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Re: [Gnu-arch-users] Re: GPLv2 or GPLv2+

From: Stephen J. Turnbull
Subject: Re: [Gnu-arch-users] Re: GPLv2 or GPLv2+
Date: Sat, 17 Nov 2007 18:46:14 +0900

Oops, sorry about the premature send.

Thomas Lord writes:

 > Stephen J. Turnbull wrote:
 > > I've seen the question about separating out the non-license commentary
 > > posed (on the FSB mailing list IIRC) and answered by Richard Stallman.
 > > Richard considers the preamble and other commentary about the
 > > philosophy of the GPL to be an essential part of the license.  I don't
 > > think he would accept a GPL stripped of its advocacy role, even if
 > > aggregated into a COPYING file that also contained an appropriate
 > > polemic.
 > I think that's a misreading.
 > I think there's actually a theory of jurisprudence behind the inclusion of
 > the preamble (and a good theory, at that).

I don't think so.  There's no question that intent matters.  However,
the intent that matters is that of the licensor and the licensee, not
the author of the license.  Thus we have loadable binary modules in
Linux, despite the fact that the author of the license under which
Linux is distributed believes that they are not allowed under the GPL.

 > Basically, a clear *intent* is essential to judging a contract in
 > all but the very least ambiguous aspects.  This contract has to be
 > interpreted across a lot of jurisdictions.  What you call the
 > "polemic" is pretty vital.

Not really.  In the context of enforcing the GPL, the preamble says
that the intent of the restrictions in the license is to ensure
software freedom to users of the covered software.  But what is that?
Well, those are the activities permitted by the license.  The preamble
doesn't help at all in deciding whether a particular activity is
permitted or not.  It's clear that the specific terms of the GPL are
in support of the users' "freedom to distribute copies of free
software (and charge for this service if you wish), that you receive
source code or can get it if you want it, that you can change the
software or use pieces of it in new free programs; and that you know
you can do these things," as described in the preamble.  But
conversely, it's hard to see how those general goals determine the
specific terms.

Eg, the GPL says: "keep intact the notices that refer to this
license".  Now, most FSF-derived programs have a notice like

    XEmacs is free software.
    You may copy, modify, and redistribute it under the GPLv2.
    You can get a copy of the GPLv2 from the FSF in Cambridge MA.

If I remove the "XEmacs is free software" portion, have I mutilated
the notice?  How about updating the FSF's address?  How does the
preamble help me to answer those questions?

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