For Approval: GPLv3

Chris Travers chris.travers at
Fri Aug 31 03:19:19 UTC 2007

On 8/30/07, Richard Fontana <fontana at> wrote:
> I don't think there is any contradiction in wording. I think the source
> of some of the confusion here is that Chris (and perhaps some others in
> this discussion) seem to be giving "sublicense" a nonstandard
> definition.

By sublicense I mean this:  If I grant a person the right to sublicense the
right to my work, I am giving that person the right to enter into an
agreement giving someone else specific rights to the work under copyright.

Such as:  I write a book.  Suppose I give the publisher the right to
sublicense this book provided that I get 30% of any royalties they get froms
uch sublicenses.  In other words, I am giving the publisher permission to
grant a license on my behalf.

 If A, a copyright holder, conveys to B under the GPL +
> additional permission, and B conveys to C without modification but
> removes the additional permission (which, it may be noted, is authorized
> by the terms of GPLv3), B is not "sublicensing" to C, because no rights
> to the code are coming from B; they continue to pass directly from A.

I don't recall stating this.  There is the question of what I was calling a
public license, meaning I publish to the general public and say "anyone may
do x with my work."  Adding further restrictions from third parties would
seem to be meaningless to me, but IANAL.

"Sublicense" does not generally mean "cause your distributee to get a
> proper subset of the permissions you got" (which I sense is the
> definition Chris is assuming);

No.  See above.  And in my example.  My question is:
1)  Who gets rights from whome?
2)  What rights are granted?

Question 1 is a standard sublicense definition question.  If they don't get
rights from me, it is a sublicense becaue the other person issued a license
for a work copyrighted to me with my permission.

Question 2 would seem to define that sublicense bit closer:  If they do get
their rights from me, then they should get exactly what I have granted.  If
they don't then they get what the other guy said was granted.  Again,
question 1 leads directly to an answer for question 2.

rather, the sublicensor is engaged in a
> distinct licensing relationship with the sublicensee in which a grant of
> rights is made from the sublicensor to the sublicensee, possibly within
> constraints defined in the original license.  At any rate, this is the
> notion of "sublicense" that is employed in the relevant clause of GPLv3.

Exactly.  This is relevant because:
1)  If the original license applies to downstream users, then it comes from
the author as is.
2)  If the original license (including additional permissions) can be
changed as it goes downstream, this requires a change to the license.  Since
this means a new license is issued, this implies sublicensing.

See my questions above:  1)  WHo gets rights from whom?  2)  What rights are

>> 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.
> Yes, that's precisely why that change was made.
I don't see how this critique was relevant to my exaple.
If the rights granted downstream changed, and if this has any teeth
whatsoever, then this requires that a new license agreement be made
available to the party downstream.  As always, the contract of the GPL
(basically an offer of code in exchange for certain obligations related to
derivative works) has to be made between two parties.  My question is which
two parties are involved in the contract over code that I own exclusive
copyrights to.

If it is just me and the other end user, then the permissions I granted
should be in force regardless of any impact by the intermediary distributor.

If the contract is between the distributor and the end user, then the
permissions he granted would be in force.  And if this is the case, then we
have a sublicense because I am not the one issuing the license.

Does my question seem clearer now?

Best Wishes,
Chris Travers
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