Subject: Re: For Approval: GPLv3
From: Chris Travers <>
Date: Thu, 16 Aug 2007 13:44:03 -0700
Thu, 16 Aug 2007 13:44:03 -0700
Just a quick summary here first:

I have withdrawn my objection to approval.  I think we should approve 
the GPL v3.

THere are corner cases that I think GPL-users (any version) should be 
aware of but this is not OSI's job.  Most of the rest of this email is 
aimed at discussion of these topics already underway on this thread.

Furthermore, in cases of using GPL v3 code with voting machines there 
are other mechanisms otuside the GPL whcih could be used by governments 
to effectively prevent alteration of software from government certified 
configurations (including source code changes) which would be outside 
the scope of the GPL.  Thus this is not even a de facto discrimination 
against this field of endeavor.

Also, section 7b may provide a way out for those who have legal 
requirements not to let modified software run on the hardware depending 
on answers to the following questions:

1)  Are legal notices restricted to the comments in the code?
2)  Are legal notices restricted to communication to other people?  Can 
required legal notices be used to convey legal status information to 
other components (for example, fcc license information for modifications)?

A few other disagreements are mentioned below.

Rick Moen wrote:
> I think there may be some confusion, here.
> Derivative work is a term of art in copyright law.  GPLv[23] cannot
> regulate the scope of copyright coverage (that being defined by law),
> and can only embody the licensor's conditions for third parties'
> creation and distribution of whatever the _law_ judges to be derivative
> works.
Agreed as far as you take it.  "The law" is sort of difficult to define 
(in fact borders on being entirely meaningless) though when there is no 
consideration to where a given case may be tried.  Can one even speak of 
"the law" as singular in this case? IANAL though.

There is nothing that prevents the license from granting permissions 
outside a narrower definition of the work as a whole or derived works 
according to copyright law (and arguably the GPL v3's definition of what 
parts are required to be source-accessible is narrower than it is in the 
GPL v2).

The key phrase under section 1 is:
" For example, Corresponding Source includes interface definition files 
associated with source files for the work, and the source code for 
shared libraries and dynamically linked subprograms that the work is 
specifically designed to require, such as by intimate data communication 
or control flow between those subprograms and other parts of the work."

One would well conclude by the above definition that optional 
dependencies need not be a part of the corresponding source.  As I say, 
this is a step forward because it avoids questions like:

Can a plugin to a GPL application be distibuted if it links to a 
new-BSD-licensed library which likely (but not necessarily) links to a 
library with an incompatible license like OpenSSL.  In short, the GPL v3 
is far weaker in terms of copyleft than the GPL v2 but this does not 
impact whether OSI should approve.  In fact I would argue that the GPL 
v3 poses *fewer* potential concerns than v2.

However, the GPL v3 is also incredibly vague and hard to understand in 
terms of other exceptions (for example, which libraries exactly in a 
Linux distribution are really parts of "major components?"  This is not 
really an issue before us though.  Just something I would note for 
people looking at using the GPL v3.

Since I have no doubt that a license which required that system 
components directly or indirectly linked with the code be under 
compatible licenses would probably meet the OSD, this really is not an 
> Thus, if a proprietary blob is implemented with a driver in a fashion
> that's alleged to violate the copyright of the driver's (or OS's)
> copyright owners, then that is a judicable question of fact that in the
> USA would be settled using the conceptual test the 2nd Circuit developed
> in CAI v.  Altai.
But that specific test only affects people in the second circuit.  I 
believe the 9th Circuit has a different one from the Gates Rubber 
case).  Potentially these tests could result in different opinions, in 
which case the meaning of the GPL depends on who is making allegations 
against whom, whether declaratory judgement is sought, etc. and it 
becomes one big game.  One issue I have with the GPL in general (again 
not in the scope of whether or not to approve) is that there is no 
possibility to control jurisdiction, so it is impossible for anyone to 
know whether a specified activity will be a problem in terms of 
copyright law or not (this is true even within the US, and is far worse 
internationally).  I think however that although the GPL v3 is weaker in 
terms of copyleft, it does help to define some of the 
jurisdiction-dependant cases so that this is not as much of an issue.

I would even argue that the proprietary blob issue you mention would be 
almost certainly allowed by the GPL v3 (definition of corresponding 
source does *not* include the proprietary blob provided it is 
redistributable as a proprietary blob because it is an optional 
dependency, and is not itself derivative), but almost certainly 
justiceable under GPL v2 (IANAL though).

In short what I am saying about the GPL v3 is that some potential issues 
with the GPL v2 have been solved (or replaced with other problems, such 
as long, invariant sections of code that spit out legal notices as 
compiler warnings under section 7b).

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