Talk:GNU General Public License/Archive 3

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Archive 2 Archive 3 Archive 4

"Free" vs. "open source"?

I recently made a minor edit (20:41, 30 July 2005) for the purpose of clarifying some blurry language between the terms "free software" and "open source software". My edits consisted of:

A few hours later, another user completely reverted those edits with the comment 'I'm afraid calling free software "a particular type of open source software" doesn't clarify anything'. I'm not sure I understand the grievance, and I certainly don't understand why the edits were reverted wholesale (did the user really take issue with "Open Source" not being capitalized also?). I have reinserted those edits... if any user feels strongly about it, I hope that we can hash it out here in the Talk page so I can understand exactly where they're coming from and work with them. —Preceding unsigned comment added by SteveAtlanta (talkcontribs) 23:34, 30 July 2005

this can not be the case since i understand that the free software movement had emerged before the open source movement and that the open source movement had deviated from the free software movement because of different philosophies. eric.s.raymond himself had written software for the free software movement before the creation of the open source initiative. therefore i shall change this "a subset of open source software" to "of which open source software is a subset". (el magnifico 21:44, 20 August 2005 (UTC))
This has nothing to do with precedence. "Open Source" and "Free Software" (as defined by the Open Source Initiative and the Free Software Foundation, respectively) are a set of criteria by which any software may be evaluated, even software that pre-dates those criteria. As the definitions are currently applied, the set of software meeting the free-software criteria is a strict subset (because of one or two exceptional cases) of the set of software meeting the open-source criteria. —Steven G. Johnson 17:17, August 21, 2005 (UTC)
maybe you should remove the statement of 'subset'; free software and open source declare themselves as 'different', therefore a claim of one being a subset to the other would be void. (el magnifico 16:27, 22 August 2005 (UTC))
Why? The statement is true. All free software (as defined by the FSF) is open source software (as defined by the OSI). It is just that not all open osurce software is free software. --R.Koot 16:40, 22 August 2005 (UTC)
you may perceive the statement as true, but that would mean that you are making a judgement and disregarding the organisations' self-perception. however, for the sake of your argument and steven's, if indeed there exists a subset, shouldn't the subset be open source software? i doubt that it's necessary to be stating 'subsets' in this article, as i understand the article is about the GPL, therefore, constrict the article to things relevant to the GPL, and not to who's subset to who. (el magnifico 16:45, 22 August 2005 (UTC))
Since many people (including you) do not correctly understand the relation between FS and OSS, I think it would be something that should be made clear in the article. --R.Koot 18:08, 22 August 2005 (UTC)
then proceed to explain to me the true relation between FS and OSS. that statement is irrelevant, misleading and untrue. it must be removed. (el magnifico 19:08, 22 August 2005 (UTC))
The official definition of ``open source software," as published by the Open Source Initiative, is very close to our definition of free software; however, it is a little looser in some respects, and they have accepted a few licenses that we consider unacceptably restrictive of the users. However, the obvious meaning for the expression ``open source software" is ``You can look at the source code." This is a much weaker criterion than free software; it includes free software, but also includes semi-free programs such as Xv, and even some proprietary programs, including Qt under its original license (before the QPL).
--Quarl 09:35, August 24, 2005 (UTC)
i have changed the disputed section to clearly emphasise the basis of free software being refered to as a subset of open source software. (el magnifico 11:47, 24 August 2005 (UTC))
i changed the statement that said that free software was a susbset software to "subset of the open source software criterion", this was an attempt on my part to make clearer the logic of the previous statement, later, someone changed my contribution, why? poor english because 'you' wouldn't say it i presume. (el magnifico 13:26, 24 August 2005 (UTC))
Seems I'm capable of writing poor English too, sorry. --R.Koot 14:09, 24 August 2005 (UTC)

What is 'Public use'

Right recently there was this hoopla about GPL3. Now correct me if I'm wrong, but it's trying to close the loophole by which someone can modify and run GPL code as long as he doesn't distribute it? Because running GPL software on a web site is public use, not distribution? Surely that can't be right. Does it mean that under the current GPL, I could say, grab the wikipedia code, modifying a bit to add a payment gateway, then run my own wiki site for which I would charge? Similarly, does it mean I could use the MySQL server to power my site, but my code wouldn't have to be GPLed either? Adidas 12:10, 30 September 2005 (UTC)

