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

Bernie Innocenti bernie at sugarlabs.org
Sun Apr 24 02:50:18 EDT 2011

On Sat, 2011-04-23 at 03:38 -0400, Martin Langhoff wrote: 
> That is the position of the FSF. However, a very wide community of
> practice has adopted the GPL for its "share and share alike"
> mechanics.
> In that sense, I stand squarely on the same position as Linus and
> other kernel hackers. I have always used and liked the GPLv2 because
> it ensures the sharing of the code.
> What is done with said code was never the business of GPLv2. GPLv3
> starts getting its nose into the "how it is used" side.

Wait a moment: neither the GPLv2 nor the GPLv3 has ever put any
limitation on the way you can *use* the software. One could use GPLv3
software to murder people or to implement DRM. For both licenses,
distribution of the software in binary form must to be accompanied by
the full source code (or a promise to provide such source upon request).

Additionally, the GPLv3 specifies that users must be provided with any
"authorization keys" required to install and execute modified versions
of the software. This is the heart of the anti-tivo clause.

There's no explicit prohibition to use GPLv3 software on a locked-down
platform, as long as users are given the ability to install modified
versions the GPLv3 code (and not the entire OS). Of course, if the GPLv3
software happened to be the kernel itself, jail-breaking would become

> > There's even explicit wording allowing employers to have workers or
> > contractors use GPL'd software without automatically transferring them
> > any rights:
> Can you point me to the relevant section on this?

The definition of "conveying" is in section "0. Definitions.". It
excludes things such as thin-clients or terminals (whereas the GPLv2 may
be ambiguous).

The additional exception which allows employers to give code to their
employees without triggering distribution is in "2. Basic Permissions."

> >  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.
> Is that the wording? So for this to stick employees using a
> locked-down machine can't copy binaries to a removable disk?

My interpretation of the above paragraph is that they can copy binaries
anywhere they like, as long as this is part of their work. If you allow
your employers to make personal copies and take them home, then you must
give them the full set of rights that the GPL would normally imply.

The GPLv2 was stricter than the GPLv3 in this regard, there was no
exception at all.

> > 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.
> Well, I don't much like the above, and wouldn't personally do it.
> However,  GPL never gave me any rights upon how users use of my
> software, or in which direction developers may develop it.
> Get the hang of this: licensing software GPL, any version, I am
> allowing many dictators to use it to do, coordinate, automate and
> organize the most horrid actions you can think of. Torture? Check.
> Murder? You bet! And this isn't hard to get over.

In this respect, the GPLv2 and the GPLv3 are identical, because there
are no limitations on usage.

> GPLv2 is a humble instrument. Licensee, do whatever you want, but
> share the source when you distribute.

The spirit of the GPL "share alike", but giving out the source code is
not in itself sufficient to preserve all rights every time the software
changes hands.

To fully benefit from Freedom 1, users need the ability to compile,
install and run modified versions of the program. In this respect, the
GPLv2 had an unfortunate bug: it's possible for the right to run
modified versions of the program to decay when such program is embedded
in a locked-down device such as a TiVo, an iPhone or a Kindle.

> In what *planet* do you live? Honestly, GPLv3 is controversial amongst
> anyone whose work is possibly tivoized. It was so all through the
> drafting process.

Ok, that's true, but it shouldn't be controversial among *us*. I can see
why Apple or Microsoft would fear the GPLv3, but are we in the business
of exploiting our users through DRM?

It's not happening right now, but one day someone could get the idea to
take the wicked business model of ebook readers into the world of
education. By going with the GPLv3, we'll prevent this sort of things
from ever happening in the future.

Bernie Innocenti
Sugar Labs Infrastructure Team

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