Subject: Re: GPLv3 draft
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <>
Date: Tue, 11 Apr 2006 13:29:13 +0900

>>>>> "simo" == simo  <> writes:

    simo> I think that you are muddying waters here :-)

Only in the sense that I know I misunderstood, and want to understand
better.  Therefore I ask questions that "those who think they know"
don't bother to ask.  Yet, the waters _are_ muddy, by the very fact
that this thread has occurred---I'm not the only one in it.

    simo> No, this is just pretty straight logic. You do not change a
    simo> license that has worked well for 15 years just to scratch an
    simo> itch. And whatever you may personally think of the FSF they
    simo> are not stupid at all.

Ad hominem.

    >> But the FSF has gone to great trouble to put the explanations
    >> into the license (ignoring the kibitzing of some pretty smart
    >> lawyers, to

    simo> Needless to remind you, that Moglen IS a pretty good lawyer,
    simo> and professor at the Columbia Law School.

Also ad hominem, although positive this time.  Note that "kibitzing"
is a mildly negative word; ignoring kibitzers is usually a good thing,
and may be in this case as well, since the FSF's goals are not purely
legal, but include educational and social aims as well.

    simo> Perhaps you should document yourself better on this
    simo> argument,

Easily.  You may find some of the "kibitzing of some pretty smart
lawyers" in Larry Rosen, _Open Source Licensing_, p. 110-111.

    simo> your arguments are very weak,

Proof by assertion.

    simo> and I do not really understand what's your aim here. It seem
    simo> you need to say something negative about that just to keep
    simo> yourself happy.

Yet more ad hominem.  But I'll answer you nevertheless.

My aim is to get you to stop "giving me fish" and instead "teach me
_how_ to fish."  I do not deduce from that fact that you consistently
expressed yourself in logical fallacies that you are incapable of
teaching me what I wish to know.

Specifically, on what grounds does one conclude that the terms of two
licenses are "the same"?  In particular, if two licenses have the same
meaning under current law, but one is explicit and the other implicit,
does strong copyleft permit distributing code licensed under the one
under the wording of the other?  More generally, how robust does the
conclusion that "the terms are the same" need to be to changes in
legal environment to satisfy the GPL requirement?  Also, which terms
simply don't matter (eg, my apparently bogus argument that the
requirement to distribute a specific text, namely the GPLv3, would be
incompatible with GPLv2, even if other terms were legally identical)?
Why don't they matter?  Do I have any protection or recourse if the
licensor declares that her understanding of the terms is _not_
identical (regardless of what the author of the license template might
say)?  Is "same terms" a transitive relation?

Without an answer to such questions, I consider it unacceptably risky,
not to mention morally presumptious, to redistribute material I
received under a copyleft license under any wording but that of the
original license.

Don't you?

ObRef FSB: if that argument is strategically correct, then businesses
will need to make choices with very-long-term implications as soon as
the GPLv3 is published.  None of the choices may be very appealing;
GPLv2 limits availability of the large body of GPLv3 code to your
downstream, GPLv3 may involve new restrictions or grants you do not
wish to make, and GPLv2 or later opens your downstream up to a fork if
some users prefer v2 while others prefer v3.

Let's not forget that IBM, one of the biggest companies contributing
to open source, is also one of the world's best at manipulation of
intellectual property, and that the Linux kernel, that poster child
for open source, is reluctant to move away from GPLv2.  Such forks are
a very real possibility.

It is important to understand GPLv3 and its context.  You may laugh if
you like, but there are hackers involved in FSBs who have consulted me
about these issues.  They understand that they ultimately need to talk
to lawyers, but they do not boss the lawyers.  They need to advocate
policy to those who do.  They want to gain some understanding of the
social, economic, and legal consequences in order to decide what to
advocate.  They know my biases, and for precisely that reason they
trust my advice to be informative.  I'd like to deserve that trust.

    simo> Don't think so, to solve [the problem of interpretation
    simo> varying across jurisdictions] you should really draw a set
    simo> of licenses each in the native jurisdiction language and
    simo> with precise reference to this jurisdiction laws.

As far as I can tell, the FSF doesn't consider that a good strategy.
Instead they prefer to make adjustments and translations only when
necessary.  The GPL doesn't even grant permission to make translations
of itself into other languages for *any* purpose, let alone for use as
a license.  That language has not changed at all in draft GPLv3.

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