GPL 3: An Open-Source Earthquake? (CRN)
Posted Feb 14, 2007 21:42 UTC (Wed) by gerv
In reply to: GPL 3: An Open-Source Earthquake? (CRN)
Parent article: GPL 3: An Open-Source Earthquake? (CRN)
I've had a look at the COPYING in the latest kernel (2.6.20). Linus's statement there is interesting because I don't think it's immediately obvious that he has the legal authority to make that statement about any contribution other than his own - certainly not for contributions made before he added the statement.
If I contribute some code to the pre-Linus-announcement Linux kernel, and don't put a header on it, section 9 says that recipients can choose any version of the GPL ever published by the FSF. (You may still dispute that; but see below for further comments.) Linus can not take away that right I have given, because it's imposing further restrictions on the rights I am granting - something section 6 of the GPL forbids.
If I contribute unboilerplated code to the Linux kernel post-Linus-announcement, there is a conflict. The license supposedly applying to the kernel says recipients can use any version; Linus says it's only version 2. Which wins? Well, Linus doesn't own the copyright on my contributions, so I'd say the text of the GPL wins. But I agree it's a different and more complex situation.
Your interpretation of section 9 is wrong because it says "If _the Program_ specifies...". In other words, it *does* say where the version must be specified - it must be specified on the Program. The copy of the included license is not the Program.
If the mere inclusion of the licensing text of one particular GPL version were sufficient to fix the licensing of the accompanying software at that version, then that part of section 9 would not need to exist. Why would you ever have a clause beginning "If the Program does not specify a version number of this License", if it were impossible to not specify a version number, because the inclusion of the license text always meant that you had specified one?
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