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Re: Fedora Freedom and linux-libre

On Jun 14, 2008, Les Mikesell <lesmikesell gmail com> wrote:

> Alexandre Oliva wrote:

>> Remember, the GPL doesn't prohibit combining or redistribution, it's
>> the law that does; the GPL permits very broad cases of combination and
>> redistribution that respect others' freedoms.

> No, the viral nature of the GPL takes away anyone's freedom to
> choose the copyright for their own work when improving something
> with existing GPL'd code.

There are a number of mistakes in your sentence above.

1. There's no such thing as a "viral nature of the GPL".  That's a
phrase coined by its opponents to confuse and mislead the audience.
It's as nonsensical as 'intellectual property'.  Viruses jump from one
host to another by mere physical contact, after reproducing using the
host's cellular infrastructure.  The GPL doesn't do any such thing.
It reproduces along with the host (a program licensed under it), and
it is only passed on to descendants (derived works).  A more fitting
term would be 'the inherited nature of the GPL'.  Although it's true
that diseases can be inherited, inheritances are often welcome.

2. The phrase "choosing the copyright" does not make sense.  Copyright
is a legal monopoly granted through copyright law to induce the
creation and publication of *more* creative works.  By default,
creative works would be available for anyone to use, modify and share
if it wasn't for copyright law.  Copyright law provides the incentive
by granting a temporary copyright monopoly to the author, thereby
delaying the general availability of the work for use, modification
and sharing by anyone.  In some jurisdictions, one can contribute a
work to the public domain, thereby making it available to all for all
these uses right away, rather than having to wait for the monopoly
period to lapse.

3. I don't think you were talking about "choosing copyright over
public domain", though.  I guess you meant "choosing the license",
i.e., choosing which permissions you're going to grant over the
derived work that combines portions (or the entirety) of the GPLed
work, any other works, and the results of your own creativity.  The
GPL doesn't stop you from granting whatever permissions you like to
whomever you like over the results of your own creativity.  But
copyright law may stop you from granting some permissions over the
works you based your combined work on.  And the GPL only grants you
permission to distribute the combined work if you grant the same
permissions subject to the same conditions, i.e., if you don't deprive
the recipients of the enjoyment of the permissions the author of the
GPLed granted them over the work (modified or not), and that, if they
choose to pass it on, they also do so (by force of copyright law)
without depriving others from the enjoyment of these permissions.

4. If you could choose any terms you wanted for the combined work, you
could deprive recipients from the permissions over the GPLed work that
one of the co-authors meant them to have.  You can't do that
unilaterally, by force of copyright law.  You have to negotiate with
all the co-authors.  But they have already granted you permission to
distribute the work in certain ways.

5. If you could choose any terms you wanted for the combined work, you
could grant recipients additional permissions over the GPLed work that
would enable them to do 4.  You can do that only for the portions for
which you're the sole author.  Otherwise, you could make room for
other parties to take away from downstream recipients the freedoms
that the co-authors of the work meant them to have.

Alexandre Oliva         http://www.lsd.ic.unicamp.br/~oliva/
Free Software Evangelist  oliva {lsd ic unicamp br, gnu.org}
FSFLA Board Member       ¡Sé Libre! => http://www.fsfla.org/
Red Hat Compiler Engineer   aoliva {redhat com, gcc.gnu.org}

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