For Approval: GPLv3

Chris Travers chris at
Fri Aug 31 17:39:33 UTC 2007


I think this point is sort of misunderstood.  Basically, the GPL3 
operates as an agreement over distribution of works.  It is a contract 
(according to footnotes in the Rationale Document or the Second Draft).  
And therefore it specifies a specific relationship between the licensor 
and the recipient based on the licensor's original offer of 
permissions.  This license does not allow for third parties to the 
licensing process as do others.

To understand sublicensing, let us look at a clearer example from the 
publishing world.  I write a book.  I send it to a publisher.  I may 
give the publisher the right to grant permissions on excerpts, etc. on 
my behalf.  These permissive grants would be sublicenses and would be 
between the publisher and the one who uses the excerpts.  If the 
licenses are contracts (which they most likely would be), the original 
author would not be a party to that contract.

We can all agree that the GPL3 section 2 forbids this sort of 
intermediary relationship.  The license contract is between the original 
author and the recipient.  But the question is what party the 
distributor plays in that licensing agreement.  The idea that a 
distributor could have some sort of editorial control over the rights 
granted in a contract that he/she is not a party to raises all manner of 
red flags.  I personally would hope that the removal of additional 
permissions would be interpreted as to require the direction of any 
copyright holder over any portion of the affected code.

As for the complaint that "anyone could make a trivial change to remove 
the permission," the question becomes whether that change is worthy of 
copyright protection itself.  If it is, then at least there is a new 
contractual relationship involved.  If not, then it would have still 
been a different set of questions.  In short one would not have the 
serious questions as to whether this is so far outside what is normally 
considered to be a valid contract as to bring the whole license into 

Although IANAL, and this is tentative and subject to change after 
seeking legal advice, I would rather be arguing in court over whether 
linking/dependency constitutes derivation than I would about the scope 
and meaning of the GPL3.  Therefore my current position is that this 
license sucks so badly that even if dependencies move, I do not intend 
to upgrade the licenses on any software projects I am involved in.  I 
expect them to remain GPL2.

Best Wishes,
Chris Travers
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