Dave Korn dave.korn@artimi.com
Mon Jul 16 14:19:00 GMT 2007

On 16 July 2007 14:01, Richard Kenner wrote:

>> Actually, this is a good point.  While the FSF may declare that all
>> patches after Aug 1 are GPLv3, unless they take affirmative action
>> to assert the copyright and license, courts may determine that they
>> waive rights under these.  Especially if a reasonable person would
>> expect copyright statements to be correct.
> Note that the issue, in practice, isn't what the FSF distributes but what
> a third party (RedHat, Apple, AdaCore, etc) distributes.

  I have a question, which may be germane to some of this discussion:  Who is
the distributor when I download from the public svn repository on
sourceware.org?  The FSF or RedHat?

  One thing which hasn't been emphasised enough in this discussion is that the
version of the GPL under which a file is licensed according to its header does
not govern how *you* may receive that file, nor place any obligations on the
person distributing that file to you: it places obligations on (and grants
corresponding rights to) you in any *further* act of distribution.

  (The obligations on the person distributing it to were governed by the terms
in the copy which was distributed to them; for instance, they could receive it
with "at your discretion GPL v2 or later" in, and convert that to "GPL v3"
before passing it on to you; at that point, their distribution of the file is
governed by the gplv2 licensing terms under which it was offered to them and
that they accepted when they received the file under those terms, whereas your
future distribution of that file is governed by the gpl v3 terms on which it
was offered to you.  There's an off-by-one 'generation effect' here when
changes are made).

  It occurs to me that not just copyright law is relevant here.  Plain old
contract law comes into it too, and if it were the case that the FSF declared
that a bunch of the sources were GPL v3, but did not edit the headers; and if
someone downloads those files from the repository (assuming that counts as the
FSF distributing it) or from the GNU ftp site (which almost certainly counts
as such), a court might very well rule that the text in each header saying
"You may at your discretion distribute this under GPLv2 or later" actually
constitutes a binding offer-to-license the receipient to redistribute under
those terms.  (In much the same way as if you put up a leaflet dispenser
saying "please take one" you can't then go and accuse someone of stealing if
they take one, even if you had said elsewhere that nobody was allowed to take
one and the sign on the dispenser was incorrect.)

Can't think of a witty .sigline today....

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