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Re: GPL "or any greater version"

> > > There are ten instances of the word "version" in that section.  Only
> > > one can possibly be read as "version of the Program."  That is the one
> > > inside the double quotes; but actual practice does not support that
> > > reading.

> > I'm not sure what you mean by "actual practice".  Do you mean actual
> > practice by the FSF?

On Fri, Aug 27, 2004 at 04:17:40PM -0400, Michael Poole wrote:
> Yes.  For example, core files of gcc (example at [1]) specify "either
> version 2, or (at your option) any later version."  I claim this is
> what section 9 means by the "any later version" in double quotes.  You
> seem to claim that that part of section 9 means "any later version of
> gcc."  I claim a copyright notice like this unambiguously means "any
> later version of the GPL":

I agree that a copyright notice like this unambiguously means "any later
version of the GPL".

As near as I can tell, the only difference -- in the context of that
copyright notice -- between you interpretation of the quoted phrase in
the GPL and mine is:

 Some people (Brian Thomas Sniffen, for example) seem to think that with
 your intepretation, "any later version of the GPL" only applies to what
 the GPL calls "the Program" -- it needn't apply to what the GPL calls
 "modified versions of the program".  [This, despite the fact that the
 preamble indicates that that is not the intent of the GPL.]

Someone has already asked the FSF for clarification on this issue.

If the FSF indicates that Mr. Sniffen's interpretation is correct, I
suppose I could take that as proof that the FSF intends for the quoted
phrase in section 9 to be read as you describe.

> > That said, I'd take "any later version of gcc" to mean "a work based
> > on gcc".
> That is what I would take it to mean, too, if the license actually
> said that.  But it doesn't, and every other mention of "version" in
> section 9 is clearly a reference to the version of the GPL.

Either way -- with your interpretation or mine -- section 9 could be
written to more clearly indicate that specific interpretation.

So, I'll not dispute that the phrasing could be clearer.

> > > Just yesterday you argued that section 9 of the GPL did not allow a
> > > program to specify distribution only under version 2, but required
> > > accepting "future version of the GPL" -- for example, [1] and [2].
> > > What happened?
> > >
> > > [1]- http://lists.debian.org/debian-legal/2004/08/msg00713.html
> > > [2]- http://lists.debian.org/debian-legal/2004/08/msg00730.html

[I'm confused and ask some questions]

> I included [2] because of claims like this:
> . The terms in section 9 do not offer distributors the option
> . of avoiding future versions of the GPL.

So... when you ask "what happened", do you now think I'm claiming that
section 9 offers distributors the option of avoiding future versions of
the GPL?  

I still don't see what you are asking about.

> > More fundamentally, my argument has been that "GPL v2 only" means only
> > under the terms of GPL v2, which includes the later version option.
> > In other words, "GPL v2 only" does not exclude later versions.
> > 
> > In other words, what are you really asking about?
> Your arguments yesterday seemed to hinge on interpreting GPLv2 section
> 9's "any later version" to mean any later version of the GPL.  Your
> arguments today seem to hinge on interpreting it to mean any later
> version of the program.  I seek to better understand your position.

I have several reasons for disagreeing with the idea that section 9
allows people to lock other people into a specific version of the GPL.

First, the FSF doesn't seem to be interested in doing so.

Second, the GPL seems to be (and claims to be) structured to require
that all rights be passed on.

Third, because the GPL is designed around explicitly stated terms, so
a set of options where several are explicit and one is implicit seems
to conflict with its design.  For example section 8 and section 3 both
provide options, and those options do not seem to rely on any sort of
implicit alternatives.

Fourth, because of the grammar of the third sentence of section 9.
[Though I agree that if the sentence were puntuated slightly differently
or phrased slightly differently that your intepretation would be the
proper one, grammatically speaking.]

There may be other reasons which I haven't noticed yet.


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