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Re: Which GPL for Ogg Frog?

Rippit the Ogg Frog <rippit@oggfrog.com> writes:

> I am having trouble deciding which version of the GPL I will release
> it under.  It has two GPL dependencies so far, libmad and libid3tag,
> which are both GPLv2 or later, so I could choose to release Ogg Frog
> under either GPLv2 or GPLv3.

That's my understanding, yes.

> I have read many of the arguments over GPLv3, and tried to weigh
> their merits, but I'm afraid they all just make my head spin.
> I have always been uncomfortable with the "or, at your option, any
> later version" in GPL license notices.  It is most likely that if I
> choose GPLv3, I will require that specific version and not allow any
> later version.

The big trouble with that is the headache caused to any recipients in
the future who don't necessarily have a way to contact every
significant copyright holder in the work as it exists at that future

We're seeing that now with the mass of code under GPLv2: Works that
state "or any later version" can be freely combined with code under
GPLv3, making it far more likely the work can continue to be
maintained into the future as more desirable code is released under

Works under GPLv2 that don't have that clause cannot be combined with
GPLv3 works without the long trek down a list of copyright holders,
and discussions with every one of them, which may range from "very
tedious" to "completely impossible" depending on the availability of
the copyright holders.

This contrast is something you should consider well in your decision
whether to choose that clause for your own work.

When you consider that code still in operation long enough that it is
still being used when the next version of GPL is released will likely
have had many contributors (and thus copyright holders) over its
lifetime, the magnitude of trying to contact all of them in order to
get specific permission to re-license under the new version of GPL is
a significant barrier.

Giving that permission in advance requires that you trust the FSF will
honour the spirit of the existing version of the GPL in any future
version. That was a commonly-held worry when they announced they were
developing version 3 of the license, but I think the process was good
at soliciting lots of feedback from stakeholders and incorporating
that into the new version.

Your opinion might vary, of course, and as a copyright holder it's
your decision to make for works you have monopoly in. I merely point
out that it's *far* more friendly to recipients of your work years
later if you have the "or any later version" clause.

> Is there a web page somewhere that distills the essence of each of
> the arguments, pro and con?  I've tried to read some of the threads
> and Debian legal, but I'm afraid I haven't been able to reach a
> conclusion by doing so.

If you like what GPLv3 is trying to do, I think it's a good
choice. It's complex, because it's somewhat more ambitious than the
GPLv2 was. But I think its terms achieve the stated aims as well as
can be expected.

Whether your trust in the FSF's stewardship of the license has been
deepened or otherwise affected by the revision process for GPLv3 is up
to you.

>   Software isn't the only thing that should be free.
>         Music should be too, as it once was.

Music in digital form, being digitially-stored information, *is*
software :-) As Eben Moglen said, it's foolish to try to distinguish
different freedoms for a bitstream depending on how those bits happen
to be interpreted at some point in time.

 \           "I was in a bar the other night, hopping from barstool to |
  `\     barstool, trying to get lucky, but there wasn't any gum under |
_o__)                                    any of them."  -- Emo Philips |
Ben Finney

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