GPL v3

John Cowan cowan at
Wed Jan 25 21:09:05 UTC 2006

David Dillard scripsit:

> NewsForge has an article
> ( about the
> reception of the GPL v3 draft in the Debian community.  Apparently,
> there is some speculation that the draft may violate the Debian Free
> Software Guidelines (DFSG).

The fact that the OSD and the DFSG are identical (except for
the references to Debian in the latter) but have such different
interpretations is an excellent example of how much legal interpretations
can differ, and ultimately about the hopelessness of capturing a set of
societal constraints in any form of words however carefully drafted.

(In particular, it's my view that since the GPL is not a contract, and
as such is revocable at will, software under the GPLv2 clearly violates
the Debian Tentacles-of-Evil test, and therefore is not Debian-free.
But obviously no one from the Debian community dare agree.  IANAL; TINLA.)

> My understanding is that the OSI guidelines for open source licenses
> were derived from the Debian guidelines.  This got me to thinking:
> suppose that the alleged problem areas in the draft survive to the final
> version of the license.  Would OSI not approve GPL v3 as open source
> license?  Or would OSI change its guidelines to allow GPL v3 to be an
> approved license?  After all, how could a version of the license that
> helped start the open source movement not be open source?

Why not?  It wouldn't have much practical impact for a long time, since
the overwhelming bulk of all GPLed software would be under a "v2 or v3"
license, small amounts (like the Linux kernel) under a "v2 only" license,
and essentially nothing under a "v3 only" license.

It's true that if analysis showed the GPLv2 or new BSD or Artistic or MIT
licenses to be not Open Source, that would warrant a change to the OSD,
since the OSD is inferred from those licenses in particular.  But that
isn't likely.

> Does anyone have an opinion on the approvability of the draft as it
> stands today.

IMO, and only IMO, it is approvable.

John Cowan <cowan at>
Micropayment advocates mistakenly believe that efficient allocation of
resources is the purpose of markets.  Efficiency is a byproduct of market
systems, not their goal.  The reasons markets work are not because users
have embraced efficiency but because markets are the best place to allow
users to maximize their preferences, and very often their preferences are
not for conservation of cheap resources.  --Clay Shirkey

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