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Ice9
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Post by Ice9 » Thu Jun 14, 2007 11:46 am

What's up with all those patent deals between Micro$haft and linux vendors?
First Novell, then Xandros and now Linspire, ...
Not that I particularly like Xandros or Linspire, but still ...
Who's next, and what kind of repercussions in the long run will all of this have on the distros that don't wish to strike any deal?

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Post by Void Main » Thu Jun 14, 2007 11:56 am

We're just finding out who are our friends and who are our foes. Novell was the only surprise for me. It's going to be interesting to see what happened when everything starts switching over to GPLv3.

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Post by Ice9 » Thu Jun 14, 2007 12:14 pm

IF everything starts switching over to GPLv3 because from what I read Linus isn't convinced yet ...

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Post by Void Main » Thu Jun 14, 2007 1:48 pm

Ice9 wrote:IF everything starts switching over to GPLv3 because from what I read Linus isn't convinced yet ...
In reality the kernel is just one small piece of the puzzle. It's nearly impossible to build the kernel without the GCC and the tool chain and run it without the libraries. Linus actually IS showing signs of warming up to it recently but even if he loves it I think it would be a major challenge to do a license change on the kernel because of the number of copyright holders and the removal of the "or later" clause. I just don't think it would happen.

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Post by Jenda » Thu Jun 14, 2007 4:00 pm

Can someone enlighten me - when or where was the 'or later' clause removed?

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Post by Void Main » Thu Jun 14, 2007 5:08 pm

I believe from the beginning.

EDIT: From the man himself explaining it:
http://lkml.org/lkml/2006/1/25/273

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Post by insomnia » Thu Jun 14, 2007 9:00 pm

Void Main wrote:I believe from the beginning.

EDIT: From the man himself explaining it:
http://lkml.org/lkml/2006/1/25/273
Interesting read.

Alan Cox doesn't seem to agree with Linus that it counts from the beginning though.
Apparently(that is according to Alan Cox), it only started counting (if it counts at all) once Linus added the "GPLv2_Only" part (about 5 years ago).

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Post by Void Main » Thu Jun 14, 2007 9:29 pm

And Linus's argument that without adding the "or any later version" it is tied to the specific version which has been v2 from the very beginning. Linus can get very harsh with his words and here is where he states he wouldn't ever be interested in going to v3:

http://lkml.org/lkml/2006/1/31/163

I personally agree with Linus and not Alan on his interpretation of how the kernel was licensed from the beginning, or how a court would interpret it. Of course as hard headed as Linus sounds sometimes he does often change his mind. If you read the above message (which was written back in January 2006) you would walk away with the idea that Linux (the kernel) would never move away from v2, but Linus has actually warmed to it somewhat lately (comparatively) and now uses words like "if" instead of words like "never" when talking about moving the kernel to v3.

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Post by Calum » Fri Jun 15, 2007 3:38 pm

if a large (uncountable) number of people contribute to a project and it is licenced under the GPL, surely the "or later" part is the only way of ensuring that this project's future versions are not tied to the same licence for ever and ever amen (which could run to decades, maybe some projects will even be maintained for centuries!) For example, how was this dealt with when (i am sure this happened) the licence for linux went from GPL v1 to v2?

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Post by Void Main » Fri Jun 15, 2007 4:57 pm

The kernel was never under GPLv1, it has been under GPLv2 from the beginning.

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Post by Calum » Mon Jun 18, 2007 10:30 am

well, generally speaking then, would you say that a project is chained to the licence it originally adopted? It sounds to me like there is no way to "up"grade to a newer version of the GPL licence (IE: a different but very similar licence) without the consent of *everybody* who contributed, and this seems like a logistical impossibility, unless the original licence explicitly stated that such upgrades are automatically consented to by all contributors.

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Post by Void Main » Mon Jun 18, 2007 11:05 am

Calum wrote:well, generally speaking then, would you say that a project is chained to the licence it originally adopted? It sounds to me like there is no way to "up"grade to a newer version of the GPL licence (IE: a different but very similar licence) without the consent of *everybody* who contributed, and this seems like a logistical impossibility, unless the original licence explicitly stated that such upgrades are automatically consented to by all contributors.
No, that's what the "or later" clause is for. All of the GNU stuff uses the GPL and adds the "or later" clause so that they could easily move to a newer version of the license. It's at your option to add that clause in there for flexibility. Of course GNU takes it a step farther and has copyrights signed over to them for GNU software which makes it even less difficult to move to a newer version of the license.

Linus chose to go with v2 and only v2 when he started the kernel project. I can't say that I blame him for doing so because that ensured the kernel would stay under a license he agreed with and not get moved into a future version of the license that he didn't agree with. Of course that also makes it harder to move to a new version if a newer and better version comes along. That's just the situation whether good or bad. I personally would have probably went down the same path if I had been in Linus's shoes. I would have wanted to be in control of the future of that which I had created.

Here is a blurb on the GNU site about why you should use the "or later" line:

http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.htm ... TwoOrLater
Why should programs say "Version 2 of the GPL or any later version"?

From time to time, at intervals of years, we change the GPL--sometimes to clarify it, sometimes to permit certain kinds of use not previously permitted, and sometimes to tighten up a requirement. (The last change was in 1991.) Using this "indirect pointer" in each program makes it possible for us to change the distribution terms on the entire collection of GNU software, when we update the GPL.

If each program lacked the indirect pointer, we would be forced to discuss the change at length with numerous copyright holders, which would be a virtual impossibility. In practice, the chance of having uniform distribution terms for GNU software would be nil.

Suppose a program says "Version 2 of the GPL or any later version" and a new version of the GPL is released. If the new GPL version gives additional permission, that permission will be available immediately to all the users of the program. But if the new GPL version has a tighter requirement, it will not restrict use of the current version of the program, because it can still be used under GPL version 2. When a program says "Version 2 of the GPL or any later version", users will always be permitted to use it, and even change it, according to the terms of GPL version 2--even after later versions of the GPL are available.

If a tighter requirement in a new version of the GPL need not be obeyed for existing software, how is it useful? Once GPL version 3 is available, the developers of most GPL-covered programs will release subsequent versions of their programs specifying "Version 3 of the GPL or any later version". Then users will have to follow the tighter requirements in GPL version 3, for subsequent versions of the program.

However, developers are not obligated to do this; developers can continue allowing use of the previous version of the GPL, if that is their preference.

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Post by Calum » Tue Jun 19, 2007 10:29 am

i agree, the sane thing would be to licence without the "or later" clause, since it could potentially be used by the FSF in the same way as microsoft's "we can retroactively change this EULA" clause is feared to be possibly used for.

On the other hand as they point out, what if the change is clarification in light of a change in technology or law? this would be like the Highway Code, i read that the latest edition of the Highway Code has topped 300 rules for the first time. in 1921 it had something like 36 rules for road users. The new rules for this edition are mainly about using motorised wheelchairs and buggies etc, and mobile phones, smoking in cars. This sort of thing you'd want to be reflected in the licence without having to start lengthy negotiations.

Do you think the "or later" clause could be changed to hand off the decision to the maintainer of the project or a delegated authority? Or would this mean it could no longer be called the GPL? obviously you would build this into the licence from the start, or before any other parties had contributed, or you'd get no benefit from it.

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