Subject: The GPL is "inherited"
From: "L. Peter Deutsch" <>
Date: Sun, 26 Sep 1999 16:27:47 -0700

>> So what term should we use instead?  I find Mr. Lang's suggestion of 
>> "hereditary" fair and close enough.  Why not use that instead?
> I like "partnership". I think it conveys the spirit of all parties being
> equal. "Hereditary" conveys an impression of privilege passed down
> blood-lines with no thought of an individual's competence, as with
> royalty, which is not the impression we're out to create.

I think "hereditary" is a really good term.  (I guess it takes a
non-native-English-speaker to point the way out of these terminological
swamps!)  "partnership" implies a joining together of equals to create
something.  In the case of the GPL, the original author decided the license
terms, and they were inherited by all subsequent contributors, who did not
have a choice in the matter.  The original author has powers and rights
(including the right to license the code under other terms and licenses)
that no subsequent contributors do.  And as far as "no thought of an
individual's competence" goes, that is an accurate description of the
situation with respect to the GPL.  The GPL gives no one the authority to
rule on the quality of any subsequent contributions.  Of course it's a
separate question as to whether leaving this up to the market (or at least
the marketplace of ideas / actual use) may be a good thing, and even an
important good thing.

Actually, I think "inherited" is even better than "hereditary".
"Inheritance" is a relatively value-free term in common technical use,
unlike "hereditary".  How does it feel to say that the GPL is an "inherited

As a software author, I have to say that given the choice, for software that
I really wish to think of as "free" (both libre and gratis), I would
sometimes rather have the right that the GPL takes away from me (to exercise
QC over subsequent contributions) than the right that it doesn't (to license
my work for profit).  I know, of course, that no one is compelling me to
license under the GPL, and I continue to use the GPL because I think it
serves my purposes the best.


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