Misunderstanding GPL's terms and conditions as restrictions

Alexandre Oliva aoliva at redhat.com
Mon Jul 28 03:59:26 UTC 2008

On Jul 27, 2008, Antonio Olivares <olivares14031 at yahoo.com> wrote:

> One of the problems with the GPL is that people can violate it and
> then when they see themselves corraled, they can say I will release
> the code and be clear.

This is simply not true.  When people violate the GPL, they lose their
license to further modify or distribute the program.  They depend on
the copyright holders to reinstate the license.  If the copyright
holders refuse to do that, no more modification or distribution rights
for the infringer.

Now, it is common for copyright holders to be happy to accept outcomes
such as this, because it fulfills the very purpose of the GPL
(presumably the reason why they chose it in the first place): to
ensure that all users can have their freedoms respected, some of which
require access to the source code.

> There are no consequences.

Someone who thought that depriving others of these freedoms was key to
one's business would surely disagree.  Add costs of legal proceedings
and it may become even more serious.  And then, nothing stops
copyright holders from demanding more from the infringers, but that
wouldn't be in line with the reasoning that often leads to licensing
under the GPL, and it might very well backfire in the long run, if it
scares businesses away from the GPL.  We already have enough FUD, no
need to make room for even more.

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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