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Re: Lawyer's evaluation

From: Kim F. Storm
Subject: Re: Lawyer's evaluation
Date: 24 Sep 2003 14:19:18 +0200
User-agent: Gnus/5.09 (Gnus v5.9.0) Emacs/21.3.50

"Stephen J. Turnbull" <address@hidden> writes:

> >>>>> "Kim" == Kim F Storm <address@hidden> writes:
>     Kim> What about combining things like this:
> There are several good ideas here, but there are a couple of problems.
>     Kim> "Free" means that all users have the freedom to study, share,
>     Kim> change and improve Emacs.  In fact, you may freely use and
>     Kim> modify Emacs for your own purposes without knowing any of the
>     Kim> details of the GPL.
> This is misleading; in order to modify Emacs you must accept the GPL.
> Sure, you can accept it without knowing the details, but we don't want
> to encourage that.

Well, yes, modifying emacs does mean that you accept the license.

But there are still no practical implications of doing so until you
distribute those changes.  So if I never distribute my changes, who
really cares?

So it's kind of nit-picking in my book.  Not that I'm about the
discuss the details of the GPL, but it seems quite superfluous to
require accepting the license just to modify the software for
my own purposes if I never distribute my changes.

I bet that many people who have modified - and later contributed their
valuable code to emacs and other GNU projects - never really read the
GPL in all its fine detail (I think they understand the spirit of it
though).  It's certainly a long time since I read it in full...

>     Kim> However, once you distribute your changes to others, you
>     Kim> should be aware that the conditions and rights in the GPL
>     Kim> will extend to cover your changes as well, so before doing
> In fact, it implies acceptance of the license.  That means we really
> need to say that such distribution must follow the terms of the
> license.  I don't see how that can happen if the user doesn't read it.

I'd guess it happens everyday :-) 

Some person wants to "give away" his software, and picks the GPL as
the license to use; that doesn't mean that he actually read it first.
He may just think: If GPL is good enough for GNU software, then it's
certainly good enough for my software :-)

>     Kim> so, you are strongly advised to read the license.
>     Kim> Also, if you write and distribute an extension to Emacs in
>     Kim> Emacs Lisp (the extension language used by Emacs), that
>     Kim> extension will be covered by the GPL too, as running such an
>     Kim> extension requires "linking" with Emacs.
> This is true only if you put a strict interpretation on Emacs Lisp,
> ie, those parts of Lisp that are unique to Emacs Lisp.  True, in
> practice it's hard to imagine substantial Lisp applications that don't
> do buffer I/O, etc, being written in Emacs Lisp, but it's possible.
> I don't think it's a good idea to put debatable statements here, 

You're right.  Let's drop it.

>                                                                  even
> if they are pragmatically correct.

It's just that this issue comes up from time to time.

Maybe it could be mentioned somewhere in the FAQ instead...

How much stuff do one have to put into .emacs to be considered as
a modification to Emacs and thus "accepting the license" ?

Kim F. Storm <address@hidden> http://www.cua.dk

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