"moral right"? um...whyever not?
Posted Oct 4, 2006 21:49 UTC (Wed) by roelofs
In reply to: The GPLv3 violates the 4 GNU freedoms ...
Parent article: Busy busy busybox
I believe your point is also missing a fundamental moral question: does RMS have the moral right to unilaterally and retrospectively change the contribution dynamics of a codebase that is roughly 1 billion lines of code written by hundreds of thousands of contributors, via a 340 lines license RMS wrote 15 years ago, without considering the motivations and moral background of the many contributors that wrote that codebase?
Insofar as those contributors granted him/FSF that right, whether explicitly or implicitly, why wouldn't he have it? How naive do you have to be to grant the "or any later version" power to a third party and not expect that it might result in license changes not entirely to your liking?
If you truly want to preclude such changes affecting your code, then you don't use the "or any later version" language--just as, in fact, Linus and you and the other kernel developers did. But for everyone else--everyone in that 1-billion-LoC, 100,000-plus-contributors category, the numbers of which I'll take your word for--they ceded both legal and moral authority to the FSF when they chose that wording on their license grants.
The only vaguely comparable examples I can think of--but where the "legal" and "moral" rights arguably did diverge significantly--are the Unisys/GIF/LZW promise of a patent exception for free (not Free) software, and the amazingly similar Mozilla/Firefox promise of a trademark exception for Debian. In neither case was the promise ever a legal agreement, at least under US law, and in both cases it was later revoked unilaterally. To put it another way, "moral" rights were (temporarily) granted, but legal rights never were. However, I see no similarity to the current GPL v2/v3 issue beyond the most basic level of all three examples having to do with legal rights and additionally having a "moral" or ethical dimension. The GPL case, unlike the others, seems legally, morally, and ethically self-consistent to me.
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