GPLv2 or, at your option, any later version
Posted Oct 2, 2006 19:40 UTC (Mon) by cventers
In reply to: GPLv2 or, at your option, any later version
Parent article: Busy busy busybox
I'll start off as some others have and say that I have a lot of respect
for your work. So I hope you don't hate me after I tell you why you are
There are those of us that identify with "Free Software" over "Open
Source". We're the kind of people that would do something like watch RMS
speak or donate to the FSF.
As awesome as the Linux kernel is - fantastically portable, capable and
scalable, and as smart as the kernel community is (when I think of 'very
smart developer' your name is one of the ones that pops into my head),
you need to remember that you guys aren't the only software project out
When Linus announced that Linux would not convert to GPLv3, there was
some disappointment and confusion over why. That's natural, to be
expected, and totally okay. As I've said before, I have no stake in
whether or not Linux uses GPLv3. And I think that most of the rest of our
community will cease caring about the license issue as it pertains to
Linux if the kernel developers wouldn't make so much noise about it. The
only case I can see concern bubbling back up in the future _for the
kernel_ would be if the kernel suffered a disaster that would have been
preventable under v3. We could debate whether or not it is possible that
this could ever happen, but that's beside the point.
I hear you that you are concerned about the power that the FSF wields
over code out in the world. But I ask you to consider that there are
people out there who are free software supporters that _want_ the GPLv3
to continue as it has been. If the FSF instead made "Really Free GPL", a
different license, the upgradeability clause many existing projects
deliberately use would be useless, and projects that wanted GPLv3 might
not be able to have it for the same reason that Linux would have legal
trouble moving forward.
The trouble with many of the attacks I've seen on RMS and the FSF is that
they presume that everyone else on Earth agrees, as if RMS is on some
diabolical power trip and is ignoring the world and using some kind of
power he shouldn't have to force us to all do his bidding. I'm sorry, but
RMS is not alone in thinking the anti-DRM provisions are an absolute
necessity. And I'm not talking about something we think would be nice.
It's not the "free music foundation". The issue is _only_ emphasized in
the license because in a world where electronic devices are more and more
a part of our lives, slowly displacing (to some extent) the general
purpose personal computer, our ability to _control_ our lives through
hacking will be diminished if we don't stand up for it.
And the really big, important point here is that RMS can't force anyone
to use his license. In fact, the most vocal community - the kernel
developers - are the one group who will be clearly unaffected by it. In
this latest discussion, there was talk about "voting with your code". Do
that! Your code is a very strong vote for that matter because you're damn
good at what you do.
Although I respect your concern about the moral question I don't share
it. Did it really take 16 years for everyone to figure out that the GPL
is a free software license, especially when the PREAMBLE section at the
very top of the license starts off talking about the freedom to modify -
the freedom that the new anti-DRM provisions are designed to defend?
I agree with you that the concern of some GPL users should be addressed.
But even the disagreement of a very vocal, large project using the
license (that technically can't use the new one anyway) should not
prohibit the rest of us from having the free software license we always
wanted and built for. I get that there are a number of people upset with
the FSF and the GPLv3 that would prefer the process not go on - most
certainly, not with the anti-DRM provisions. And this is really where I
get frustrated. I want to vote with my code! I want to vote for anti-DRM
provisions. I know that any patches I submit to Linux aren't going to be
votes for anti-DRM and that is fine with me, but when I do an independent
work I expect the right to choose a strong free software license. And
since that's what the GPL has always been - a free software license - it
is _wrong_ of others to tell us what we can't do with our license,
especially when they have the very natural right of not using it!
So why does the "or any later version" thing really worry you?
1. Joe can take my code and distribute it under the GPLv3, and I don't
agree with the anti-DRM restriction!
- Why does this matter? This doesn't stop you from (a) changing your
license to GPLv2 only or (b) continuing to distribute as v2 or later. Joe
is not creating any extra permissions, and the only extra restriction he
is creating is saying "don't use technical means to circumvent the
license". If you don't think the license is the right place to address
that, or you don't see it as a problem, you're perfectly free to continue
providing manufacturers with code they're free to slap crypto chips on.
2. Joe can take my code, modify it, release the mods only under GPLv3,
and then I can't merge his changes back!
- Joe is voting with his code!
Is there really any serious contention over this license other than that
anti-DRM clause? Because there really aren't many other feature
modifications I've heard people this upset about. If you go from saying
"I don't want to use GPLv3" to "This GPLv3 is wrong and must be stopped",
isn't that a bit of an over-reaction?
I share your concerns that we're going to suffer some pain over this
license. But I want to emphasize that it's not the GPLv3's fault that the
Busybox maintainer quit. That's about _people over-reacting_. The more
FUD that flies around about GPLv3 the more everyone's nerves are going to
get jumpy and the more pain we're all going to feel. And this is
absolutely over-reacting - the freaking license hasn't even been released
yet, and there's still another discussion draft coming! If someone forks
or quits over it now, that is totally absurd!
But you know, I wouldn't be surprised if I saw one or more code forks
over which version of the license to use. But you know what, I don't
expect to see many because the contentious anti-DRM clause really only
matters today for a certain class of software (say, an operating system
kernel or system utility set). And I think that if we could all stop
yelling at each other, or leaving stink-bombs in the press, people
wouldn't be so fanatical as to fork over something like an anti-DRM
provision. After all, most of us don't like our code to be used in this
way (Linus being a notable exception), it's just that some don't think
the license is the right place to stop it.
And if some projects fork, tough! People who fork are voting with their
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