Discussion:
License of the GPL license
(too old to reply)
Giovanni Mascellani
2018-04-16 08:50:04 UTC
Permalink
Hello,

this question might be trivial, but I just realized that the GPL license
is itself licensed under a license that technically does not appear to
$ head -n 6 /usr/share/common-licenses/GPL
GNU GENERAL PUBLIC LICENSE
Version 3, 29 June 2007
Copyright (C) 2007 Free Software Foundation, Inc. <http://fsf.org/>
Everyone is permitted to copy and distribute verbatim copies
of this license document, but changing it is not allowed.
"Changing is not allowed" is in conflict with DFSG #3. Has this thing
ever been discussed?

Note that I do not want to challenge the GPL or its usage in Debian. It
is only that I just realized that at this point we are contradicting
ourselves (because we distribute copies of the GPL in main, and actually
in an essential package).

What do people think about this issue?

Thanks and all the best, Giovanni.
--
Giovanni Mascellani <***@gmail.com>
Postdoc researcher - Université Libre de Bruxelles
Simon McVittie
2018-04-16 11:13:29 UTC
Permalink
Post by Giovanni Mascellani
this question might be trivial, but I just realized that the GPL license
is itself licensed under a license that technically does not appear to
We make an exception for the licenses of licenses, because otherwise we
basically wouldn't be able to distribute any software at all (and it
isn't completely clear whether legal texts are copyrightable anyway).

smcv
Ulrich Mueller
2018-04-16 14:03:55 UTC
Permalink
Post by Simon McVittie
Post by Giovanni Mascellani
this question might be trivial, but I just realized that the GPL
license is itself licensed under a license that technically does
We make an exception for the licenses of licenses, because otherwise
we basically wouldn't be able to distribute any software at all (and
it isn't completely clear whether legal texts are copyrightable
anyway).
I thought this might be of interest here: In Gentoo we are currently
drafting a Certificate of Origin [1]. We are considering a clause (c)
containing an explicit exception for license texts.

Ulrich

[1] https://dev.gentoo.org/~ulm/glep-copyrightpolicy.html#certificate-of-origin
Francesco Poli
2018-04-16 19:46:40 UTC
Permalink
Post by Simon McVittie
Post by Giovanni Mascellani
this question might be trivial, but I just realized that the GPL license
is itself licensed under a license that technically does not appear to
We make an exception for the licenses of licenses, because otherwise we
basically wouldn't be able to distribute any software at all (and it
isn't completely clear whether legal texts are copyrightable anyway).
I remember that this has been discussed in the past, although I cannot
find the mailing list thread(s) right now.
Anyway, I recall that the outcome of the discussion was the one
described by Simon.

Moreover, as far as the GNU GPL is specifically concerned, there
is an [FSF FAQ](https://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.html#ModifyGPL)
explaining that the text of the GNU GPL can indeed be modified,
as long as some conditions are satisfied...

I hope this helps.
Bye.
--
http://www.inventati.org/frx/
There's not a second to spare! To the laboratory!
..................................................... Francesco Poli .
GnuPG key fpr == CA01 1147 9CD2 EFDF FB82 3925 3E1C 27E1 1F69 BFFE
Giovanni Mascellani
2018-04-18 10:33:17 UTC
Permalink
Post by Francesco Poli
I remember that this has been discussed in the past, although I cannot
find the mailing list thread(s) right now.
Anyway, I recall that the outcome of the discussion was the one
described by Simon.
Ok, thanks everybody for the info.

Giovanni.
--
Giovanni Mascellani <***@gmail.com>
Postdoc researcher - Université Libre de Bruxelles
jonathon
2018-04-16 23:46:27 UTC
Permalink
"Changing is not allowed" is in conflict with DFSG #3. Has this thing ever been discussed?
I am not a lawyer. This is not legal advice. It is nothing more than my
understanding, which might be wrong. Furthermore, the same basic legal
theory applies regardless of the specific license.

The license is not distributed under the license it describes. Rather,
it is distributed under standard copyright, with all the ARR
implications that that carries.

There are technical, legal questions (^1) as to whether or not licenses
are, in and of themselves copyrightable. AFAIK, thus far, no license
creator has sued for copyright infringement, because another license was
based on their license. This is a legal quagmire that nobody wants to
get into, because regardless of who wins, everybody loses, and will pay
far more than they currently pay. This loss is both short-term, and
long-term in duration.

If you modify the text, you have to change the name of the document.
Incrementing the number in the name is not enough of a change.
You can't call it _GNU GPL 5.x_, but you can call it _My Public License
5.x_.

^1: Licenses are either legal boiler-plate, or terms of art, and hence
lack the creativity required to qualify for copyright protection.

jonathon
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