The current GPL applies only to distribution, not to use. So, yes, you could do both those things you mention. But because you must follow the terms when you distribute the code, you couldn't use the MySQL server to power a customer's site without either (a) giving the customer your source code under the GPL (which they could then redistribute under the same license), or (b) purchasing a commercial license from MySQL AB. See MySQL's commercial license page, where they describe the various things they think you have to pay them for: merely running MySQL on your own website is not mentioned.
The current general opinion is that if the application is running on hardware in your possession, and you are merely allowing other people to use it, you are not distributing the program, because the program stays permanently on your computer and your computer alone - nobody can actually take a copy and install it on theirs.
Disclaimer: I'm not a lawyer, and the above is mere speculation. Get legal advice from a qualified professional if you need an opinion you can quote. User:Haeleth 12:28, 30 September 2005 (UTC)
Thanks Haeleth - this cleared things up for me. Adidas 14:34, 30 September 2005 (UTC)

simple hypothetical question...

Person A creates a proprietary game engine. For X years it's closed-source and requires a hefty fee to license for other companies. When said game engine is no longer profitable, Person A releases the source under the GPL. Can Person A still demand hefty licensing fees if any other person were to make a commercial product out of the now-GPL'd engine code, or does the GPL "one-up" that and allow anyone to release a commercial game based on that engine as long as the modified source code is provided? (in general terms, does the GPL enforce "free as in beer" as much as it enforces "free as in speech", or does it only enforce "free as in speech"?) --I am not good at running 18:19, 27 October 2005 (UTC)

It's usually assumed that you cannot add extra restrictions to code distributed under the GPL.
If you look at software that's distributed both under the GPL and commercial licenses, such as MySQL or Qt, you will find that the GPL option does not specify non-commercial use - the only difference is usually that the commercial licenses permit you to withhold your source code. In other words, these companies explicitly permit you to use their GPL'd code commercially if you abide by the terms of the GPL, even though their business is entirely built on selling commercial licenses for the same code! The implication is that their lawyers have examined the license and concluded that they cannot forbid commercial use.
Disclaimer: I'm not a lawyer, and the above is mere speculation. Get legal advice from a qualified professional if you need an opinion you can quote.Haeleth Talk 19:11, 27 October 2005 (UTC)
My answers (merging after edit conflict):
No, the copyright holder cannot demand hefty fees for someone else's commercial use of code released under the GPL.
Yes, the GPL allows commerical use of the code (by anyone). It enforces free-as-in-speech, but when there is no monopoly on distribution, the free market causes goods tend toward the cost of the materials (zero). I can offer to sell you a copy of GNU/Linux for 1000 euro. But my friend can offer you the same for 1 euro, and someone else can offer it to you at no cost. The market sorts out the price - and it's usually close to zero. (If I sell one copy at 1000 euro, the person who bought it can then put copies for download on their website at not cost.)
This shouldn't be confused as meaning the GPL prevents money being made. As well as removing the monopoly on distribution (both commercial and non-commercial), the GPL also removes the monopoly on providing support, services, certification, and numerous other things. Many free software companies are able to hire hundreds of employees with the money they make from these activities. (Red Hat is the first company I can think of, last time I heard they had around 700 technical staff alone.) Gronky 19:16, 27 October 2005 (UTC)
If the developer is willing to release the commercial game under the GPL, and received the engine legitimately under the GPL, then their use is legal. However, most game publishers are not willing to do that, and if they want permission to use the engine without complying with the GPL, they'd still have to go back to the copyright holder and negotiate a different license that would allow that. Arker 18:06, 28 June 2006 (UTC)

Why is the license under GNU instead of FSF?

I was wondering why the GPL license called the GNU GPL license and not the FSF GPL license? After all GNU is an OS and GPL is not only an OS license. If anyone has better wording for my question go ahead and reword it, I am leaving this question unsigned for this reason. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 08:50, 30 October 2005

