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Re: More GPL questions

From: Alexander Terekhov
Subject: Re: More GPL questions
Date: Tue, 17 Oct 2006 14:38:15 +0200

David Kastrup wrote:
> Alexander Terekhov <> writes:
> > David Kastrup wrote:
> > [...]
> >> <URL:>
> >
> > You should read his later work as well.
> >
> >
> >
> > In plain language:
> >
> >
> Of course "in plain language" is a lie since the author of the latter
> piece does a lot of claims that are quite different from what Rosen
> states.
> And anyway, 

Oh my dear. I've added a few annotations below.

Richard Stallman Corrects Misunderstandings of the GPL
GNU GPL was the first to embody the concept of 'copyleft'

By: Richard Stallman
Oct. 19, 2005 11:15 AM

Don Rosenberg's review in LWM (Vol. 3, issue 4) of Larry Rosen's book,
Open Source Licensing, did double-duty as a platform for FUD about the

The GNU General Public License (GNU GPL for short) was not the first
free software license, but was the first to embody the concept of
"copyleft": the requirement that all modified and extended versions of
the program be free under the same license. The GPL was designed to use
copyright law to defend to the utmost all users' freedom to copy and
change software; since copyright law says one must get permission to use

[[RMS is unaware of 17 USC 117]

a work, either in derivative works or combined works, the GPL

[[the term "combined works" is not used in the GPL]]

requirements apply to both cases. Any change in a program can be made by
changing its existing modules, or by adding a new one; the choice is
arbitrary. Therefore, an effective copyleft license must cover both ways
of structuring the changes. The GPL does so.

[[RMS is hallucinating]]

In the 16 years since version 1 of the GNU GPL, it has become far and
away the most popular free software license. (Those who advocate open
source may note it is also far and away the most popular open source
license.) We have another license, the GNU Lesser GPL, that permits

[["Lesser" (in fact much greater) GPL moronity stems from RMS'
misunderstanding of the term "derivative work" under copyright law
with respect to ability to infect separate works under independent
copyright merely "linked" with the GPL'd works. 

RMS: We have no say in what is considered a derivative work. That
is a matter of copyright law, decided by courts. When copyright
law holds that a certain thing is not a derivative of our work,
then our license for that work does not apply to it. Whatever our
licenses say, they are operative only for works that are
derivative of our code.

A license can say that we will treat a certain kind of work as if
it were not derivative, even if the courts think it is. The Lesser
GPL does this in certain cases, in effect declining to use some
of the power that the courts would give us. But we cannot tell the
courts to treat a certain kind of work as if it were derivative,
if the courts think it is not.

And as for linking and LGPL, see

These sections of the LGPL are an impenetrable maze of technological
babble. They should not be in a general-purpose software license.


The LGPL concedes that the GPL is a better, more appropriate license,
and it allows any licensees to convert to the GPL at their option:

   You may opt to apply the terms of the ordinary GNU General
   Public License


The LGPL, therefore, is an anomaly

linking with non-free modules. It's used much less often, and that's as
it should be. Any of these projects' developers could have chosen the
LGPL, but most of them did not.

Developers select the GNU GPL for various reasons. Free software
activists wish to create the biggest possible pressure for others to
make their work free software. Some software businesses want to make
users pay to link their free software products with non-free software.

Many developers simply don't want to have to compete against non-free
extended versions of their own programs.

Generally speaking, the GNU GPL serves our community well. For instance,
GCC includes C++ support only because of this. Since the C++ front end
had to be linked with the GCC back end, its developer could not make it

Generally speaking, the users of the GPL are happy with it, but Don
Rosenberg is not happy. His review suggests that the Free Software
Foundation "solve the GPL's problems" by converting it to something like
the LGPL - in other words, by gutting its most important strength.

Such a change would mean abandoning our goal: that computer users should
have the freedom that free software gives them. It would also betray the
thousands of developers who have chosen the GNU GPL, not the LGPL,
because they want to defend the freedom of all versions of their
software. Whatever problem there may be, this solution is worse.

What are the problems that we could supposedly solve by destroying our
work? Some have been fabricated, others exaggerated.

Rosenberg, like Rosen, claims that the GPL's requirements on combined
works (i.e., extended versions) cannot be enforced. Our legal advice

[[RMS playing words as usual, now it's "extended versions"]]

says they can be; and the hundreds of violators who chose to correct
their violations rather than challenge us in court seem to agree. The

[[RMS is bluffing as usual]]

reason is simple: as Rosenberg writes, "the collector is the author [of
the collection] and can license and distribute it, but only if he has a
distribution license from the authors of the constituent pieces." This
license, for a GPL-covered piece, is given only when the combination

[[combination is "mere aggregation"]]

will be released under the GNU GPL or consists of mere aggregation of
separate and unrelated programs.

[[RMS is now talking "programs", not derivative works]

Rosenberg claims the GPL is "ambiguous" about linking GPL-covered code
with non-free code, and that judges would reject it out of hand; but
when MySQL went to court against NuSphere, in just such a case, it

[[RMS is hallucinating once again, the GPL lost miserably in MySQL 
court case]]

Rosenberg claims that the GPL is a failure because businesses reject
GPL-covered software. If they really did, that would be unfortunate but
not disastrous; success in winning freedom is not measured by the good
opinion of business. However, this claim appears to be mistaken.

The fact is that GPL-covered programs such as GCC, Linux, and MySQL are
quite popular in business. The GNU/Linux operating system, which
contains those programs together with thousands of other GPL-covered
components, is becoming more popular every year.

Rosenberg cites four of Larry Rosen's criticisms of the GPL; all four
are erroneous as stated, though it is true that compatibility with

[[GPL-"compatibility" is another RMS' hallucinatory concept, the GPL 
prescribes the GPL and only the GPL. It says nothing about mythical

additional free software licenses would be desirable. In particular, the
GPL does not try to "convert collective 

[[RMS means combined]]

works into derivative works"; it simply applies to both. Object-oriented

[[oh really]]

programming does not cause a problem for the GPL, 

[[yeah right, FSF's crackpot copyleft derivation theory 
(gpl-faq.html#OOPLang) in action: "Subclassing is creating a 
derivative work. Therefore, the terms of the GPL affect the whole 
program where you create a subclass of a GPL'ed class."]]

and Rosenberg is mistaken in claiming we have tried to solve one.

I have mentioned only a handful of the numerous errors. Any time
Rosenberg says the FSF did something, or believes something, or aims for
something, I suggest checking, or asking the FSF directly,
before believing the claim.

Anyone can be mistaken, but the review shows a pattern of spin as well.
It's normal to prepare a draft text you are happy with before asking
others to comment on it, but he finds this sinister when we do so. The
fact that we negotiate with violators rather than rushing into court is
sound practice, but he finds in it proof of hypocrisy.

Most telling of all, he says we should gut the GPL to be more "modern" -
the argument from latest fashions, a common form of irrational
persuasion. This forms a pattern that suggests a wish to find fault with
the GPL, which could be responsible for some of the errors.

GPL version 2 is not perfect, and we are working on making improvements


in certain details. For instance, we hope to achieve compatibility
between GPL version 3 and a future version of the Apache license. I plan
to devote the last quarter of this year to finishing up a draft ready to
show. Those who wish to see the GPL gutted will surely be disappointed,
but anyone who is happy with GPL version 2 will probably like the

[[Now we all know how good is RMS' crystal ball]]


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