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Re: Strange GPL licensing: most recent

Francesco Poli wrote:
> According to its debian/copyright[1], bootcd[2] is licensed as follows:
> |
> | License: 
> | Most recent version of the GPL.
> |
> I've never seen anything like this.
> I saw "GPL v2 or later", "GPL v2 only", "GPL" (which automatically means
> "any version"[3]), even "GPL v1 or later", but I've never seen "GPL
> latest version"...
> What does this mean?

I believe you can interpret it to mean "Licensed under the current version of
the GPL as of when you obtain it."

> The GNU GPL v3 will probably be more restrictive than v2, at least in
> some respects.
> Assume I download bootcd now: I get it under the terms of GNU GPL v2.


> What will happen as soon as GPL v3 is out in its final form?

You can then use bootcd under the terms of the GPLv3.  However, since you
already had the ability to use it under the GPLv2, that permits you to
continue copying, modifying, and distributing under the terms of the GPLv2;
once you have a GPLv2ed bootcd, you always have *that* version of bootcd under

> Will I still be able to exercise the rights granted by GPL v2 on my copy
> of bootcd (version 2.53)?

Yes, I believe so.

> Or does it automagically becomes licensed under GPL v3?

That too.  At any given point, the "most recent version" license grants you
the right to treat that version of bootcd under GPL v$CURRENT; meanwhile, if
you already have such a license under a version of the GPL, that license can't
go away.

> Is this possible at all?
> Section 9 of GPL v2 does not specify any meaning for the above-quoted
> permission notice.  It explains the meaning of a "GPL vX or later"
> licensing and of a "GPL" licensing.  It does not explicitly talk about
> "GPL vX only" licensing, because it is self-explanatory, I think.  But
> nothing is said about a "GPL latest version" licensing...
> Is this a valid license statement at all?

I think so, though not a particularly clear one.  For example, it doesn't
identify "GPL" as "the GNU General Public License, as published by the Free
Software Foundation"; thus, someone could attempt to argue that their Grabbity
Private License qualifies, or that the Affero General Public License

> Should I ask <licensing@gnu.org> to provide an authoritative answer
> about this situation?

I think that in this case, the meaning of the statement depends on the author
more than the FSF.  However, you might ask for confirmation of the
irrevocability of a previously-granted GPL in this scenario.

> Should I file a bug report against the bootcd package to ask for a
> clarification?

The license statement could certainly use clarification, but it doesn't
necessarily need clarification to become free.

- Josh Triplett

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