Please tone down the GPL3 paranoia

Rich Felker dalias at
Thu Sep 14 19:12:45 PDT 2006

On Thu, Sep 14, 2006 at 01:53:02PM -0700, Bruce Perens wrote:
> > What's wrong with GPLv2?  It strikes an excellent balance that's lasted 15 
> > years already.  It's been a stable social contract the entire time I've been 
> > using Linux.
> >   
> When the GPL was drafted, dynamic linking was not in common use. There
> were no ASPs. Both of these represent oft-used loopholes. There had been
> no cases like Nintendo v. Goloob or Specht v. Netscape, either of which
> might be used as precedent to weaken the GPL in a later case.

Those cases are irrelevant. GPL is very clear and it is not going to
be "weakened" by a court because it does not try to take away your
rights like what was happening in the Nintendo case. If a third party
is distributing derivative works of GPL code in a way that's obviously
contrary to the intentions of the copyright holder, then that's
copyright infringement, plain and simple. They don't have permission
to prepare and distribute derived works without the blessing of the
copyright holder, which is granted only under the conditions in the

There are issues about dynamic linking and ASPs which might make GPLv3
appropriate for some projects. Most projects probably couldn't care
less. However unless the party making use of dynamic linking
"backdoors" in the GPL refrains from distributing the GPL-covered work
entirely there is IMO an extremely strong argument that they are still
infringing, even if they make the packages separate.

> >> rather than a license that would have allowed improvements to 
> >> the package to be locked down in some way.
> >
> > You're implying GPLv2 would allow this?
> >   
> Well, there is the DRM issue. Do you really want unmodifiable signed
> busybox binaries that circumvent your GPL-granted right to modify the
> software within hardware that you own? Linus says yes. I'm not sure you
> should agree.

GPL does not allow this. It says that the FULL SOURCE CODE for
generating the binary must be provided under GPL. If a working binary
that runs on the intended hardware cannot be produced without special
keys to sign it, then those keys are part of the source code (by
definition of source code as defined in GPLv2) and thus GPLv2 requires
them to be included.

If anyone (especially FSF representatives) says otherwise, they're
just making propaganda to try to force people to switch to GPLv3, and
that is extremely irresponsible since it will only hurt the
enforcibility of the GPL in the long term.

Please cut the anti-GPLv2 FUD. It's counterproductive, irrational,
paranoid, and utterly stupid. I was on the fence about this issue for
a long time (GPLv2 or later vs v2 only) but now that I see how
childish the people pushing v3 are behaving, trying to "scare people
off" from using v2 anymore, I largely agree with the mass boycott of
v3 by licensing existing software under "v2 only" instead of "v2 or


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