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Re: Which GPL for Ogg Frog?

On Thu, 27 Sep 2007 16:35:58 +1000 Ben Finney wrote:

> Rippit the Ogg Frog <rippit@oggfrog.com> writes:
> > 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
> time.
> 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
> GPLv3.

On the other hand, if someone (like, uhm... me, for instance?) thinks
that the GPLv3 has a copyleft mechanism that is too weak (that is to
say: it's too permissive to be a copyleft implementation that actually
works), then that person will *not* be willing to allow that his/her
code is combined with GPLv3'ed code.
He/she therefore will release his/her work under the GPLv2 only, and the
incompatibility with GPLv3 will be considered as a feature, rather than
a bug.

Personally, when I want a copyleft, I want one that actually works
(i.e.: GPLv2 only), not one that will allow combination with AfferoGPL
(e.g.: GPLv3 only, GPLv3 or later, GPLv2 or later, ...).

When I do *not* want a copyleft, I don't use overly long and complicated
licenses like GPLv3, I'd rather choose a short, clear and simple
non-copyleft license (e.g.: Expat).

> 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.

Yes, that's the problem with a FSF that cannot be trusted anymore in
keeping its promises (like the one written in section 9 of GPLv2: new
versions will be "similar in spirit to the present version")...

> 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.

Exactly!  That is indeed the key question: "do you trust the FSF?"

> 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.

I disagree, the process was good at soliciting lots of feedback (even
though with low accessibility interfaces...), but not as good at
listening to that feedback.

The revision process started from a first draft that was full of
horribly restrictive non-free clauses and a broken copyleft and ended up
with a final text that meets the DFSG (but is so close to the boundary,
that sometimes I still ask myself "does it really meet the DFSG?") and a
slightly less broken copyleft.
A great improvement, in some sense, but I still wonder how one can trust
the FSF anymore, taking into account where the GPLv3 started from (that
is to say: what the FSF could include into the first draft, a license
text with Monsters Inside(TM)), without mentioning the GFDL fiasco... 

> 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.

Well, a copyleft is always less recipient-friendly than a substantially
do-as-you-like non-copyleft license (such as Expat, BSD, X11, ...).
Consequently, no surprise that a broken copyleft turns out to be more
friendly than a real copyleft!

> > 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.

My analysis is just my opinion, and can be found here:

I am not aware of any summary of the various comments and opinions,

> >   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 couldn't agree more.
See my essay about the meanings of the term "software":

Important disclaimers, as usual:

 Need to read a Debian testing installation walk-through?
..................................................... Francesco Poli .
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