17 January 2006

Ok, I read the first GPLv3 draft. I found multiple problems, some good, some quite bad:

  • Section 2 - The output from running it is covered by this License only if the output, given its content, constitutes a work based on the Program.: does this mean that documents written in Abiword is covered by GPL? (Edit: I misread the sentence here, it really states just the oposite of what I thought :P)
  • Section 3 - Regardless of any other provision of this License, no permission is given to distribute covered works that illegally invade users' privacy, nor for modes of distribution that deny users that run covered works the full exercise of the legal rights granted by this License.: does this mean that one can not make a locked down system where users can not write outside the homedir, make /home a separate partition and mount it with noexec parameter thus denying all simple users the right of running modified versions of these programs (at least on this system)?
  • Section 4. - You may copy and distribute verbatim copies of the Program's source code as you receive it, in any medium, provided that you conspicuously and appropriately publish on each copy an appropriate copyright
    : does that mean that I have to write "Copyright by this and that and this and that and this and that" on every CD that I record in my home to give to my friends? It sounds as bad as the original BSD advertisement clause.
  • Section 5.b - You must license the entire modified work, as a whole, under this License to anyone who comes into possession of a copy.: I suggest adding "legally" before "comes", because otherwise, for example, if a company is making an internal modification of a GPL program with some secret information embedded into the code (some very internal communication routine, passwords, codes, ...) and some industrial thief steals this modified code for a blackhat hacker, he can claim that he "came into possession of a copy" and thus he has all the legal rights use it and that no trade secret laws can apply.
  • in some places "Corresponding Source" is used instead of "Complete Corresponding Source Code" (Edit: I was pointed to a place in the middle of the licence where "CS" is defined equal to "CCSC". Still, not the best style - either declare that upfront or use one style trough the document)
  • Section 9. - it is not clearly stated that using the covered work indicates acceptance of the Licence, but it is explicitly stated for modification and propagation.
  • Section 13. - I really do not like geographic limitations. Anyone can state "this program has a progress bar, which is patented in USA, so you can not use it in USA unless you have the patent" for basically any program thus very easily discriminating against quite a few people. If it is illegal by other means, leave it be illegal by those means - do not impose additional illegality on it via copyright. Law in some countries and patent situation can change more easily then the licence for old free software projects with many contributors.

I have not yet read any comments from either FSF or any other people and I am not a lawyer, but I hope that these problems will be fixed in next drafts.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Section 2: no, of course not.

Section 3: what a strange reading. Of course not.

Section 4: it talks about source code. This means you can't take the copyright notice out, and the same language was there before.

Section 5b: either way, it's still a trade secret violation. Putting in the "legally" as you want would introduce a new can of worms.

Section 9: that's a feature. Historically you haven't had to accept the GPL just to use the software.

17 January, 2006 02:37  
Blogger Aigarius said...

I agree about section 2.
Section 4 - it does not talk about keeping notices, it talks about needing to add them and it also mentions media. If the media is the CD, the only prominent way of display of that info is a writing on the CD. Hell if I have to write a disclaimer and copyright statements for all contributors to the GPL software on the Debian CD I am now burning, I would need hell of a thin marker :P
There must be a better way to solve the problem I mention about 5b, but it would be up to FSF lawyers to find it as I am not the expert.
About 9 - yes you have to accept the GPL to use the software because otherwise copyright law denies you the right to use it and there is nothing else that would override it, except tha GPL. So you must accept the GPL to use GPL licensed software, otherwise you have no rights to do that.
About other stuff I can only say that this is a legal document so even the most strange reading can become valid via some case law and we do not want that, so the ambiquos parts must be cleaned up now.

17 January, 2006 03:44  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A lot of those worries are unfounded but here is a detailed explaination about section 9:
Copyright law (unlike patent law) does not cover "use", only the creation of derivate works (i.e. modifications), copying and distribution. Considering that the GPL a so-called "bare license", It cannot impose restrictions beyond copyright law, it can only conditionally lift restrictions. Since using the program is not covered by copyright law, you can even reject the license and still use the program without infringing.
In other words, use restrictions are impossible with a license, the only way you can impose them on the user is via shrink-wrap contracts (i.e. EULAs which are, legally, not licenses but contracts) and that is something the FSF does not wish to employ.

17 January, 2006 06:30  
Anonymous Dylan Thurston said...

On section 13, the main revision that needs to be made is to make it clearer that that section will be deleted.

On section 9, this is deliberate: mere use is almost unconditionally allowed. This is stated explicitly earlier on.

17 January, 2006 07:45  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regarding Section 13, the FSF's thoughts appear to be the same as yours and they plan to delete this section. However I think that's unwise. The program author's ability to exclude distribution to countries where he/she could be subject to civil or criminal penalties affords at least some minimal defense against these actions.

17 January, 2006 07:48  
Anonymous StarRider said...

Why whine about gpl? Use the bsd license instead: pure and simple. Plus it gives developers/whoever the freedom to decide whether their derived work will either also be free or not. Good examples lay around OpenBSD. Especially OpenSSH is to mention here: it's free software, BSD licensed, everyone uses it as they wish. That's what I call complete freedom.


18 January, 2006 14:08  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I wrote a long explanation, but then deleted it. There are many places which explain why the GPL is better than BSD license because it guarantees _people_ more freedom. However, this is a debate about whether the new version is a good idea. Maybe it's better if we stick to the topic.

19 January, 2006 00:51  
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