GPL "v2 or later" may prevent merging back modifications? in practice, probably not
Posted Oct 2, 2006 5:09 UTC (Mon) by stevenj
In reply to: every other major copyleft *forces* you to allow later license versions
Parent article: Busy busy busybox
That's true, but it has nothing to do with the FSF abusing its trust, which was what the original poster feared. The FSF has always made it clear that they would update the GPL from time to time, and that updates could be incompatible unless licensors give permission to use license updates. It's hard to have a reasonable discussion if people keep shifting their arguments — please start a new thread if you want to discuss a distinct complaint.
Regarding your point, however, I'm skeptical that it will be a problem in practice. If a project is well managed and sets a firm policy that all contributions must be licensed compatibly with "v2 or later" (which didn't happen with BusyBox), past experience suggests that nearly all contributors will respect this (and troublemakers who don't can be ignored).
For example, there are numerous projects that are LGPLed, and any contributor who insisted on switching to the regular GPL (as is legally possible) could theoretically force the project to either fork or switch licenses. And yet, in practice, this does not seem to happen—zillions of LGPL projects seem to be continuing quite happily without continual relicensing battles.
In any case, incompatibility between copyleft license versions is almost unavoidable (which is probably why other copylefts like MPL and CC require "any later version" language). So, basically your argument boils down to either: FSF should never upgrade the GPL, regardless of what loopholes are found or whether legal conditions change; or that everyone should specify only a particular version, which would lead to much, much more incompatibility when the GPL is updated.
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