by the description above, or even by itself under the
> modified BSD
>   license, without a copy of the GPL?
> - Can Evelyn be stopped by any of the other 3 from
> distributing this
>   version of macrash containing lib.c, under the usual
> then let us know how he justifies the answers.
> > Would this imaginative interpretation also permit
> sharing of
> > GPL-covered components modified to link with
> proprietary libraries
> > among people who otherwise have the right to do so
> AFAIK the GPL doesn't stop anyone from adding
> dependencies on
> non-GPLed libraries to GPLed programs.  In fact, this is
> very common,
> in the particular case of system libraries on non-Free
> operating
> systems.
> It doesn't grant permission for the GPLed program be
> distributed in a
> form that contains the library or derived portions thereof,
> without
> also offering the corresponding sources of the library
> under the GPL,
> but if you distribute the GPLed program in source code
> form, you're
> covered, and if you can create an object form of the
> program that does
> not contain code derived from the library, and then
> distribute it,
> you're also covered.
> Now, if you split things up into a separate library, as a
> means to
> circumvent the GPL, and distribute both the library and the
> GPLed
> program that you modified so as to depend on it, you might
> still face
> a lawsuit on the grounds that the library is actually a
> derived work,
> or even that it is part of a single work, and the
> separation is just a
> trick to try to circumvent the license.  A judge or a jury
> might
> actually side with the copyright holder of the program you
> modified,
> in this case.
> -- 

I have gotten more of an insight on this issue and I have to say that although you have many good points, Les has very good points as well.  I have gotten some input regarding issues with GPL.

The arguments are some in favor, and some against the GPL.  Here we go
This is what he told me.  I won't mention the name of the person, because I highly respect him, but nonetheless I see where he is coming from.  

/* name withheld to protect the identity of this previous GPL author  */

As a GPL developer, he tried to sue some GPL violators and found that you cannot succeed. The majority of GPL violations is/was done by small companies that cannot be threaten by forbidding them to sell their products that are based on the violation.
As you in general cannot sue people for GPL violations, why should we add restrictions to software that just hit the users but not the abusers?
The logical result from this question is to put software under a license that does not restrict collaboration in the OpenSource area (like the GPL
 unfortunately does).

In the early 1990s we probably needed the GPL, but now it is no longer needed because it does not  allow collaboration between different OpenSource communities. The GPL is an  "universal receiver" of software from other licenses but it does not allow GPL code to move towards other projects.

/* end of quote */ 

I know I will hear some comments, but these are some of the reasons why many developers try to avoid the GPL.  Here's probably the strongest case against it.  

 The GPL is an  "universal receiver" of software from other licenses but it does not allow GPL code to move towards other projects.




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