conducting a sane and efficient GPLv3, LGPLv3 Review

Alexander Terekhov alexander.terekhov at
Wed Aug 1 17:44:13 UTC 2007

On 8/1/07, John Cowan <cowan at> wrote:
> Lawrence Rosen scripsit:
> > Now all that I have to do is understand the basis for John's comment:
> >
> > > >> Just that the disagreement between Larry and most other people is of
> > > >> long standing and unlikely to go away, but has hitherto been of little
> > > >> practical effect.
> A mere typo:  for "most other people" read "most other people here".
> My bad.

Do you really think that most other people here are not kind of
puzzled by the following piece of GNU "denationalization" wisdom?

Works Based On Other Works

Although the definition of "work based on the Program" made use of a legal
term of art, "derivative work," peculiar to US copyright law, we did not
believe that this presented difficulties as significant as those associated
with the use of the term "distribution." After all, differently-labeled
concepts corresponding to the derivative work are recognized in all
copyright law systems. That these counterpart concepts might differ to some
degree in scope and breadth from the US derivative work was simply a
consequence of varying national treatment of the right of altering a
copyrighted work.

Ironically, the criticism we have received regarding the use of US-specific
legal terminology in the "work based on the Program" definition has come
not primarily from readers outside the US, but from those within it, and
particularly from members of the technology licensing bar. They have argued
that the definition of "work based on the Program" effectively misstates
what a derivative work is under US law, and they have contended that it
attempts, by indirect means, to extend the scope of copyleft in ways they
consider undesirable. They have also asserted that it confounds the con-
cepts of derivative and collective works, two terms of art that they assume,
questionably, to be neatly disjoint under US law.

We do not agree with these views, and we were long puzzled by the
energy with which they were expressed, given the existence of many other,
more difficult legal issues implicated by the GPL. Nevertheless, we realized
that here, too, we can eliminate usage of local copyright terminology to good
effect. Discussion of GPLv3 will be improved by the avoidance of parochial
debates over the construction of terms in one imperfectly-drafted copyright
statute. Interpretation of the license in all countries will be made easier
by replacement of those terms with neutral terminology rooted in description
of behavior.

Draft 2 therefore takes the task of internationalizing the license further
by removing references to derivative works and by providing a more globally
useful definition of a work "based on" another work. We return to the basic
principles of users' freedom and the common elements of copyright law.
Copyright holders of works of software have the exclusive right to form new
works by modification of the original, a right that may be expressed in
various ways in different legal systems. The GPL operates to grant this
right to successive generations of users, particularly through the copyleft
conditions set forth in section 5 of GPLv3, which applies to the conveying
of works based on the Program. In section 0 we simply define a work based
on another work to mean "any modified version for which permission is
necessary under applicable copyright law," without further qualifying the
nature of that permission, though we make clear that modification includes
the addition of material.1 1 We have also removed the paragraph in section
5 that makes reference to "derivative or collective works based on the

Very interesting, to say the least. :-)


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