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Re: GPL and LGPL not acceptable for Fedora!



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Ville Skyttä wrote:
> On Friday 17 August 2007, Toshio Kuratomi wrote:
> 
>> Please, go back to common sense with this one and do what the vast
>> majority of authors intended by putting a GPLv2 COPYING file in their
>> source tarball, not what we know is the most liberal licensing that we
>> can legally distribute their code under.
> 
> -1
> 
> Again, the COPYING they put there explicitly says "If the Program does not 
> specify a version number of this License, you may choose any version ever 
> published by the Free Software Foundation."
> 
> Guessing that they actually meant v2 or something else when the files they 
> actually put in the distribution themselves _explicitly say otherwise_, and 
> labeling them according to our guess without asking for clarification would 
> be pretty damn arrogant, and plain wrong.
> 
Labeling them as GPLv1+ is also arrogant and just as wrong to a
non-lawyer.  When I read that clause and used the GPLv2 COPYING file
with my own code, I assumed that putting a GPLv2 COPYING file counted as
"specify a version number of this License".  This mumble jumbo about "it
only counts if you modify the COPYING file to show that you actually
mean it" is something I heartily disagree with.  Fortunately I'm not a
lawyer, so *legally* I'm wrong ;-)

But I think I'm very much right common sensically.  If I were to write a
COPYING file that was word-for-word the GPLv2 but everyone knew that I
had written it, then it would be GPLv2 or later?  Whereas if I stick the
GPLv2 license from the FSF in the tarball it is GPL1+?  It's not common
sense that including a GPLv2 COPYING file makes a work GPLv1, as spot
says:  "COPYING does not signal licensing intent (it might not seem
intuitive, but this is what Red Hat legal told us, and we're going by
that)."

If my assessment of damage done by legally releasing as GPLv1+ despite
the author's intent vs legally releasing as GPLv(COPYING file version)+
despite the author's intent is correct, then it seems much more damaging
to err on the side of the earlier version than on the later one.

As an alternative, we could have some boilerplate that specifically
explains the situation  to the upstream author when we encounter a bare
"GPL" in the source code:

'''
Hi, We're packaging your software for Fedora 8.  As part of the process
we're trying to make sure that every piece of software is tagged with
the proper license information.  We noticed that you have a copy of the
GPLv2 in your source tarball but your code contains simple, unversioned
GPL licensing.  According to the GPLv2, section 9 "If the Program does
not specify a version number of this License, you may choose any version
ever published by the Free Software Foundation."  This means that your
work is officially being published under any version of the GPL
(currently GPLv1, v2, or v3).  Please let us know if this is your intent
or if you A) wanted to license it under a specific version (GPLv2) or B)
wanted to license it under a specific version or later (GPLv2 or later).
 In addition, changing the information in the sources to reflect the
version you desire will make it all legally official and stop you from
getting this same message from other distributions when they decide to
do a license audit :-)

Thanks for clarifying this for us,
Your Friendly Neighborhood Fedora Packager
'''

P.S.: Do you agree or disagree with my assessment that a COPYING file in
the tarball and no licensing information in the source means the program
is unlicensed and therefore we must get a license from the author or
have to stop shipping the package in Fedora?

- -Toshio
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