For Approval: GPLv3

Donovan Hawkins hawkins at
Fri Aug 31 02:30:52 UTC 2007

On Thu, 30 Aug 2007, Chris Travers wrote:

> Section 2 (final sentence):
> 'Sublicensing is not allowed; section 10 makes it unnecessary.'
> In other words, downstream users get their license from *me* for my code, not 
> from other GPL licensors.

Correct. And section 10 says specifically:

"Each time you convey a covered work, the recipient automatically
receives a license from the original licensors, to run, modify and
propagate that work, subject to this License."

So whatever license that the downstream user receives through my 
conveyance, it will originate with you. But what license is that? We 
already had a lengthy discussion about BSDL, the gist of which is that 
licensing under license A is equivalent to also licensing under license B 
if the rights granted by B are a subset of the rights granted by A. Since 
the rights granted by bare GPL v3 is a subset of the rights granted by GPL 
v3 + your Additional Permissions, you have already released the program 
under bare GPL v3 as well. GPL v3 section 7 explicitly allows me to select 
this license when conveying downstream.

BSDL allows you to sublicense any subset of the rights of BSDL downstream. 
GPL v3 allows you to EFFECTIVELY sublicense any subset which contains the 
entire bare GPL v3. It achieves this not through sublicensing but through 
removal of Additional Permissions, which is not really sublicensing if you 
define that both licenses are still "GPL v3". The selection of a subset 
did not entail using a different license, in the sense that it remained 
the GPL v3 license.

That distinction makes a little more sense if you consider the lay 
description of the GPL: downstream releases of GPL software must remain 
under the GPL. In the face of Additional Permissions and various 
disclaimers and Additional Legal Notices, one has to wonder how many 
"GPLs" there are in the world. It is much easier to understand the GPL if 
you think of there being only one GPL v3 with various "extras" tacked on, 
rather than N different licenses.

Making this distinction also allows them to be absolutely clear that 
ARBITRARY sublicensing is not permitted (since it would destroy the 
copyleft aspects of GPL). Allowing anything called "sublicensing" might 
leave the door open just a hair for a judge to interpret it overly 
broadly. Disallowing all sublicensing (and then effectively letting it 
back in through very limited means) could make it harder for a judge to 
make that mistake.

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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