It was written by FSF, but it was written for GNU, and it is one component of the GNU project. I don't think anyone in FSF has ever given a reason for choosing one over the other, so any further discussion is speculation: Maybe to emphasise the goal over the owner? Maybe it was thought that putting an organisation's name in there would encourage other organisations to invent their own? Maybe because the license must be able to outlive any legal entity? Gronky 01:03, 31 October 2005 (UTC)
It is meant to be a General Pubic License I would understand what you are saying if it was a GNU Public License instead... but the way I see it right now its a plot by RMS to give GNU a General Public acknowledgment, this may also be the real reason to why RMS is pushing so much to call Linux, GNU/Linux as it give GNU free advertising and gives it a bigger possibility of getting a General Public acknowledgment. Anyway I will bring this up with the FSF soon (like within a month). 08:05, 31 October 2005 (UTC)
A quick note on history: When Stallman released GNU Emacs, he wrote the Emacs Public License, when he wrote GCC, he wrote the GCC Public License, when he wrote GDB, he wrote the GDB Public License. Over time, people asked him if they could move some code from one project into another (like, from GCC to GDB). The licenses were incompatible, so each time Stallman had to make an exception. This was obviously inefficient, and it would become increasingly inefficient as the number of GNU packages increased, so he wrote one General license, for the public, which he would use for all the GNU packages. (So it's not a "General Public" License, it's a General "Public License") Gronky 11:17, 31 October 2005 (UTC)
Thank this clears it up a lot could this historical info be added to the article? 12:46, 31 October 2005 (UTC)
It's not the Stallman GPL, or the RMS GPL, and he hasn't tried to call the operating system Stallmanix. Also, note that Stallman doesn't ask for the Linux kernel to be called GNU/Linux. He only asks that operating systems which consist of the GNU system + the Linux kernel be called GNU/Linux. And most people call the license the "GPL", not the "GNU GPL", and Stallman doesn't make a point of asking people to call it the "GNU GPL". Also, remember that the GPL predates the Linux kernel, and the GNU project also predates the Linux kernel (by 8 years, during which Stallman, hundreds of volunteers, and the software developers hired by FSF were working to make a free software operating system available). Gronky 11:17, 31 October 2005 (UTC)
Stallman == RMS. I never said he is doing it for personal fame, rather I meant he is doing it for the GNU project. With your second point of he is only pushing for Linux distro's that use the GNU user-land application that is exactly what I meant, sorry I didn't make it clear. And it must be called the GNU GPL as another project or company could come and make their own GPL and confustion will be made in between them. 12:46, 31 October 2005 (UTC)
There actually is another non-GNU GPL. It's called the Affero GPL. -- Wonderstruck 06:58, 6 July 2006 (UTC)

Hypothetical but interesting question

This is hypothetical but interesting question: If a person takes a GPL'd work, modifies it, and then sells it to a third party AND (suppose he could) deletes all previously existing copies and derivates of the source and the binaries so that the buyer becomes the only owner of the orginal code under the GPL license, then would another/third person be able to force the buyer to hand out the GPL'd source code to him, if he knew about what happend between the buyer and the seller (that the buyer is the single and only owner of a previously publicly available GPL'd work)? Or to cut it short: If I owned all source code under GPL and all of the binaries, so that no one else would have any, then could anybody force/make me to hand out the source code by LAW? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 05:34, 4 November 2005

No, nothing in the GPL can force someone to distribute the software. It can require that they distribute the source code if they distribute the binary, but even in this situation it cannot "force" the distribution of source code. The distributor can refuse to distribute the source code, and then they're violating copyright law. This can be taken to court, and a judge will decide the penalty (probably cash). The copyright violator could of course offer to distribute the source code - in return for reduced damages, or as part of an out of court settlement. None of this is specific to the GPL though. Gronky 10:55, 4 November 2005 (UTC)
The hypothetical contains an interesting and critical error. When says "so that the buyer becomes the only owner of the orginal code under the GPL license", they are incorrect, and it leads to the later presumption that "I owned all source code under GPL and all of the binaries". The owner of the code is always the copyright holder - the author or whomever the author assigns the copyright to - regardless of anything else that happens to it, including the deletion of the copyright notices by someone else. It would be more correct to say that they are the sole possessor of the source and binaries, in which case it becomes clearer - possession in this case conveys nothing in the way of ownership. But Gronky is correct - the GPL doesn't give anyone else the power to compel you to distribute the code, not even the copyright holder. It only restricts your ability to distrbute the binaries without the source. RossPatterson 18:51, 4 November 2006 (UTC)

What monolithic tendencies?

I have removed the following text from the "Criticism" section of the article:

An unintended side-effect of the GPL delineating between "internal" derivative code and "external" linked libraries has been a pronounced tendency for software developed under this license to grow increasingly monolithic. Although this delineation purposefully curbs a "viral" licensing effect on all data which comes to interact with software licensed under the GPL, so as to permit friendly interaction with non-Free software and copyrighted data, concerns mount that this pull towards monolithic design promotes active developer resistence to object-oriented design and runs counter to the Unix spirit of chaining single-purpose tools.</blcokquote>

My reasons for removing this are:

  1. No sources are cited. Weaselly claims like "concerns mount" are not a substitute for evidence.
  2. Counter-examples are trivial to find. For example, all of GNU's single-purpose Unix tools, as commonly used in pipelines, are under the GPL, and are not showing any tendency to grow monolithic.

