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Re: Draft Summary: MPL is not DFSG free

"Lex Spoon" <lex@cc.gatech.edu> writes:

>> Almost all free licenses are not contracts.  I cannot think of any
>> Free license which *is* a contract, but there might, I suppose, be one
>> out there.  Given American law requires an exchange, I can't see how.
> What do you mean?  In order to gain the licenses GPL grants you, you
> must comply with all of the terms.

No, I don't.  I have a license to modify GCC, though I have never done
so.  That license is the GNU GPL.

> Some of those terms require that you perform in some way, e.g. by
> distributing source code.  I am not a legal expert, but GPL has all
> of the earmarks of a contract.  It is a written document, it
> requires agreement by both parties to be binding,

You are begging the question.  You have written that it requires
agreement because it is a contract, and that it is a contract because
it requires agreement.

I do not have to agree to the GPL in order to receive the licenses it
documents.  If I do certain things, I lose those licenses, but that is

> it grants something (a license), and it puts requirements on one of
> the parties ("You") to perform actions in exchange for the granted
> item.

Not true at all.  It grants a license to perform certain things
copyright law otherwise prevents me from doing.  It doesn't grant a
license to do some other things, like link GCC against OpenSSL and
distribute the result.  But that is not a requirement of the license
-- that's something copyright law forbids and the license does not

I have given no consideration to the copyright holders of GCC or
Emacs.  We may not even have a shared understanding of what the GPL
means.  So it's clearly not a contract: it's the act of a single
party, who unilaterally grants a license.

> I'm sure you are getting at something important, but talking about
> contracts versus non-contracts doesn't seem to be exactly the dividing
> line you are trying to specify.

Well, part of what I'm saying is that I don't think anything you need
a contract to do under US law can be Free -- in particular, placing
enforceable obligations on the recipient of software means the
software isn't free.

Part of what I'm saying is that any license which does anything other
than increase the scope of allowed activities is not Free.  Copyright
law lets you do some few things -- read a book, for example.  Free
licenses must increase that scope to include modification, derivation,
distribution... and must also not restrict your activities.  If they
shrink the scope of allowed activities at any point, they are not Free.


Brian Sniffen                                       bts@alum.mit.edu

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