Re: GPLv3 Position Statement
From: Chase Venters
Date: Wed Sep 27 2006 - 14:38:42 EST
On Wed, 27 Sep 2006, Linus Torvalds wrote:
For example, I could write a copyright license that said
"This license forbids you from ever copying the kernel, or any
work made by Leo Tolstoy, which is just a pseudonym for the
and the fact that the license claims to control the works of Leo "the
easter bunny" Tolstoy, claiming so simply doesn't make it so.
And yes, the above is obviously ridiculous, but the point is, it's no more
ridiculous than a license that would claim that it extends to programs
just because you can run then on Linux.
In fact, it's also no more ridiculous than a license that claims it
extends copyright the other way - to the hardware or platform that you run
a program on. From a legal standpoint, such wording is just totally
The reason a clause such as that will work is that people have no natural
right to redistribute Linux. To invoke the FSF's Tivo example, if the Tivo
company wants to stamp out 5,000 Tivo boxes, they're going to make 5,000
copies of Linux in the process. By default and by direct notice, the
pieces that make up Linux, and the compilation of Linux itself, is
copyrighted. This totally prohibits Tivo from making legal copies.
If Tivo wants to redistribute Linux, they need a license. That license is
GPLv2, but let us assume for a moment that rms spiked the punch at OLS and
the kernel became GPLv3. If GPLv3 says "You may not make copies of the
covered work unless you agree to these terms", and one term says, "You
must not use technological means to override a stated license freedom",
then Tivo redistributes Linux anyway inside a device that uses
technological means (signed code, for instance) to override a stated
freedom, Tivo is breaking the law, unless every Linux copyright holder
agreed to give Tivo a special exception (aka license).
So regardless of whether or not you think such a term is ridiculous, it is
enforceable. The only place I am aware that law might deliberately reduce
the scope of a license's requirements is to uphold fair use rights, or
along the same lines, to ensure fair treatment of a consumer that has paid
money for something and is being subjected to unreasonable coercion by the
copyright holder of what they have paid for.
If you haven't paid for a copyrighted work, and the copies you want to
make do not fall under fair use ("we needed a cheap and good operating
system for our embedded device" is not in that category), you need to obey
the license or find something else to copy.
I don't want to get ensnared in another licensing debate about code I have
no moral or legal claim to, but I do want to thank those of you behind the
position statement. I'm not sure I agree with your points but I think the
dialogue itself is important.
The last thing that I want to say is that I wish people wouldn't imply to
the press (wink wink, nudge nudge, Linus) that the FSF is evil. I've heard
at various times the following things in the press:
1. "The FSF is not going to listen to anyone about GPLv3"
2. "The FSF is not listening to anyone about the GPLv3"
3. "I don't want to participate in the GPLv3 process"
4. "The FSF knows my views because I have carbon-copied them"
...meanwhile, the FSF is allegedly trying to open up a dialogue. I think
the important distinction is that the FSF will listen to anything the
kernel people (or anyone else for that matter) say, but whatever is said
will be interpreted and balanced in the context of the FSF's original
goals of the license, Freedoms 0-3, and most certainly what they believe
those Freedoms to be.
I think one thing that should have happened a _lot_ sooner is that you and
others should have made clear to the startled community that you object
precisely to the anti-Tivoization clause, not because of any technical
reason or interpretation but because you don't see anything wrong with
Tivo's use of Linux. It would have been nice but totally optional to
engage in dialogue with the FSF. But slandering them about their license
development process, or their intentions with regard to using Linux as
leverage, is counterproductive whether true or not.
I'm one of those lefty "free software" types, though I don't disbelieve
in "open source" either. At this point, I consider it likely that I'll use
the GPLv3 for any software I independently develop, and I'll continue to
be damn thankful that I have the best operating system kernel ever in
history to freely run that code on. When I submit a patch to Linux, I'll
happily do so knowing that it will be licensed underneath the wonderful
The reason I wrote this long message is that despite having never met any
of you, I consider you all friends. We're software developers working for
a common good, even if we see it a different way. I hope that's enough to
make me your friends as well. If that is the case, and we're all friends
here, let's be fair to the FSF even if we don't agree with them, and even
if some of their members haven't been fair to us in the past.
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