Subject: Re: Compatibility of the AFL with the GPL
From: John Cowan <>
Date: Wed, 12 Mar 2003 21:18:21 -0500 (EST)

Lawrence E. Rosen scripsit:

> I'm sorry, Brian, I just don't view these things as "additional
> restrictions" -- yet another example of vagueness in the GPL.

I don't see how you can claim that a statement that "If you do X, your
license is void" doesn't count as a restriction imposed by the license,
however odious X may be.

> Regardless, the explicit exclusion of a trademark license and the mutual
> defense provision are not going to disappear from the AFL.

No more they should.

> I've assured you, as the license author, 

All your points are good ones, but ...

> ***** If you combine AFL-licensed software with GPL-licensed software,
> ***** and license the result under the GPL,
> ***** nobody will ever sue you for doing so!

Why, I'll go further than that (of course IANAL and TINLA):

***** If you blatantly violate the GPL,
***** incorporating code from a well-known GPLed program
***** into your broken proprietary software,
***** and even mention in your advertising that you are doing so,
***** nobody will ever sue you for doing so!

> I guess that's compatibility in fact, if not in RMS' mind.

I guess that's immunity from suit (due to high transaction costs).

> If RMS continues to believe that the licenses are incompatible, he
> should either change the GPL or stand out of the way of progress.  

No doubt.  But the GPL version 2, obsolete as it is in many ways, is
a foundation document of our community, to be changed only with great
care and caution.  Note RMS's comment on the IBMPL:

#  The IBM Public License is incompatible with the GPL because it has
# various specific requirements that are not in the GPL.
# For example, it requires certain patent licenses be given that the GPL
# does not require. (We don't think those patent license requirements are
# inherently a bad idea, but nonetheless they are incompatible with the

So there is reason to believe that GNU GPL v3 might include some patent
provisions, but it isn't something that can be issued on the spot:
it has to be checked and rechecked very carefully, especially given
that many programs use the "2 or later version" language the GPL recommends,
so lots of licenses might change suddenly.

> But this obstinate refusal by FSF to declare compatibility of the AFL,
> or to change the GPL to allow compatibility, is encouraging the creation
> of islands of free software that people erroneously think cannot be
> re-used in GPL-licensed software.  That will be our community's loss.  

So it will, but it will take time for the problem to go away.

John Cowan     
To say that Bilbo's breath was taken away is no description at all.  There
are no words left to express his staggerment, since Men changed the language
that they learned of elves in the days when all the world was wonderful.
        --_The Hobbit_
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