The claims are also implausible. Increasing prominence of GUI applications, which are not trivial to chain together, is a more likely cause of the increase in monolithic designs than any licensing issue. Also, chaining single-purpose tools together, far from being made difficult by the GPL, is actively encouraged by the FSF as a way to avoid being required to license non-derivative code under the GPL. Implausible claims require supporting evidence all the more. — Haeleth Talk 14:48, 6 November 2005 (UTC)

Why is this page biased?

It seems to me that the GPL--a controversial topic--is presented here in a favorable, optimistic light. Even the controversy section tries to refute the controversy. A controversial topic should be presented in a completely NEUTRAL manner, so it doesn't offend people who are opposed to it and its ideals. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 17:44, 30 November 2005

Of course the controversy section "tries to refute the controversy". That's called "presenting both sides of the argument".
On a more helpful note, would you care to identify the specific areas you consider to be biased? I'm seeing citations and statistics to support all the positive claims, and I'm seeing all the common criticisms of the GPL being presented in there. So where, exactly, is the problem? — Haeleth Talk 22:31, 30 November 2005 (UTC)
What it seems to say is that:
Either the GPL is valid
You have no right to distribute the software
Hence, the validity or otherwise of the GPL doesn't matter - it is untestable in a traditional sense - because there are no possible outcomes in a court which could ever result in the GPL itself being tested. One must admit to it's elegance if nothing else. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 18:56, 27 June 2006

Disambiguate links

Could someone fix the common law and civil law links in section 3.3 "The GPL is a license"? Right now they point to disambiguation pages. I would do it myself but I'm not exactly sure what to correctly link to. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 14:28, 13 December 2005

Done, back on 24 February 2006 by Qwertyus. RossPatterson 17:34, 4 November 2006 (UTC)

Removed "software tax" from criticism section

I removed the following chunk from the "criticism" section:

Some critics quote a suggestion from the 1985 GNU Manifesto about a software tax as an alternative way to pay programmers for writing software:

All sorts of development can be funded with a Software Tax:

Suppose everyone who buys a computer has to pay x percent of the price as a software tax. The government gives this to an agency like the NSF to spend on software development.
But if the computer buyer makes a donation to software development himself, he can take a credit against the tax. He can donate to the project of his own choosing- often, chosen because he hopes to use the results when it is done. He can take a credit for any amount of donation up to the total tax he had to pay.

The total tax rate could be decided by a vote of the payers of the tax, weighted according to the amount they will be taxed on.
Although this scheme has never received the support it would need to become law, most developed countries have enacted a similar scheme with regards to music. Purchases of blank media, such as blank CDs, often includes a tax which is given to the music industry. The music industry requested this as "compensation" for lost sales due to illegal copying.

I don't see any actual criticism being put forward here. Some critics quote this suggestion -- and then what? I just can't see any reason the quote is mentioned. And additionally, the quote has nothing to do with the license a programmer might choose for their work, only with how they would get paid. -- magetoo 15:18, 20 January 2006 (UTC)

The very concept of such a thing is repugnant to most of the audience, so merely mentioning its existence is criticism. It would be like criticising software for promoting the eating of babies. That would be a criticism even if you don't follow up by explaining why eating babies is a bad idea. Ken Arromdee 22:19, 14 April 2006 (UTC)

On Portal:Free software, GNU GPL is current featured article

Just to let you know. The purpose of the featuring an article is both to point readers to the article and to highlight it to potential contributors. Gronky 16:25, 20 January 2006 (UTC)

Wallace Lost to the FSF

So I changed the article to reflect this - 13:06, 21 March 2006 (UTC)

"Legally enforceable"

Defendant has infringed on the copyright of plaintiff by offering the software 'netfilter/iptables' for download and by advertising its distribution, without adhering to the license conditions of the GPL. Said actions would only be permissible if defendant had a license grant... This is independent of the questions whether the licensing conditions of the GPL have been effectively agreed upon between plaintiff and defendant or not. If the GPL were not agreed upon by the parties, defendant would notwithstanding lack the necessary rights to copy, distribute, and make the software 'netfilter/iptables' publicly available.

This ruling was important because it was the first time in the world that a court had confirmed that the GPL is a legally enforceable license.

Really? Unless I'm reading it wrong it seems like the ruling completely glosses over whether the G.P.L. is legally enforceable. —Casey J. Morris 23:42, 30 April 2006 (UTC)

GPL manipulation

Im noticing that the GPL can be manipulated by the copyright holder, for example: asterisk refusing contributions, and montavista restricting the distribution of there modifications, so really the GPL is not as good as it seems on the surface. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talkcontribs) 2006-05-12 04:22:32.

