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Re: GPL compatibility of DFCL

On Fri, Jun 14, 2002 at 03:17:27AM -0500, Branden Robinson wrote:

> > Let's say Part I is legal. Now, at some point, the GPL sections and the
> > DFCL sections are no longer distinct. The DFCL part can no longer "be
> > reasonably considered independent and separate works in themselves."

> > Up to now, we have been depending on that section 2, paragraph 2 to
> > guard our use of a different license.

> Actually, no.  It's not the GPL that enforces that.  As I understand it,
> it's copyright law.  I can't take a Toni Morrison novel, rot13 it, stick
> it inside GCC, pull it back out, rot13 it again, and have a GPLed Toni
> Morrison novel.  I couldn't do that (and get away with it) if even the
> GNU GPL had no paragraphs in clause 2 after the lettered subsections.

> The work and all clear derivatives of it retain thier copyright and
> licensing as long as it can still be discerned to be the work in
> question.

They retain both their copyright and their licensing, yes.  The trouble
is, you have to permit licensing the work under the GPL for it to have
legally gotten there in the first place, which means anyone who receives
your DFCL text as part of a GPL work has a license to it under the terms
of the GPL -- not under the terms of the GPL-plus-a-few-restrictions.

The final paragraphs of section 2 only say that the copyright holder has
the right to distribute his own work under other license terms when
distributing it alone.  It does NOT give the copyright holder the
ability to rescind permissions after a license to copy and modify the
work has been granted under the GPL.

Now, either you permit genuine relicensing of the DFCL work under the
terms of the GPL, or you don't.  If you don't, then section 2a) applies:

    b) You must cause any work that you distribute or publish, that in
    whole or in part contains or is derived from the Program or any
    part thereof, to be licensed as a whole at no charge to all third
    parties under the terms of this License.

So if your DFCL work is not truly licensed under the GPL, neither you
nor anyone else has a right to combine it with GPL code and distribute
the derived work.

If you do permit relicensing under the GPL, then you are granting these
rights to third parties:

   2. You may modify your copy or copies of the Program or any portion
 of it, thus forming a work based on the Program, and copy and
 distribute such modifications or work under the terms of Section 1
 above, provided that you also meet all of these conditions:

 <snip list of conditions we've all read>

The final paragraphs of section 2 are addressed to the copyright holder
of an independent and separate work, not to the licensee of a GPL
Program that /contains/ an independent and separate work.  They do not
limit my right under the license to chop up a GPL program and only reuse
parts of it, so long as my use complies with the terms of the GPL --
EVEN IF a part that I'm using is a proper subset of a work that was
originally licensed under the DFCL.  If I'm using part of a GPL work, I
shouldn't have to worry about its genealogy before being able to use it.

And this is how it's meant to be.  The GPL is designed as a one-way trap
into a creative commons.  You can license your work in other ways
outside of that commons, but once it's inside you can't ever prevent its
use within.  An escape clause such as the one you're proposing would be
a very serious flaw in the GPL; topologically, it's equivalent to
letting someone impose the restriction, "Permission is granted to modify
this work under the terms of the GPL so long as it's done as part of
application KFoo", which is clearly not the GPL at all, and does not
make it legal to combine their work with KFoo unless the KFoo authors
grant an exception.

Steve Langasek
postmodern programmer

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