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Re: Mass bug filing: Cryptographic protection against modification

On Thu, May 06, 2004 at 09:33:23AM -0400, Theodore Ts'o wrote:
> Hence, standards bodies that state that out of policy reasons, if
> someone wants to make a non-interoperable version of a protocol, they
> should start from scratch and not be able to leverage the existing
> work of the protocol specifications, are in many ways making the exact
> same argument about why it is "necessary" to prevent someone from
> using the GPL using it as a base, possibly stemming confusion in the
> marketplace. 

I don't quite understand how you're disagreeing with me.

I'm arguing that license texts *can* be placed under "freely modifiable"
metalicenses.  The result is that you still have to include the original,
unmodified text when distributing other people's software, but you can
use the modified text for your own software.

For example, I can modify the GPL[1], and distribute my own software under
that license.  If I distribute the Linux kernel, however, I must include
the original GPL with it, or I may be misrepresenting the terms of the

I'm arguing that unmodifiable license texts *are* DFSG-unfree, and that
we don't necessarily have to make an exception for them to be consistent
with the nature of the legal system.

We *do* make an exception for them, and I don't think this is a problem;
I just don't think the "we have no choice due to the legal system's design"
is correct rationale.  (An alternative rationale is beyond the scope of
this argument, of course.)

("Confusion" isn't an element in my argument; if you want to prevent
confusion, you can say "if you modify the GPL, rename it"--which the
FSF does say, in fact--just as you can say "if you modify RFC 12345,
don't call it RFC 12345".)

> (Your arguement that if someone could modify the a copy of the GPL and
> hence modify the terms under which the kernel is distributed is
> laughable, by the way; just as a contract doesn't change if someone

I didn't claim that you'd be modifying the terms under which the kernel
is distributed.  (That'd be stupid.)  I'm saying that if you modify the
GPL, replace the text of the GPL inside the kernel source with your
modified copy, and distribute the result, you're *misrepresenting* the
actual terms of the software.

I think this is analogous to taking the kernel source, changing all
of the names inside it to your own, and distributing it.  You'd be
misrepresenting the authorship of the work.

[1] ignoring any arguments about the actual modifiability of the GPL for
the sake of discussion

Glenn Maynard

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