Gentoo Archives: gentoo-dev

From: Rich Freeman <rich0@g.o>
To: gentoo-dev <gentoo-dev@l.g.o>
Subject: Re: [gentoo-dev] Should we allow "GPL, v2 or later" for ebuilds?
Date: Thu, 30 Jan 2020 13:19:25
In Reply to: Re: [gentoo-dev] Should we allow "GPL, v2 or later" for ebuilds? by "Haelwenn (lanodan) Monnier"
1 On Thu, Jan 30, 2020 at 6:20 AM Haelwenn (lanodan) Monnier
2 <contact@×××××××××.me> wrote:
3 >
4 > [2020-01-27 12:41:26+0100] Ulrich Mueller:
5 > > So, the question is, should we allow ebuilds
6 > > # Distributed under the terms of the GNU General Public License, v2 or later
7 > > in the repository, or should we even encourage it for new ebuilds?
8 > >
9 > > I have somewhat mixed feelings about this. One the one hand, I think
10 > > that GPL-2+ should generally be preferred because it offers better
11 > > compatibility. For example, the compatibility clause in CC-BY-SA-4.0
12 > > won't work with GPL-2.
13 >
14 > Is there another reason for GPL-2+ than just compatibility?
15 > Because I quite find the "or later" thing to be quite a scary one as
16 > whatever will come up next as a GPL will become applicable and it feels
17 > quite weird to me to have a license that can evolve to whatever
18 > license over time.
20 Well, there are two sides to this particular issue.
22 GPL 2+ means that anybody can choose to redistribute the code under
23 the terms of any version of the GPL that is >=2. So, if they add
24 terms to GPL v4 that you really don't like, you can still redistribute
25 it under the terms of GPL v2-3 if you prefer.
27 The other side to this is that you can't stop others from
28 redistributing it under v4. They could also incorporate it into other
29 code that is v4+ which you could only redistribute under v4 or
30 greater. Of course, the original code can still be redistributed
31 under v2 - it is just the parts that are comingled with other v4 code
32 that is at issue.
34 Really the main threat (IMO) is that the code could be de-copylefted.
35 They could make GPL v4 a copy of the BSD license, and now anything
36 that was v2+ is effectively BSD and can be used in non-FOSS software
37 without issue. I guess that isn't any worse than the previous case of
38 it instead being merged into some other v4 variant that you can access
39 the source for but prefer to avoid because of something else in the
40 license, except now you might not see the code at all.
42 The advantage of 2+ is of course flexibility:
44 For one it reduces license proliferation. Code that is v2-only is
45 effectively orphaned with regard to v3, v4, v5, and so on projects in
46 the future. GPLv2 is fairly restrictive by design around
47 compatibility with other licenses and accepting future versions helps
48 mitigate this insofar as you trust the FSF.
50 And of course if at some point some fatal flaw is found in the GPL in
51 a court case, it is possible that a future version could mitigate that
52 flaw. Of course, if that flaw lets anybody ignore the copyleft bits
53 you can't prevent people from using it under the old flawed v2, but at
54 least you can still use the code in your own v4 or whatever. Of
55 course, if the flaw effectively made the v2 code public domain you can
56 do that anyway, but if the flaw were of a different nature it might
57 cause problems having code being locked up as v2-only.
59 >
60 > I think I would personally slightly prefer to have it be properly
61 > dual-licensed GPL-{2,3} or GPL-2 & CC-BY-SA-4.0 instead.
62 >
64 The problem like this is that this is basically just kicking the can
65 down the road. It is of course equivalent for the moment, but when
66 GPLv4 comes along we have to go through this again. Right now most of
67 the Gentoo authors are alive and might be willing to explicitly sign
68 off on a relicense (maybe). However, maybe in another 10 years when
69 GPLv4 comes out it is going to be much harder to track everybody down.
71 On the flip side the fact is that none of us know what the FSF will
72 look like in 10 years, or 40 years. There are plenty of large
73 non-profits today that bear little resemblance to what they looked
74 like 100 years ago, for good or ill. The GPL v2 (or v3) are known
75 quantities that we can debate on in a concrete manner, but unknown
76 future versions can only be speculated on.
78 Another solution to this problem is the FLA - which is something we've
79 talked about but shelved until we've sorted out some of our other
80 copyright issues which were thorny enough. Perhaps we could consider
81 taking that up again. Without getting into the details it is a bit
82 like a copyleft-style copyright assignment, which isn't actually an
83 assignment. We envisoned it being voluntary and would allow any
84 contributor to give the Foundation the authority to relicense their
85 contributions, with a number of restrictions, like the new license
86 being FOSS. I'd have to dig up the latest version and take a look at
87 it again. Basically instead of trusting the FSF you'd be trusting the
88 Foundation instead, but there are some limitations on what they'd be
89 allowed to do, and if they violate those limitations the agreement
90 would be canceled and the rights would revert back to whatever was on
91 the original contribution, which would probably be whatever the author
92 originally wanted. That said, I'm not sure it really provides a whole
93 lot more protection over what happens except for the fact that
94 Foundation members have more say in how the Foundation operations than
95 the FSF, if only because the number of people allowed to vote are
96 limited to a relatively small pool Gentoo contributors, at least
97 compared to the entire FOSS community.
99 --
100 Rich


Subject Author
Re: [gentoo-dev] Should we allow "GPL, v2 or later" for ebuilds? Kent Fredric <kentnl@g.o>
Re: [gentoo-dev] Should we allow "GPL, v2 or later" for ebuilds? "Haelwenn (lanodan) Monnier" <contact@×××××××××.me>