For Approval: GPLv3

Chris Travers chris.travers at
Fri Aug 31 23:40:25 UTC 2007

On 8/31/07, Matthew Flaschen <matthew.flaschen at> wrote:
> >
> > 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
> "normal".

However, in the GPLv2, you had a license whose basic contractual
relationship was clearly based in established copyright law.  Subsequent
Supreme Court rulings may have changed the scope of the license, but it is
pretty hard to argue that it isn't based in the law.

The *only* argument against the GPLv2 I have ever heard which withstands
even a single reading of the license is that it attacks the licensing system
the copyright act was set up to create and thus is an attack on the balance
between access and authors' reward.  This neglects the fact however that the
purpose of copyright is eventual public access, so it is a pretty weak

My argument against the GPLv3 however is basically that it creates what are
probably unprecidented procedures in contracts for third parties to affect
the form and/or substance of those contracts.  In short, the argument is not
one of aims as it could be with the GPL2 but rather one of procedures.  This
is a bigger issue.

> 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).

And that is the question.

"Acceptible to my mind" was probably a poor choice of words.  However, the
basic issue is that this change in draft two profoundly altered the legal
relationship between licensor and licensee to something which arguably can
be interfered with by third parties.

I wonder if the FSF or the the Software Freedom Law Center would be willing
to comment on the legal relationships here...

The only thing I have gotten so far from these groups is that BSDL isn't a
problem because it allows for a sublicensing relationship betwen the person
who converts the license and the downstream recipient.  In other words,
removing the additional permissions here is not the same because the
distributor functions as a sublicensor.  However, I have no idea how to
apply this to the GPL3 + additional permissions.

Best Wishes,
Chris Travers
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