[IAEP] [Sugar-devel] ANNOUNCE: Moving Sugar to GPLv3+

Bernie Innocenti bernie at sugarlabs.org
Fri Apr 22 18:14:52 EDT 2011

Disclaimer: given where I work now, advocating in favor of the GPL will
probably makes me look partisan, but long-time friends like you should
known that these have been my personal opinions for a long time.

On Fri, 2011-04-22 at 10:50 -0400, Martin Langhoff wrote: 
> On Thu, Apr 21, 2011 at 8:00 PM, Bernie Innocenti <bernie at sugarlabs.org> wrote:
> > Authors can express their intentions through a license. If you didn't
> > want your code to be redistributed under a later versions of the GPL,
> > then why didn't you distribute as GPLv2-only?
> On a personal note here... programmers that liked GPLv2 due to its
> share-and-share-alike quid-pro-quo (like me, perhaps Scott too)
> trusted FSF for have future versions be "bugfix" versions.
> So I've also published GPLv2 bits and now I wish I hadn't.
> Some things in v3 are "bugfixes" -- the license compatibility, the
> patent wording (though it could scare some corporations that do hold
> patents). But the anti-tivoization clause changes the social contract
> significantly -- it moves towards a new territory that is problematic.
> I sure wish that GPLv3 was limited to those bugfixes, and the
> anti-tivo wording was segregatd to a new license; a bit like some
> clauses were split off to the Affero-GPL.

The GPL always has been about protecting the famous Four Freedoms. Back
when the GPLv2 was created, nobody had yet figured out that tivoization
could be used to game the license and effectively deny users the freedom
to modify the software.

The GPLv3 merely fixes an unforeseen loophole, additionally protecting
users from the DMCA and similar laws that make it illegal to modify free
software to get rid of DRM.

> > anti-tivoization
> This is rather problematic. While it doesn't affect OLPC/bitfrost, it
> can affect situations where I'd like to see Sugar in use. For example
> a well-setup thin-client / terminal server (like SkoleLinux/DebianEdu)
> may lockdown X so that .xsession is ignored.

This is actually a case in which the GPLv2 was ambiguous on what it
means to "distribute" the software, whereas the GPLv3 explicitly
excludes your particular scenario:

  To “convey” a work means any kind of propagation that enables other
  parties to make or receive copies. Mere interaction with a user
  through a computer network, with no transfer of a copy, is not

There's even explicit wording allowing employers to have workers or
contractors use GPL'd software without automatically transferring them
any rights:

  Those thus making or running the covered works for you must do so
  exclusively on your behalf, under your direction and control, on terms
  that prohibit them from making any copies of your copyrighted material
  outside their relationship with you.

See? It's the other way around: the GPLv3 grants you full permission to
lock-down your own thin-clients.

> > protection from the DMCA
> Not relevant. Sugar ain't mplayer.

A few years ago, a large American publisher of schoolbooks asked us to
implement features for "copyright control", so they could sell their
books to students ensure they couldn't exchange copies. In Paraguay, a
local publisher came up with another scheme involving Adobe Flash to
limit what users could do or not do with books.

With the GPLv2 alone, any deployment or hardware vendor could make a
deal with a publisher and turn Sugar into a Kindle full of DRM.

> So my questions are
>  -  What's the upside?

I think the upsides are numerous. They're all given in the GPLv3 quick
guide which I linked in my previous email. Further readings:


> - At what point do we say "hey, this has scant upside, and negative
> controversy around it, let's spend our time in productive things
> instead"?

Which negative controversy, the one you're personally fueling? This is
kind of a circular argument :-) 

In fact, this argument could also be reversed: "hey, instead of fighting
the GPLv3, why don't we spend our time doing productive things 

Seriously: calling something a waste of time is just an old trick that
can be used to shoot down any proposal: if the license upgrade were
really so unimportant, you wouldn't take the time to argue against it.
You've expressed some valid concerns and I believe I've responded
satisfactorily to all of them. If not, I'm glad to hear a
counter-argument from you. 

Bernie Innocenti
Sugar Labs Infrastructure Team

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