How does Asterisk refusing contributions "manipulate" the GPL? They have no obligation to accept contributions, and they cannot stop you forking their code and releasing your own version with your changes included.
How is MontaVista restricting the distribution of their modifications to GPL'd software? I had a poke around their site and could find nothing at all pertinent. They even link back to Wikipedia for a definition of Open Source, which is nice. — Haeleth Talk 12:31, 12 May 2006 (UTC)

Practical Example needed

Mornin' all. Can we add an example scenario, using real-world software, on what rights a user has for closed source vs. GPL software? This would make the article more friendly to the lay reader. Monkeyman.pngMonkeyman(talk) 14:23, 16 May 2006 (UTC)

flagrant violation of GPL

Is there a term used in the industry to describe a company that deliberately violates GPL for their own profit?--Nowa 21:14, 1 June 2006 (UTC)

Yes, the standard industry term is "pirate". -- Seitz 16:25, 4 June 2006 (UTC)
Thanks. Can you provide a reference showing usage or an example of a notorious GPL pirate--Nowa 02:46, 5 June 2006 (UTC)
Note: the term "pirate" is not specific to GPL violators. It is a general term for anyone who distributes a copyrighted work without adhereing to the terms and conditions of a license. -- Seitz 04:53, 12 June 2006 (UTC)
Thanks. --Nowa 13:45, 12 June 2006 (UTC)
I don't think there is such a term Daf 16:12, 5 June 2006 (UTC)
How can you say that in light of Seitz above and his references?--Nowa 13:45, 12 June 2006 (UTC)
As Seitz says, the term "pirate" is a generaly one used to refer to anyone, company or individual, who violates any license on any copyrighted work, GPL or not. Therefore, both are correct: Seitz is correct to say that "pirate" is the term that is used, and Daf is correct to say that there is no specific term that refers to a company that violates the GPL, but does not also refer to a teenager that installs Microsoft Windows on more than one PC. — Haeleth Talk 18:32, 12 June 2006 (UTC)
Haeleth, thanks for the clarification. I get the impression that the open source community as a whole does not get too worked up over violations of the GNU or other license. Is this a fair statement?--Nowa 21:03, 12 June 2006 (UTC)
I think the open source community gets very worked up over GPL and other free and open source license violations. After all, licenses and licensing are at the very heart of the Free and Open Source movements. -- Seitz 03:56, 13 June 2006 (UTC)
Serial copyright violator. Arker 22:58, 28 June 2006 (UTC)


Can the software be used to turn a profit? For example, use a GNU GPL grpahics program to run a Poster Making shop. Angrynight 05:35, 20 June 2006 (UTC)

Yes, it can be used to turn a profit. This is quite clear in the licence, and the licence is quite easy to read. Gronky 11:13, 20 June 2006 (UTC)
The point of having the article is to explain the license to people, otherwise there 'd be nothing here other than a link to the license. Saying "read the license" is therefore insufficient. If it is not made clear anywhere in the article that a profit may be made from GPL'd software, then the article may need improvement and clarification. DewiMorgan 13:56, 11 April 2007 (UTC)


A recent edit added a new 'myth' entry, the one about not being able to sell GPL software, which was a good idea. But a specific example was used, and it's not a good example. DansGuardian isn't a good example of this, first because he is charging only for downloads, not for licensing, second because he's the sole copyright holder, and thus under no GPL obligations as he would be otherwise, and as the vast majority of GPL projects are. So I removed the example, but left the underlying point intact. Arker 18:01, 28 June 2006 (UTC)

I find myself wondering whether the "myths" section is actually appropriate at all. While it is useful information and appears not to be incorrect or misleading, it does also seem to be erring on the unencyclopedic side of things: Wikipedia's role is to describe things, not to interpret them or to give legal advice. So I think the section is probably inappropriate as it stands. But I also think it would probably become appropriate if it were firstly adjusted to be descriptive of opinions, rather than presented as a statement of fact, and secondly given proper citations -- to show that the myths themselves are widely believed, as well as providing authoritative references for any debunking.
Examples of people spreading the myths can probably be found trivially on places like USENET or Slashdot, while the FSF's GPL FAQ could be a useful resource to quote for the official line.
Does this sound reasonable, or do other people not see any problem with the section as it stands? — Haeleth Talk 18:50, 28 June 2006 (UTC)
Seconded. The GPL FAQ is a comprehensive, authoritative list of answers to misconceptions like these, e.g. download fees. It's worth mentioning that the GPL is commonly misunderstood but a link to the FAQ is the way to support it. Tiermensch 00:39, 29 June 2006 (UTC)