Subject: Re: balance
From: "L. Peter Deutsch" <>
Date: Mon, 27 Sep 1999 15:09:56 -0700

> The Free Software movement stands for certain values: that the freedom of
> everyone in the community is most important, and who gets how much money
> is a secondary issue.  I designed the GNU GPL based on these priorities.

Just as you claim Free Software is about freedom and not money, Stig (and I)
claim that the GPL's restrictions are about freedom and not about money.

> His article last week criticizes the GPL for "prevent[ing] artists
> from not using copyrights to charge for their creative output"--in
> other words, for not allowing proprietary modified versions of
> original GPL-covered programs such as GNU Emacs and GCC.

Of course, anyone can make such a version, as long as it carries change
notices and (if appropriate) prints a disclaimer of warranty: they just
can't distribute it.  That's how I have to handle combining GNU readline
with Aladdin Ghostscript: the makefile supports it, but the resulting
program prints a message when it starts up telling people that the GPL
forbids them to distribute it.

> (GPL Section 2) Thus, it is not the intent of this section to claim rights
> or contest your rights to work written entirely by you; rather, the intent
> is to exercise the right to control the distribution of derivative or
> collective works based on the Program.

That is what the GPL says, but it isn't true.  If taken literally, the GPL
applies to any work written entirely by me that contains even a one-word
"portion" copied from a GPL'ed work:

> (GPL Section 0) ... a "work based on the Program" means ... a work
> containing the Program or a portion of it, either verbatim or with
> modifications and/or translated into another language.

According to this, the GPL applies to any work that mentions (uses) names
defined in a GPL'ed header file.  That's like saying that every X Windows
application is a "derivative work" of X Windows itself.

One intent of the GPL is clearly to destroy as much as possible of the
freedom of developers who touch the GPL'ed world in any way to choose their
own licensing methods.  The (effective) withdrawal of the LGPL, for example,
clearly indicates this.  Ironically, the success of GPL'ed code dilutes this
goal: when GPL'ed code becomes "distributed (in either source or binary
form) with the major components (compiler, kernel, and so on) of the
operating system", it loses its ability to force GPL'ing of applications
linked with it.

I still think the GPL is a great contribution, but I agree with Stig that it
confers one set of freedoms while taking away another.


L. Peter Deutsch         |       Aladdin Enterprises ::::
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