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Subject: Re: Licensing and Copyright Issues

Re: Licensing and Copyright Issues

From: Dave Chapman <>
Date: Tue, 11 Sep 2007 23:52:56 +0100

Daniel Stenberg wrote:
> Well, that's your view but not the view of many others. See kerneltrap
> and the GPLv3 flame fest on the Linux kernel mailing list.
> Companies like Tivo have used GPLv2 fine for many years and they have
> contributed their changes back and thus helped improving Linux. They use
> the code under the GPL license, they share their code.
> In my view, that is the exact spirit of the (GPLv2) license.

I have to disagree - IMO, the spirit of free software (and the GPL) is
to give users of software the right to modify it. This is very clearly
a right that companies like Tivo are not willing to give to their users.

Yes, they give their changes (probably - you can't test them) back to
the developer community, but still the users of the GPL software don't
have any more rights with regards to modifying the software that runs on
their devices than if the device manufacturer was using proprietory

I can also the opposite point of view - that it's the source code which
is free, and not the hardware, but for me that's not enough and I
wouldn't like to see any of my code used this way.

> GPLv3 modifies that spirit and expands it to another level. You may
> agree with it, or you may not, but in my view the license has changed
> spirit and no longer only requires that you get code changes back, it
> now also requires that you should be able to install your modified
> versions on any hardware that runs GPLv3 software.

Section 3 of the GPLv2 contains the following:

"For an executable work, complete source code means all the source code
for all modules it contains, plus any associated interface definition
files, plus the scripts used to control compilation and installation of
the executable."

It seems clear to me that the intention of GPLv2 was that users should
be given everything they need to install modified versions of the
software - that just being given the source code is not enough.

> No. We (as in the FOSS community) have had plenty of licenses all the
> time and the GPLv3 just *adds* a license and the fact that it isn't
> GPLv2 compatible makes things hard for a large amount of projects.

Yes, it's not GPLv2 compatible, but it's compatible with all software
released as "v2 or later" and (IMO, based on s.9 of the GPLv2) all
software which doesn't explicity refer to a version.

A quick browse of the third-party GPL'd software Rockbox uses (libmad,
liba52, libfaad, Doom, zxbox, pie (pacbox), libmpeg2) show they are all
v2 or later. So there doesn't appear to be any "GPL v2 only" code in
Rockbox, and hence nothing which is incompatible with GPLv3.

I agree that it's not an idea situation, but in a way it's comparable to
the LGPL. You can merge LGPL and GPL'd code together to create a GPL'd
application, and you can also merge GPL "v2 or later" or "any version"
code with GPLv3 to create a GPLv3'd application.

So IMO it's not that big a problem. If Rockbox (C) holders wish to keep
their code under the existing "any version" license, then that wouldn't
stop anyone merging it with GPLv3 software.

To try and conclude, after reading this thread today, if we accept that
Rockbox's current license is "any version", then there seem to be two
options available:

1) We start to incorporate GPLv3 code like espeak into Rockbox. Our own
"any version" license allows us to do that, but then Rockbox as a whole
would be GPLv3.

2) We reject GPLv3 code and keep Rockbox as "any version" (which in
effect means v2 or later due to all the other v2 or later code we've

I suppose it comes down to philisophy - if people want tivo-isation to
happen, then we would have to reject GPLv3 code, but if people are happy
to prevent it, then we can can accept GPLv3 contributions.

Received on 2007-09-12

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