Michael Eager eager@eagercon.com
Mon Jul 16 15:04:00 GMT 2007

Dave Korn wrote:
> 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.

FSF determines the minimum level of the GPL license, not RedHat.

>   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 GPL does places the same requirements on distributors.

>   (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).

You are correct, someone can "increase" the level of the copyright.
But it's unlikely that any distributor would do this, nor is it particularly
relevant to the current discussion.

The problem is the "taint" provisions of the GPL, such as GPLv3 Section 5(c).

>   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.)

There's no contract.  This seems to be a common confusion, which FSF has tried
to dispel.  A contract requires two (or more) parties to come to an agreement.

GPL is a license.  The GPL is not a contract.  There isn't even an implied

Michael Eager	 eager@eagercon.com
1960 Park Blvd., Palo Alto, CA 94306  650-325-8077

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