Subject: Re: brands, trademarks, and the GPL
From: "Karsten M. Self" <>
Date: Tue, 28 Sep 1999 18:34:16 -0700

Response trimmed to LPD, RMS, FSB &

L. Peter Deutsch wrote:

> Crispen Cowen wrote:
> > So is GPL 3 proposed to be applied to existing, large projects, i.e. the
> > Linux Kernel and the GNOME?  If so, it's problematic, because it requires
> > that all of the contributing authors accept the new license,

No.  Any licensee can choose to license the same or modified code under
the terms of the parent work, or under the terms of a more current
version of the GPL, if one is available.  This was, AFAIK, written to
allow tightening up the language of the GPL in the event parts of it
needed such, and possibly also to allow some changes in the GPL creating
stronger protections for free software (patents and copyrights come to
mind).  The license becomes backwards-sticky -- you can go from an
earlier to a later version of the GPL, but not the other way around.
> Unless they used the suggested "or, at your option, any later version"
> language of the GPL.  Talk about power and domination!  Using this language
> gives FSF a blank check to unilaterally revise the licensing terms of your
> software at any future date.

This issue was raised IIRC on,, and/or news:gnu.misc.discuss.  The general
consensus was that the Free Software Foundation could quite probably be
taken to task for changing the GPL significantly in spirit, particularly
as copyright for most (all?) GNU projects (but not all software under
GPL) is assigned to the FSF -- this being as an enforcement mechanism,

Stephen Turnbull has pointed out elsewhere that this assignment of
rights creates a weak point in the protection of free software rights. 
If for any reason the FSF were to cave and decide to reassign rights or
license software under terms other than the GPL, it probably could under
copyright.  It would also face both social and legal approbrium under
missappropriation, breach of contract or promise, and similar
conditions.  I'm not suggesting this is likely.  Other licenses have
adopted a "joint defense" clause -- the license may be defended in whole
by *any* licensee -- though usually with limitations on dragging other
licensees into the fight.
> I'm glad you pointed this out.  I will make sure that future versions of GNU
> Ghostscript specify that they are governed by, and only by, version 2 of the
> GPL.

What specifically are you seeking to avoid:  Ghostscript being licensed
under terms other than GNU GPL v.2, or not being able to license
Ghostscript under GNU GPL v.2?

Karsten M. Self (
    What part of "Gestalt" don't you understand?

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