[theme-reviewers] GPL

Otto otto at ottodestruct.com
Wed Aug 8 20:54:53 UTC 2012

On Wed, Aug 8, 2012 at 3:41 PM, Benjamin Howe <ben at beh.me.uk> wrote:
> What term don't you agree with, or just v3 generally? I trust you agree with
> v2? Just curious.

I agree with the GPLv2 because it addresses a specific need, which is
open-source software. The GPLv3 attempts to extend itself to exercise
scope outside of what I see that need was.

For example, the GPLv3 says this:
"If you convey an object code work under this section in, or with, or
specifically for use in, a User Product, and the conveying occurs as
part of a transaction in which the right of possession and use of the
User Product is transferred to the recipient in perpetuity or for a
fixed term (regardless of how the transaction is characterized), the
Corresponding Source conveyed under this section must be accompanied
by the Installation Information. But this requirement does not apply
if neither you nor any third party retains the ability to install
modified object code on the User Product (for example, the work has
been installed in ROM)."

This is the "Tivoization" clause. It essentially says that if you make
a hardware device with GPLv3 code in it, and you retain the ability to
upgrade the code (like remote upgrades and such), then you must give
away any "keys" or whatever else you have that prevent the end-user
from running modified copies of the software. This came from companies
such as Tivo using Linux on their boxes, and supporting remote
upgrading and connectivity and such, but using a hardware signature to
prevent unsigned code from running.

And see, I'm actually fine with that. If some hardware manufacturer
were to use my code in a device like that, then I'd want to allow that
usage. As an open-source software author, I want more secure code in
my devices, and for companies to be able to upgrade them without also
having to deal with hackers attempting to undermine their service.
Restricting open source software in this manner is not something I
want to happen, or to be applied to any code I write.

Another problem with the GPLv3 is the "Additional Terms" section,
which can be used by authors in restrictive ways and yet allow them to
continue to claim that their software is "GPL". For example, there is
at least one company that makes a flash player which uses this section
to attempt to control their code in a way that makes it difficult for
others to modify and use it. It's entirely possible to use it, but
their additional terms mean that any modifications have to be somewhat
extensive to comply with those terms. Also, the entire "Patents"
section is highly discriminatory, and severely limits the potential
scope of open-source software under the GPLv3.

Things like that. I don't like it, it wasn't necessary at all, and the
GPLv2 works fine for the cases I want it to work for.


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