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Re: GPLv3 and Hurd? (also a possible license violation)

From: Thomas Bushnell BSG
Subject: Re: GPLv3 and Hurd? (also a possible license violation)
Date: Sat, 16 Jun 2007 14:19:15 -0700

On Sat, 2007-06-16 at 14:52 -0400, Michael Casadevall wrote:
> The problem stems from the fact that the GPL is a project-wide
> license, it's not per-file (the CDDL and MPL are per file; they aren't
> viral licenses). Simply having it in one file binds the entire project
> to that license which would replace BSD license (assuming of course
> that we can somehow get rid of the adversing clause line). We right
> now have conflicting licenses between the Linux code, and the Hurd
> code; we need to get it all standardized to ONE license, and the later
> clause will allow us to go to GPLv3 (there is one other big reason why
> we need this).

This is not quite true.  The GPL is project-wide, and a project can be
distributed only under the terms of the most restrictive project-wide
license.  So there is nothing legally problematic with having some files
that say "or any later version" and some that do not.  The problem (such
as it is) is that GPLv3 doesn't apply to such a project.  This is worth
some effort to try and fix, but it's not a disaster: and so the effort
must be weighed against the benefits received.

Note that the copright notice on the file *is* a per-file thing; it is
*not* a per-project thing, nor could it be.  What it says is "you can
copy this *file*, provided your copying of the *project* meets the
specified version of the GPL."  If some files say "GPLv2", and some say
"GPLv2 + any later version", then anyone who copies the project under
the terms of GPLv2 is on solid legal ground.

> The last problem is Savannah's hosting policy requires the "or any
> later version" clause if a project is licensed under GPLv2, and
> Savannah will remove projects that doesn't follow this restriction
> (https://savannah.gnu.org/maintenance/GnuGplTwoOrLater)

Savannah is a NOP.  We should not be exercised about where things are
hosted, nor allow that to control decision making.  There are plenty of
free hosting options for free software projects, that we should not
worry about whether it's at Savannah or not.

> What we need to do (WRT to "or later" clause):
> 1. Remove the "or later clause" and get copyright holders permission
> to do so (and then go find new hosting since we'll have to leave
> Savannah unless they are willing to make an exception for us)

As I say, this is not necessary.  There is an advantage to *adding* "or
any later version", if we can get it on every contribution, because then
we could specify GPLv3.  But there is no advantage to *removing* it.

> 2. Remove the Linux code, and replace it with a BSD driver wrapper,
> then add the "or later clause" to the sections of Mach; the BSD
> licensing code meets Savannah hosting standards and is compatiable 

We cannot go adding clauses to the sections of Mach.  The copyright
owners are, for all intents and purposes, gone.

> The last issue is the advertising clause; by all standards this
> conflicts with the GPL code. If mach was released without the clause
> at some point, and these copyright messages are simply artifacts we
> can just remove them; if not, we may have to go to University of Utah
> and try and get them to re-release without that copyright notice. In
> an attempt to determine the legal state of the license, I went back in
> time, and found a copy of mach4 before it became GNU mach, and look at
> their license. University of Utah attached the following license to
> their files (there is also one under it for the standard Berkeley
> license):

The advertising clause, FWIW, only causes a problem in the UK.  However,
it does cause a real problem there, and so we should address it.  What
we need to do is simply to ask Utah for blanket permission such as UC
has granted for the BSD stuff.

> In regards to the BSD adversing clause, this is our choices:
> 1. If a prior legal agreement was worked out between the FSF and CMU,
> we simply need to fix all the copyright notices in the code. I'm
> PRAYING this is the case because the other options are fairly
> nasty :-/

The CMU code does not impose any restrictions upon us, and RMS
explicitly agreed that back when it was first changed to what you see
now.  (It used to have a requirement that changes be contributed back,
which is of course problematic.)

> 2. We comply with CMU's license. This means all GPL code added to mach
> itself needs to be relicensed, and we have to scrap the remaining GPL
> code. In addition, we need to add the required adversing clause to
> EVERYTHING (I'm not even sure this qualifies as free software by FSF
> definition).

What are you talking about?  What "compliance" exactly are you asking
for?  The CMU license imposes only one condition: that the copyright
notice and permission grant be retained on all copies.  

> It looks like CS students decided to use Linux drivers without
> checking the license, and when Mach was forked, no one bothered to
> check the original license. I'm a little upset that I found this
> because if we can't resolve both these issue, I effectively destroyed
> all development on GNU mach.

You are simply incorrect.  Except for the problem of the UU Advertising
Clause (which is a minor issue), there is no problem, of any sort.  You
are wildly wrong about the use of Linux drivers; you are entirely
correct that the use of the Linux drivers means that the project as a
whole can only be distributed under the GPLv2, but that's not a problem.


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