Wednesday, January 25, 2006

More on the New Draft of the GPL

I have received email messages from Eben Moglen, the General Counsel for the Free Software Foundation, in which he said that I could send him my comments on the draft of the new version of the GPL. He also said that the new version was drafted by himself and Richard Stallman, the founder of both the GNU Project and the Free Software Foundation.

Even though my comments are not likely to be very helpful, I think that the GNU General Public License is of such extreme importance that I am going to try to create a PDF file containing the current draft marked up with my suggested revisions and also containing my other comments in footnotes.

I hope that when I finish--if I do--my marked-up version of the draft I will be able to make it available to the public on my web site, something that I dare not do without express permission from the Free Software Foundation, for the draft, rather surprisingly, provides:

Everyone is permitted to copy and distribute verbatim copies of this license document, but changing it is not allowed.

That seems a rather strange limitation to be imposed by the Free Software Foundation, now doesn't it?


Anonymous Laurent GUERBY said...

Are contract clauses and whole contracts protected by copyright law anyway? Any cases?

On the GPL, the only thing that I would consider bad is having another text named GNU GPL which is not the one written by FSF, tha would be extremely misleading. I assume trademarking plus worldwide royalty free licence to use it to designate unmodified GNU GPL version is the way to protect against such an abuse.

6:51 AM  
Blogger Peter Junger said...

Contract provisions are not "protected" by
copyright law, but copyrights can be the subject of contracts. The problem is that very often the contract provisions are included in a so-called "license," even though a license is only a permission granted by the copyright holder to the licensee and does not obligate the licensee to do anything.

The big issue is whether contract terms can be imposed on someone who does nothing more than "click" on a page on the Web.

I think that you are right that the problem of modifying the GPL should be treated as a trademark, rather than a copyright, problem. The idea that the form of a license could effectively be copyrighted is one that should horrify most lawyers, since we copy---and modify---forms originally drafted by others all the time and in many cases it would be malpractice not to do so.

7:24 AM  
Anonymous Laurent GUERBY said...

Thanks for your answer.

If you have the occasion, may be you should ask the FSF to clarify its position over copying most or all GNU GPL clauses (plus may be others) in a licence not named GNU GPL.



11:53 AM  

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