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Re: GNU License, Again

From: David Kastrup
Subject: Re: GNU License, Again
Date: Sat, 26 May 2007 12:09:56 +0200
User-agent: Gnus/5.11 (Gnus v5.11) Emacs/22.1.50 (gnu/linux)

mike3 <> writes:

> On May 26, 1:45 am, David Kastrup <> wrote:
>> If you want to get a somewhat coherent presentation of the
>> motivations behind the GPL, I recommend that you rather concentrate
>> on the links he provides and skip his own exegesis.
> I looked through them but there is a lot there and I haven't yet
> found anything that would really specifically answer my
> question.

You might want to read the GNU Manifesto.  It is quite outspoken.
While the connection to the GPL might not seem apparent, the GPL is a
legal document, and so there is little place (except in the preamble)
for philosophy or motivation.

And indeed, in the preamble you'll find the following:

      The licenses for most software are designed to take away your
    freedom to share and change it.  By contrast, the GNU General
    Public License is intended to guarantee your freedom to share and
    change free software--to make sure the software is free for all

Note that this does not talk about "a particular piece of free

    its users.  This General Public License applies to most of the
    Free Software Foundation's software and to any other program whose
    authors commit to using it.  (Some other Free Software Foundation
    software is covered by the GNU Lesser General Public License
    instead.)  You can apply it to your programs, too.

      When we speak of free software, we are referring to freedom, not
    price.  Our General Public Licenses are designed to make sure that
    you have the freedom to distribute copies of free software (and
    charge for this service if you wish), that you receive source code
    or can get it if you want it, that you can change the software or
    use pieces of it in new free programs; and that you know you can

Note that this does not specifically restrict the usage of parts to the
creation of "new free programs".  The GNU project is not interested in
aiding the creation of non-free programs.  To the extent that it is
legally permissable, the release of software under the GPL will not
serve to make it easier to create non-free software.

    do these things.

> None of the stuff I've found explains why the entire source code of
> a combined work must be released -- most of the rationale could seem
> to be appeased with simply releasing only the free GPL program that
> was used in the non-free or non-GPL one.

The GPL is not designed to help with creation of non-free software.
You are out on your own except where the law itself restricts the
compass of copyright.

> Maybe it's just that I am not familiar with the extreme subtleties
> of Gnutianism, however none of the provided material seems to do the
> trick...

There is actually no subtlety involved at all.  The GNU project will
not support the creation of non-free software, to the extent that the
law will permit.

Any subtleties revolve solely about how far the law actually extends.
In the U.S. jurisdiction, the purported extent of copyright law, as
put forward by typical case law, is shere lunacy.  It is to the best
interest of the FSF to claim the full extent of this lunacy for their
interpretation of copyright law and the GPL.

One of the best things that can happen to them if this extent gets cut
down in court, and thus case law gets established that _restricts_ the
extent of copyright law as interpreted by the courts.  So even if the
FSF might be going out on a limb, it is because they only have to gain
if the limb breaks off: the consequences will be the same for both
proprietary and free software's control over derivatives and related

It does not appear, however, that those positions will actually get
challenged by important players: they stand too much to lose
themselves if the assumed rules change.

David Kastrup, Kriemhildstr. 15, 44793 Bochum

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