For Approval: GPLv3

Donovan Hawkins hawkins at
Sun Aug 26 04:58:15 UTC 2007

On Sat, 25 Aug 2007, Chris Travers wrote:

> 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*

As you point out, GPL v3 is significantly different from GPL v2, so what 
do you propose to tell people who WANT to use GPL v3? There is no other 
license to point them to instead that accomplishes the same thing. I would 
hope that stemming the tide of license proliferation does not mean forcing 
people to use licenses they don't want or grant rights they wish to 

> *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).*

You wrote earlier:

"It forces programmers who own copyrights to cede to distributors the 
right to drop permissions not granted by the GPL v3. These permissions can 
be dropped under the GPL v3 by anyone who merely conveys the software, and 
they can be dropped on code that neither the original author nor the 
distributor owns any copyrights to because they don't affect derivative 
works but merely downstream distribution."

It does no such thing. If you release your original code under BSDL then 
you have ALREADY granted the right to remove permissions from your code. 
BSDL grants you the right to do nearly anything, and that includes using 
it in a GPL project (modified or not) with no additional permissions 
intact. You chose to allow that when you selected BSDL.

If, on the other hand, you released under MS-PL then you did NOT grant 
that permission. MS-PL forbids removing any permissions granted under 
MS-PL, and you could not license a derivative work under GPL v3.

People choose the license that grants the permissions they want to grant. 
It's not our place to second guess whether they really wanted to grant 
those permissions.

If you do manage to shoehorn MS-PL code into a GPL v3 derivative work (via 
multiple licensing and an additional permission to ignore the parts of the 
GPL v3 that forbid it), don't go crying to anyone that your mutant license 
is incompatble with everything on the planet. The fact that a Microsoft 
open-source license is not remotely compatible with an FSF open-source 
license is not only unsurprising, it is almost refreshing in its symmetry. 
The idea of little GPL+MS-PL bastard children running around embarassing 
both their parents is too disturbing.

> c)*too many licenses makes it difficult to understand what you are agreeing 
> to in a multi-license distribution*

All the more reason to avoid multi-license distributions where possible. 
Hardly a unique problem of GPL v3.

<snipped various complaints about GPL v3 complexity>

GPL v3 aims to close perceived loopholes in GPL v2. Obviously there are 
many who do not see these as loopholes (the discussions between Linus 
Torvalds and the FSF on that matter are very entertaining and 
educational). But for those that do, GPL v3 is their license. I accept 
that it is more complicated than some other licenses, but is it more 
complicated than it needed to be to achieve its goals? That has to be the 
standard it is measured against.

> 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.

Oh this is not a concern, it is a reality. Linus Torvalds has already 
indicated that he will stick with GPL v2 for the Linux kernel. See the 
linux-kernel mailing list thread entitled "Dual-Licensing Linux Kernel 
with GPL V2 and GPL V3."

> 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

No, it tries to be a better GPL than v2, for suitable definitions of 
better. It's not really the FSF's fault if people disagree about what is 

Perhaps the right attitude here is the one adopted for source code. FSF 
has just forked GPL, and with luck they will manage to merge the forks 
at some future time. Innovation will be stifled if forking is forbidden 
entirely. I think OSI could play a major role in reducing license 
proliferation if it helped reduce unintentional forking and aided in the 
merging process. Merging the permissive licenses like BSDL and MIT into a 
single, modern license (one that addresses patent rights and allows for 
selective use of the various notice requirements) would be a great start. 
In fact, that's something I'm about ready to attempt myself if no one else 
is willing to do it.

Donovan Hawkins, PhD                 "The study of physics will always be
Software Engineer                     safer than biology, for while the
hawkins at                   hazards of physics drop off as 1/r^2,                biological ones grow exponentially."

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