For Approval: GPLv3

Matthew Flaschen matthew.flaschen at
Fri Aug 31 19:33:36 UTC 2007

Chris Travers wrote:
>> Why?  If the copyright holder allows the distributor this "editorial
>> control" (I think this is a poor choice of words), what's the problem?
>> I'm looking for something a little more precise than "all manner of red
>> flags".

I note that you haven't answered this question.  This is what it all
comes down to:  Why can't I do this if the copyright holder lets me?

>> As you know, that's contrary to the express wording.
> Yes, unfortunately, the express wording seems to my mind to be at odds
> with any normal contractual relationship....

Yes, that's what people said about all free software licenses initially,
 especially GPLv2.  But you're going to be hard-pressed to argue this
part of the license is somehow illegal.  And I don't care whether it's

> Sure, and that creates a new contractual relationship governed by the
> GPL3.  This would be acceptable to my mind.

It's not a question of what's acceptable to your mind.  It's a question
of what's legal, and the license makes that quite clear (without
violating any existing laws).

>> By serious questions, you seem to mean vague misgivings.
> Ok, I have asked two questions:
> 1)  Who are the parties to the contract?
> 2)  What rights does the contract grant?

If we interpret it as contract(s), I would suppose:

Author forms contract with distributor, agreeing that distributor can
distribute, modify, remove extra permissions, etc., provided conditions
of GPL are met.

Taking advantage of rights copyright holder just granted, distributor
then removes permissions (doesn't matter if he modified first) from his
distribution, and distributes to end users.

Since GPL is a *public* license, a contract also forms between end user
and copyright holder, granting them all the original permissions for the
copyright holder's code.

> I have gotten "filter theories" from some on this list who suggest that
> the rights are granted through a filter of a third party and thus the
> third party is in control of the rights grant even if he/she is not a
> party to the contract.

What third party?  Are you considering a distributor a third party?
Certainly, the distributor would need to be a party to a license/contract.

> Does removing permissions invalidate the contract  because the consideration offered and accepted are different?

I don't really know what you mean, but consideration is only a formality
in most jurisdictions.  If they're getting any consideration (and the
use of the program would be included) the contract is probably okay.

> However, there seem to be strong differences in interpretation as to
> what that licensee actually got in the license.  Some here say that the
> recipient has the right to make derivative works under any license. 

Of course they do, but they get that permission directly from you
(public license), not through Joe.

> Others say that he doesn't.

Tell me.  Who would stop Joe's recipient from making the derivative
works?  You have to think practically if you're asking practical
questions.  Only you own copyright for the program, so only you could go
after Joe's recipient for any violations.  And you've granted all third
parties (public license), including this recipient, the right to make
derivative works.

Matt Flaschen

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