For Approval: GPLv3

Chris Travers chris at
Thu Aug 16 18:48:33 UTC 2007

There is one more possibility I have found as I have re-evaluated 
whether or not my objections were valid.  I have concluded that despite 
Rick's mischaracterization of my argument, they are not but that there 
is one other possible issue with use of GPL v3 software (and this 
concern was raised to some extent on debian-legal a while back as well).

At the moment, despite this concern, I would suggest that we approve.

7b of the GPL v3 states that one may require the preservation of 
reasonable legal notices.  Debian has raised the concern that 
"reasonable" is not defined anywhere.  A legal notice might be required 
as part of the code of the software (perhaps as compiler warnings 
stating that running the modified code on the supplied hardware would be 
a violation of federal law unless appropriate licenses were issued by 
the FCC,   Such notices could become quite long and if required outside 
of comments (i.e. as compiler warnings or textual notices in the code) 
could render portions of the code effectivly invariant.

Due to concerns such as these,. Debian treats the GPL v3 as a 
"case-by-case" license which may meet conditions similar to the OSD or 
not depending on the specific work.  I don't know whether the OSI sees 
the line as "all works under this license meet the definition," or "some 
works under this license meet the definition."  If the latter, then we 
should approve.  If the former, we need to think about whether an 
invarient section of code disseminating a (potentially long) legal 
notice violates the OSD.

Ok, I am willing to accept Michael's position that legislative 
regulations are outside the bounds of these discussions, and hence the 
GPL v3 is OK.  However, I think that you are misrepresenting what I have 

I would also point out that I did a little more digging and discovered 
that Debian considers the GPL v3 to be a license which may or may not 
(depending on use of optional terms) violate the Debian Free Software 
Guidelines.  Since the DFSG are the basis for the OSD, this may lead 
people to conclude that the use of the GPL v3 does not guarantee meeting 
the OSD either but neither does it preclude it.

On 8/16/07, *Rick Moen* <rick at> wrote:

    Once again, I, for one, don't accept your fundamental assumption that
    "the profession of locking people out of the ability to run modified
    software on particular pieces of hardware" qualifies as "a field of
    endeavour" within the meaning of OSD#6.

    Which means that the question of where to draw lines _among_ fields of
    endeavour, if at all, does not arise.

The "fields of endeavor" that I was talking about were firmware for 
FCC-regulated equipment, voting machines, and the like.  The basic 
argument is that if you cannot abide by both the laws and the terms of 
the license, you cannot use the code.  This therefore discriminates 
against *any field of endeavor* where the government has a compelling 
interest in regulating the software/hardware package as a whole 
including areas which:

1)  interface with public airwaves
2)  must maintain integrity relating to public service functions (such 
as voting machines) etc.

Once again, I am willing to accept Michael's view that the combination 
of government regulation *and* license terms do not constitute a problem 
for part 6 of the OSD where the license *alone* does not enforce such 
discrimination, but I reject your view that the field of endeavor that I 
was concerned about was as you categorize.

BTW, I have come to agree with Michael on this and would further suggest 
that the voting machine issue is not valid because agreements which 
provide for, say, processing and acceptance of data from software 
operated by a third party are outside the scope of the GPL v3.  I.e. a 
State is perfectly within their rights to tell Counties that the GPL 
permissions *may not be used* for any model of voting machine where the 
county wants the votes to count.

Furthermore, with the FCC's permission, long, invarient legal notices 
could be included in GPL code warning the individual compiling them of 
dire consequences of actually installing the software without a 
license.  These could perhaps include code which output the legal notice 
as compiler warnings, in help files, or elsewhere.  Thus although a 
large percentage of the source might not be freely editable under the 
GPL, the practical components would be, so "code relating to 7b legal 
notices" should also fall outside the OSD.
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