Richard Kenner kenner@vlsi1.ultra.nyu.edu
Mon Jul 16 14:48:00 GMT 2007

> 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?

I don't think anybody knows.  For most purposes, it doesn't matter.  If
there were a situation where you felt the need to sue the "distributor" for
some reason, I suspect what would happen is that you'd sue both and let the
courts figure it out.

> 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.


>   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.

A court could well make such a ruling, but I'd guess that it would be
overridden on appeal because copyright law (as Robert points out) overrides
contracts.  However, if you could show that the FSF did this purposely in
order to obtain gain at your expense, you might have a tort claim, but that
would be very hard to prove such a claim.

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