RE: GPLv3 Position Statement

From: David Schwartz
Date: Fri Sep 29 2006 - 05:37:50 EST

> > Quite frankly, if the FSF ever relicenses any of their projects to be
> > "GPLv3 or later", I will hope that everybody immediately forks, and
> > creates a GPLv2-only copy (and yes, you have to do it immediately, or
> > you're screwed forever). That way the people involved can all vote with
> > their feet.

> I do hope your either joking about this, or that you would consult
> with the major contributors to the project before doing this. In past
> postings you have expressed strong support for "authors rights", which
> includes the idea of not using someones code if they don't want you to
> use it, even if it might be legal to do so.

That really is totally against the spirit of the GPL and, frankly, I think
it's the opposite of the attitude the free software community should be

You have to choose between "even if you lawfully acquired a work, you should
not use it in ways the author does not want" and "once you lawfully acquire
a work, you may do with it what you want provided you respect other people's
freedom to do the same".

The GPL squarely opts for the latter.

The spirit is that you give other people a lot of freedom to do things with
your works, even things you may very much dislike. In exchange, you get the
freedom to do the same things and we all build up a large pool of
unencumbered works we can all draw on. If everyone got to impose their own
restrictions, and still take from and contribute to the same pool, it would
quickly poison the pool.

Consider just the problem "GPLv2 and later" and "GPLv3 and later"
contributions to the same project will cause. If you have to deal with "GPL
and please don't do X" also, ...

> I'm also a strong proponent of "authors rights", and I would consider
> it very nasty if someone took one of my projects and decided to fork
> it to be GPLv2 only, deliberately going against my intention. They
> might have a legal right to do so but it would clearly be against my
> wishes. I'm not even 100% certain it would be legal.

Then don't put your software under a license that permits them to do so. If
you did so accidentally or without knowledge of the consequences, I have
much sympathy. But if you accept the GPL package deal and then try to
pressure people into different terms, I have none at all.

> The "any later version" words I have put on all my projects are there
> quite deliberately.

And your work will always be available that way, nothing can make it go
away. But suppose I add my own work to your work -- why should your wishes
override mine? Or, to put it another way, how does my offering my own work
based on yours with a different license that you don't like take anything
away from you? (Especially since it's the one license you actually knowingly

As I read the GPLv2, it only requires you to keep the ability for the work
to be licensed under the GPLv2. (Mostly per section 2b.) The preamble
appears to conflict (in the "all the rights" section), but that can't
possibly override 2b (and must mean all the rights you got from the GPLv2),
or you get some nonsensical results. For example, if I was the sole author
of a GPLv2 work and I really had to give everyone all the rights I had, I
would have to give them the right to relicense under the BSD license. (Since
I have that right.)

A lot of people get justifiably irritated at some things the GPL lets people
do with their code. The spirit of the GPL is that you have to take it, and
in exchange, you get to irritate other people if you want to.

Those are the rules we chose to play by.


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