[License-discuss] plain text license versions?

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Fri Sep 7 01:13:18 UTC 2012

Quoting Johnny Solbu (johnny at solbu.net):
> On Thursday 06 September 2012 21:14, Lawrence Rosen wrote:
> > I think it would be FAR more useful to have a simple license
> > statement in the source tree of each program that points to the
> > OFFICIAL version of that license on the OSI website.
> But it force the user to have internet access in order to actually
> read the licence. There are many countries and places where internet
> access is for the priviliged few.

Very sad.  So, the barrio occupant in question might need to check out a
book with the licence text.  Life's imperfect.

> Besides, sometimes the license text changes. for example, 10 years ago
> the license located at http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl.txt was GPLv2.
> As of june 2007 it is GPLv3. Meaning that any gplv2 software that link
> to the licese at that location is now linking to the Wrong license.

Ten years ago, the more commonly cited URL would have actually been
www.gnu.org/copyleft/gpl.html .  Which today provides information about all
versions to date.   A decade ago, it provided information only about v2,
v1 was already vanishingly rare and had seldom ever been used anyway.

However, for the sake of discussion, let's suppose someone said in a
copyleft statement

Copyright (C) 2002 George Tirebiter.  

This program is free software; you can redistribute it and/or
modify it under the terms of the GNU General Public License
as published by the Free Software Foundation; either version 2
of the License, or (at your option) any later version.  Full
text of GNU General Public License version 2 can be found at 
http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl.txt .

Post-2007, a user goes to http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl.txt and sees
GNU General Public License version 3.

Rats!  If only Internet users were capable of using a facility to find
things.  If it were invented, one might call it a 'search engine'.

(I readily concur with the implied point that it's a bad idea to swap
out a licence text for a later version at the same URL, however.)

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