UCITA bans GPL
We all know that UCITA alters the requirements for warranties on software
- making free software providers responsible for providing warranties, but
exempting commercial software providers from this requirement.
I believe that this law could be construed as banning distribution of GPL
software. This is good!
As we know, it is illegal to distribute GPL software if all the freedoms
(and restrictions) of the GPL cannot be distributed along with the
software. The software was distributed with no warranty to current
license-holders in Virginia (and any other UCITA areas) and they are
required, by the GPL, to distribute the software only under the same terms
that they received it under. They will not be able to do that. Anyone
they distribute the software to would be required to extend warranty
protection to any further recipients - which requires imposing
restrictions on redistribution on them - which is, of course, prohibited.
The GPL sort of makes an exception if a warranty is required by law. But
I believe that one could argue that UCITA does not require a warranty in
the sense that the GPL was presumably referring to - for example, if a
state had a law requiring that all products must come with certain
warranty provisions. In fact, UCITA does not require software
distributors to provide a warranty at all. It merely states a method for
disclaiming warranty that does not happen to be compatible with any known
methods for distributing GPL software. This will, in effect, make it
impossible to distribute the software.
I think we should argue that GPL software, because of this problem, cannot
be distributed at all. First, it would accomplish the goal of avoiding
liability for software "warranty" issues; presumably Microsoft, or some
other proprietary-software company, will begin suing free software authors
indiscriminately. Second, it would make lawmakers (and the public)
realize they have been hoodwinked - and it will make companies with a
large stake in the integrity of the free software process (IBM being the
most obvious) realize that they cannot have their cake and eat it, too.
A few headlines along the lines of "Linux banned in Virginia" ought to
wake people up - hopefully leading to the eventual repeal of the UCITA.
Yes, this is a form of "take my ball and go home." :}
I would love to hear any arguments on whether this would be an effective