For Approval: GPLv3

Matthew Flaschen matthew.flaschen at
Fri Aug 31 02:41:04 UTC 2007

Chris Travers wrote:
> In other words, downstream users get their license from *me* for my
> code, not from other GPL licensors.  CHanging what you can do with *my*
> code is not allowed.

Except it is allowed, in section 7.  Section 7 is not a mistake; it
means exactly what it says.  This is an exception to the broad
"Sublicensing is not allowed"

> The above two quotes suggest to me that if I add any permissions to the
> work as a whole, they cannot be removed simply by saying so.

You are incorrect.  Extra permissions can be removed at any time.

> However, at least the language is contradictory and confusing.

There is a minor contradiction in wording, but it doesn't change the
legal effect.

> Footnote 71 states:   "We no longer formally require removal of an
> additional permission to be by one who modifies."

Then I don't see how you can dispute that this is the intention of the

> There is no further documentation as to why this change was made.

I think it's obvious.  Otherwise, people could just make trivial
modifications then do it; thus, this distinction is pointless.  No other
part of the GPL requires modification.

> The goal in Draft 1 was clearly to allow for modifications which would
add the
> exact restrictions of the GPL3 to *those modifications.*  This goal was never
> changed.

The goal was changed, or you interpreted the original goal wrong.
Again, your own footnote makes this obvious.

> My concern is that this phrase can be read many different ways, such as
> to allow essentially sublicensing (as you seem to suggest)

No, it can't.  It allows removing extra (beyond what GPL itself grants),
for modified or unmodified versions.  You've provided no evidence for
any other interpretation.

> If the license can be read so many different ways outside its original
> intent, that represents a real risk for those who use the license, or at least that is my opinion.

I know no one else who finds this part confusing.

> 1)  What a license purports to allow or not

I think it is clear what the GPL allows.  Do you have any specific
questions (other than removing permissions)

> 2)  What the legal mechanism is involved.

Copyright and patent.  Copyright and patent holders have a very broad
right to license their work as they choose.  GPL is one such license.

> Again getting back to a hypothetical example:  I create a program with a
> bunch of cool features.  I apply the GPL plus a bunch of other
> permissions to that code, and give a copy to an associate for review. 

If he is part of the same organization as you, and it is the
organization that actually holds copyright, he may not have permission
to release it (the GPL doesn't apply to "internal" distribution.  In my
comments below, I am assuming you and your "associate" are not formally
affiliated, and you hold copyright on the cool program.

> He fixes bugs in a couple bugs in one file, but removes my additional
> permissions from all my code (including unaltered areas).  He then
> publishes the code online.
> I haven't released to the public yet.

You released the physical code to him.  But GPL is a public license
(hence the name), so the license applies to all third parties.  This is
the meaning of section 10 (Automatic Licensing of Downstream
Recipients), which states:

"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."

> If it is sublicensing, then it comes from the
> publisher and is as stated in the license.


> However, because *I* have never given any other license, it can't come from me and fail to include
> all permissions I gave.

The original license (still in effect) comes from you.  The sublicense
comes from the publisher, who you have given permission to remove extra

Matt Flaschen

More information about the License-discuss mailing list