[IAEP] What the GPLv3 actually does

Bernie Innocenti bernie at sugarlabs.org
Thu Apr 28 18:21:26 EDT 2011

On Tue, 2011-04-26 at 15:49 -0400, C. Scott Ananian wrote: 
> On Mon, Apr 25, 2011 at 12:17 AM, Bernie Innocenti <bernie at sugarlabs.org> wrote:
> > By updating to the GPLv3, we make a clear political statement that
> > commercial usage is ok, but our software must always remain free for
> > users to use, study, share *and* modify.
> 1) I'm not interested in using Sugar code to make political statements
> for their own sake.
> 2) I thought this was what our use of the GPLv2 accomplished.  How is
> the GPLv2 no longer free?

Over time, new ways were invented to game the license, so the GPLv2 has
become somewhat more permissive than originally intended. We've already
talked extensively about these, but let's summarize them again for the
sake of clarity:

1. TiVo-ization: a hardware platform could be locked-down to make it
impossible to run modified versions of the software even though you have
the source code and a license to modify it. This technique is often
employed by vendors of cell-phones and tablets for various marketing

2. DRM: the World Intellectual Property Organization lobbied the US
Congress to approve a controversial legislation called DMCA which makes
it illegal to modify free software when it is used to implement an
"effective technological protection measure" (aka DRM).

The GPLv3 was updated with the minimum necessary counter-measures to
ensure that free software cannot be transformed into de-facto
proprietary software:

1. The definition of "Installation Information" that must accompany the
source code has been extended to include any authorization keys required
to install and run modified versions.

2. Section 3 of the GPLv3 neutralizes DRM by stating that the covered
work should not be considered an "effective technological measure" for
the purpose of the DMCA or a similar legislation.

Assuming that we all agree that this is what the GPLv3 really *does*, we
may still disagree on whether this is a good idea or not. Hopefully we
agree that the above counter-measures don't hurt end-users in any way. 

In fact, I can think of only one category who would profoundly dislike
the GPLv3: vendors relying on DRM and TiVo-ization to limit what users
can do. Microsoft and Apple banned the GPLv3 from their appmarkets
exactly for these reasons and, to me, this proves that the GPLv3 is
really effective in defending users' rights!

Is there something in particular that you wanted to accomplish with
Sugar that would become impossible once we switch to the GPLv3?

Bernie Innocenti
Sugar Labs Infrastructure Team

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