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Re: Fedora Freedom and linux-libre

Andrew Haley wrote:

Err, one library according to you, was unfree in the sense that you
allowed to change it in any way; to enhance it, or to fix bugs.
That's not an accurate description, although it did have a restriction
on distributing modified versions.  I could, of course, change my own
copy and submit bug fixes and enhancements to the author for
incorporation - or make the source modifications available separately
from the package.  The restriction was more about preventing broken
versions from being distributed than enhancements.

Sure, but it had that effect, didn't it?  If you're not allowed to
distribute modified versions without someone else's consent, it's not free
(as in freedom) software.

It's not free the way the GPL redefines the word to mean restricted, but it doesn't interfere with your freedom to distribute your changes as patches, leaving it clear that it is something different from the original author's work that he supports. In more modern licenses, I'd prefer the ones where you are permitted to modify independently and distribute the forked copy if you change the package name, but it is only in odd circumstances that it even matters or that there is any effective difference. Even in GPL circles I think most people agree that the best process is to coordinate modifications into a single revision tree instead of forking wildly.

There is the argument
that if the author/maintainer stops updating, the package can die.

Quite.  And, indeed, that's the inevitable consequence.

It's not at all inevitable since the copyright holder can transfer control at any time or might already be a foundation that will outlast any possible use for the product. But, in technology everyone is better off when an old package does die and is replaced by something new and improved, and the harm of the GPL is that it's 'work as a whole' requirement makes it difficult or impossible for these replacements to happen at the component level when the currently best component isn't encumbered by the GPL.

  Les Mikesell
   lesmikesell gmail com

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