They're involved in the distribution
Posted Jul 10, 2007 5:35 UTC (Tue) by rickmoen
In reply to: They're involved in the distribution
Parent article: Microsoft's proclamation on GPLv3
quoting an FSF FAQ:]
"When you convey GPLed software, you must follow the terms and conditions of one particular version of the license. When you do so, that version defines the obligations you have. If users may also elect to use later versions of the GPL, that's merely an additional permission they haveit does not require you to fulfill the terms of the later version of the GPL as well."
This not only doesn't contradict what I was saying, but also directly supports it. You're just not reading it carefully. It's saying that a user who receives a GPL-covered instance of codebase, that offers a choice of which licence version to receive it under, must pick one (with its consequent set of rights and duties).
(FSF's implication that the user must elect which licence version at the time of receipt, as opposed to later, and may not change his/her mind, is unsupported and one may reasonably doubt that. As I pointed out, above, FSF has had a habit of exceeding the facts, in its online claims.)
However, in redistributing a GPL-licensed codebase instance, the redistributor has no options whatsoever about licensing, since that is a statutory monopoly of the copyright owner: The redistributor must pass along exactly what licensing terms the copyright owner attached to that codebase instance. If those terms are "GPLv2 or any later version", then that's exactly what the downstream copies must continue to say, and what terms must be extended to further recipients.
So, for example, let's say tomorrow I go buy a copy of Microsoft Windows 2003 Server, which includes Services for Unix (Interix) version 5.2. That, in turn, includes gcc (as part of the Interix GNU SDK, unless that's been changed recently), whose licensing terms are (of course) assigned by the copyright holder, Free Software Foundation, which terms are specified as "GPLv2 or any later version". I open the shrinkwrap, I note the presence of gcc, and I elect to receive it under GPLv3.
Now, Microsoft Corporation can kick, scream, leave the toilet seat up, deny it's a party to sundry licences against all logic, etc., all it wants. It can elect for its own part to receive its own gcc copies under GPLv2 for purposes of defining its rights and duties. However, the copies they include in Windows 2003 Server are absolutely going to need to replicate FSF's chosen licensing, for the simple reason that FSF is the copyright owner, and Microsoft Corporation is not.
That says, quite clearly that someone distributing "GPLv2 or later" gets to choose which version to distribute under....
No, sir. It does not say that. Read more carefully.
...and that choice determines the distributor's obligations under the license.
Whereas, this half of your sentence is correct.
The recipient has the same privilege, with respect to its use and re-distribution, but cannot apply any obligations upstream other than those the software was conveyed under.
If you were correct, then any redistributor of a "GPLv2 or, at your option, any later version" work would have the privilege of relicensing all downstream copies of himself/herself, by deleting half of the licensing options. Think, sir. That's absurd. That's not the way it works. Only the copyright owner has the prerogative of decreeing what licensing terms shall be available for any instance of his creation.
That is, you get to choose the terms and conditions YOU follow, not the terms and conditions anyone upstream must follow.
You should likewise read what I write more carefully: I nowhere claimed that a downstream recipient has any ability to determine what terms the upstream distributor may accept his/her copies under. I've been abundantly clear about that: You've not been listening very well.
To return to my gcc example: FSF publishes that code, attaching "GPLv2 or, at your option, any later version" terms to it (with "your" meaning the receiving user's); Microsoft Corporation picks that up, elects GPLv2 for its own instance (and thus electing the corresponding rights and duties towards upstream party FSF), and then redistributes gcc to further recipients such as me, as part of Windows 2003 Server, necessarily passing along all licensing terms dictated by the copyright owner. As a lawful recipient, I read what licensing options are available, and elect GPLv3.
Now, in that illustrative example, exactly as I said, I would be accepting a GPLv3-covered third-party codebase from Microsoft Corporation in its role as redistributor, as of 2007-07-10. Having redistributed GPLv3-covered code would then have legal ramifications for Microsoft Corp.
Would I be "choosing the terms and conditions upstream must follow"? Not at all. Upstream has in fact elected to receive its copies of the codebase under GPLv2, and I as a further recipient had absolutely no say in that. However, its equally true that Microsoft Corporation, as redistributor, had absolutely no say in my options for licensing. In both cases, those options were dictated by the copyright holder, the only party entitled to make that decision.
The terms of the license then give any downstream conveyor the option of choosing the terms of its conveying, with that scope.
Not of conveying, because then the redistributor would be relicensing, which you (echoing me) just got through saying only the copyright owner may do. The licence terms give the downstream redistributor the option of choosing the terms for its receiving of the code for itself.
Read the licence. That's what it says. And that's what obvious requirements of copyright law make inevitable.
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