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Re: gplv3 files and updates

From: Bruno Haible
Subject: Re: gplv3 files and updates
Date: Sat, 30 Jun 2007 01:45:13 +0200
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Karl Berry wrote:
> What Brett has said as far as I've seen is that GPLv2 and GPLv3 are
> incompatible, but "GPLv2 or later" code can be distributed (as GPLv3)
> with GPLv3 (or later) code.  It is the distributions without the "or
> later" that are problematic.

OK. What are the consequences?

  - Programs that are currently "GPLv2" can switch to "GPLv2 or later" or
    "GPLv3" or "GPLv3 or later" when they want to; they can do it today
    already, if they want to, since nothing depends on them.

  - Libraries that are source-code libraries (like gnulib) or that are
    usually installed statically (such as libfl or ffcall) causes a
    license incompatibility if it switches to "GPLv3" or "GPLv3 or later"
    while some users of the library are still "GPLv2".

  - Shared libraries that are not part of the operating system (such as
    libbfd, libcln) and that are under "GPLv2" but not "LGPLv2" are also
    in the same category, I think? Programs under "GPLv3" or "GPLv3 or later"
    cannot legally link against them, right?

> Anyway, I will work on making the updates in gnulib.

Can you please wait a bit with it? Thinking through the consequences, it
seems to cause less trouble if the programs migrate first, and the libraries
migrate after the programs have migrated. Otherwise, hundreds of developers
will have to discuss license issues, make releases in a hurry, feel put
under pressure by the FSF, etc. - quite unpleasant.

Speaking about gnulib in particular, we have a list 'users.txt' of packages
that are known to use gnulib. Among them these three:

  Net::CDP        http://search.cpan.org/src/MCHAPMAN/Net-CDP-0.09/libcdp/
                  "libcdp is released under the terms and conditions of the
                   GNU Library General Public License version 2."

  OPeNDAP libdap  http://scm.opendap.org:8090/svn/trunk/
                  "The OPeNDAP DAP library is copyrighted using the GNU
                   Lesser GPL. See the file COPYING or contact the Free
                   Software Foundation, Inc."

  gpg             http://cvs.gnupg.org/cgi-bin/viewcvs.cgi/trunk/
                  "For conditions of the whole package, please see the file
                   COPYING." [GPL v2]

If gnulib changes its license terms in a way that these projects cannot
legally use gnulib any more, and we don't talk to them about it, it is
impolite. And we lose the credibility of a project that serves its users.

So, before switching gnulib to GPLv3, I would suggest to write a mail to
these three projects, asking them whether they would have a problem
putting their project under GPLv3.

I fully understand the motives of adopting GPLv3 quickly - to stop patent
deals like the ones companies like Novell, Xandros and Linspire have signed -,
but if the copyright holders of libraries cause trouble to program authors,
we have a community damage, that I would better like to avoid.


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