For Approval: GPLv3

Chris Travers chris at
Sat Aug 25 23:01:02 UTC 2007

One other thing we should consider before approving the GPL v3.

Due to license proliferation concerns, a number of criteria were 
reviewed and approved by OSI.  The report can be found at

My reading is that we can (and maybe should) reject the GPL v3 on 
grounds related to license proliferation.  My view is that the GPL v3 
cuts across both the general concerns of license proliferation and the 
recommendations of the committee.  The major concerns of the report are:

a) *too many different licenses makes it difficult for licensors to choose
The GPL3 is sufficently different in stated intent and execution from 
the GPL v2 to consider it to be a different license.  These licenses are 
not compatible with eachother, and are substantively different. 
b) *some licenses do not play well together*
*The GPL v3 may be incompatible with every other license out there 
(including itself, meaning that 2 GPL3 works may be license-incompatible 
depending on additional permissions depending on how you read the license).*

c)*too many licenses makes it difficult to understand what you are 
agreeing to in a multi-license distribution*
The GPL v3 adds complexity here beyond even any other license approved 
to date due to (vague) corresponding source definitions, the question of 
when additional permissions/licenses may be removed and by whom, and 
when the conditions of the GPLv3 require relicensing of source code.  
These uncertainties make this an especially dangerous license in this area.

The first paragraph of section 2 of the report states:

'The first thing we can do is to make sure that licenses calling 
themselves "open source" truly meet the Open Source Definition. In 2005, 
the OSI has suggested three guidelines that they would apply to proposed 
licenses to determine whether they should be OSI-approved.

   1. The license must not be duplicative
   2. The license must be clearly written, simple, and understandable
   3. The license must be reusable'

While these are merely suggested guidelines, it is clear to *anyone* 
that the GPL fails exactly one of these conditions (number 2).

One of the concerns we should have about approving the GPL v3 is that it 
may make it impossible to implement the 2005 recommendations ever, if 
the GPL v3 becomes the minimal standard of simplicity.  If we are going 
to draw the line anywhere, this is clearly over it.  If we are not, then 
we shouldn't consider license proliferation or its harm in approving any 
other licenses at the moment.

A second concern is that many projects may be uncomfortable with the 
GPL3 may wish to continue promoting the GPL2.  It therefore is likely to 
be problematic to move the GPL2 into the "superceded" category.

Therefore, even if OSD section 9 grounds are not sufficient cause for 
rejection, we should consider rejecting on the basis that this is a 
license which tries to be redundant with the GPLv2, but is indeed 
different, overly complicated, hard to understand, and poses unusual 
problems for multi-license distribution environments (which again, is 
limited to my section 9 concern).

Best Wishes,
Chris Travers
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