Posted Oct 6, 2006 10:10 UTC (Fri) by mingo
In reply to: 4 points
Parent article: Similar in spirit?
Removing "or later versions" would lead to many new free software projects later arriving in the same mess the Linux copyrights are in. If an absurd interpretation of GPLv2 was ruled valid by a court tomorrow, what would Linux do? It would have to relicence and it would be a mess. FSF foresaw this mess decades ago and put two infrastructures in place. One is the "or later versions" language, another is the copyright assignment for GNU projects.
two quick points.
Firstly, i have heard this "what if the GPLv2 is ruled unenforceable" boogeyman a number of times. It is just not happening. What is happening is that the GPLv2 is alive and kicking and enforced (and even litigated) in lots of important jurisdictions. A healthy number of precedents have built up in Europe for example, and in the US 99%+ of the defendants rushed into settlements without even thinking about a trial. Judges in Germany, the US and elsewhere are showing a clear and deep understanding the GPL and the obligations attached to it.
Please think about it, and dont just accept the FSF's position at face value. Please show some critical thinking.
On one side of the equation are more than 1 billion lines of code, worth tens of billions of US dollars, given away for free, with a few common-sense conditions attached to it, described in very clear words (in the GPLv2) that is easily translated to many languages, and which has been enforced to the true letter and intent of that license in important jurisdictions.
On the other hand we have the theoretical worst-case possibility of some other jurisdiction suddenly growing an "absurd" interpretation of the GPLv2, which, i assume, would mean the forfeiture of the whole codebase and its putting into the public domain. What is better protection against absurdity than the plain and clear language of the GPLv2. Secondly, what kind of judge do you think would do that to a body of work that has such a huge value, which wouldnt immediately be overturned on appeal?
Judges are often amongst the fairest and most objective people in most societies (even in dictatorships), and the law is based on thousands of years of history of fairness. I trust judges a lot more to interpret my license than i trust a mathematician that is currently presiding the FSF ...
Secondly, it is a false dichotomy to suggest that the only option is a total rewrite of the GPLv2. There are lots of options. The FSF could add a limiting language like: "if any portion of the license becomes unenforceable then we reserve the option to correct that language, with the minimal amount of changes needed to make it enforceable again".
Problem solved via GPLv2.01. But i get the feeling that giving up power and letting the community go is quite hard for Richard Stallman to do ...
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