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Red Hat and the GPL

Red Hat and the GPL

Posted Mar 9, 2011 23:03 UTC (Wed) by rahvin (subscriber, #16953)
In reply to: Red Hat and the GPL by paulj
Parent article: Red Hat and the GPL

One of the most dishonest parts of this entire debate is to ignore the history of the GPL and why that clause exists and then turn around and redefine it using whatever method you prefer. This is no different than people in the US redefining what the US constitution means with Today's usage while completely ignoring the debate and use when the measures were enacted.

This clause exists in the GPL to prevent some company from sending you a printed book of source code. I find it extremely dishonest to start arguing about an individual persons interpretation of this clause without consideration of that history or the reason it exists. You simply can't be willy nilly redefining intent however you like and examining this in a vacuum.

Any court of law that finds the GPL language ambiguous is going to go back and read the history of the clause and what it was intended to mean. That simple review can be conducted with a Google search that points out RMS defined this clause as trying to prevent the paper copy exploit. Any other description of this clause is disingenuous at best and this debate should have never made it past that cursory review.

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Red Hat and the GPL

Posted Mar 10, 2011 1:23 UTC (Thu) by branden (guest, #7029) [Link]

Originalism is bad exegetics in constitutional law, and it's bad exegetics here.

Red Hat and the GPL

Posted Mar 10, 2011 3:03 UTC (Thu) by ewan (subscriber, #5533) [Link]

This clause exists in the GPL to prevent some company from sending you a printed book of source code.

No, it doesn't. The GPL deals with that using the "on a medium customarily used for software interchange" language. The specification that the source be the 'preferred form for modification" is a separate requirement, and is about what does and does not count as 'source', not about the media via which it is delivered.

Red Hat and the GPL

Posted Mar 18, 2011 18:48 UTC (Fri) by mishad (guest, #69757) [Link]


To know for sure we'd have to ask the GPL's original authors, but my reading of it was that the term was added to ensure that the right to produce modified works could be meaningfully exercised. In particular, it was to preclude distribution of "source" that was obfuscated (e.g. variable names changed, no whitespace, no comments, replace control structures with equivalent gotos) or which was already compiled (e.g. as "binary blobs" which form part of the resulting program/work).

I don't think anyone was thinking about VCSen back then.

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