upstream changing from GPL-2+ to GPL-3+ without copyright holders permission

classic Classic list List threaded Threaded
9 messages Options
Reply | Threaded
Open this post in threaded view
|

upstream changing from GPL-2+ to GPL-3+ without copyright holders permission

Eriberto Mota
Hi folks,

I have a basic doubt.

A program called "test" was released by Bob over GPL-2+. This program
got contributions from Ana and Chloe. The development was stopped some
years later and, now, Ted want continue this development. However, Ted
kept the name "test" and changed the licensing to GPL-3+ without a
permission from previous copyright holders, that are inactive. Is
possible do it, only considering the plus signal in previous licensing
(GPL-2+)?

Regards,

Eriberto

Reply | Threaded
Open this post in threaded view
|

Re: upstream changing from GPL-2+ to GPL-3+ without copyright holders permission

Andrej Shadura-2
Hi,

On Mon, 5 Aug 2019 at 14:38, Eriberto Mota <[hidden email]> wrote:

> Hi folks,
>
> I have a basic doubt.
>
> A program called "test" was released by Bob over GPL-2+. This program
> got contributions from Ana and Chloe. The development was stopped some
> years later and, now, Ted want continue this development. However, Ted
> kept the name "test" and changed the licensing to GPL-3+ without a
> permission from previous copyright holders, that are inactive. Is
> possible do it, only considering the plus signal in previous licensing
> (GPL-2+)?

If the license statement says:

> This program is free software; you can redistribute it
> and/or modify it under the terms of the GNU General Public
> License as published by the Free Software Foundation; either
> version 2 of the License, or (at your option) any later
> version.

then it is totally fine to choose that option, since the copyright
holders have already given that permission you think they need to
give.

--
Cheers,
  Andrej

Reply | Threaded
Open this post in threaded view
|

Re: upstream changing from GPL-2+ to GPL-3+ without copyright holders permission

Florian Weimer
* Andrej Shadura:

> Hi,
>
> On Mon, 5 Aug 2019 at 14:38, Eriberto Mota <[hidden email]> wrote:
>> Hi folks,
>>
>> I have a basic doubt.
>>
>> A program called "test" was released by Bob over GPL-2+. This program
>> got contributions from Ana and Chloe. The development was stopped some
>> years later and, now, Ted want continue this development. However, Ted
>> kept the name "test" and changed the licensing to GPL-3+ without a
>> permission from previous copyright holders, that are inactive. Is
>> possible do it, only considering the plus signal in previous licensing
>> (GPL-2+)?
>
> If the license statement says:
>
>> This program is free software; you can redistribute it
>> and/or modify it under the terms of the GNU General Public
>> License as published by the Free Software Foundation; either
>> version 2 of the License, or (at your option) any later
>> version.
>
> then it is totally fine to choose that option, since the copyright
> holders have already given that permission you think they need to
> give.

In general, I agree.  But there might be cases that are less
clear-cut.  For example, if the upgrade from GPLv2+ to GPLv3+ is used
to gain permission to combine the work with an AGPL work, especially
if this is done in an “open core” context.  Or if the author clearly
intended that uploading the original (GPLv2+) work to someone else's
computer was distribution under the GPLv2 terms, and the GPLv3 upgrade
is used primarily to circumvent that.

I also think that in general, Debian should try to respect copyright
holders' wishes, even if the project is not required to do so.
Disregarding authors rarely leads to good outcomes.

Reply | Threaded
Open this post in threaded view
|

Re: upstream changing from GPL-2+ to GPL-3+ without copyright holders permission

Roberto
On Mon, Aug 05, 2019 at 11:37:22PM +0200, Florian Weimer wrote:
> In general, I agree.  But there might be cases that are less
> clear-cut.  For example, if the upgrade from GPLv2+ to GPLv3+ is used
> to gain permission to combine the work with an AGPL work, especially
> if this is done in an “open core” context.  Or if the author clearly
> intended that uploading the original (GPLv2+) work to someone else's
> computer was distribution under the GPLv2 terms, and the GPLv3 upgrade
> is used primarily to circumvent that.

I don't understand that. If the author provides written permission to
upgrade to a later version but he don't really want people to do that,
it looks to me like lying. He should either clarify the cases where the
upgrade is not wanted, or avoid writing those permissions at all.

> I also think that in general, Debian should try to respect copyright
> holders' wishes, even if the project is not required to do so.
> Disregarding authors rarely leads to good outcomes.

I would want to be respectful, of course, but how can I respect
copyright holders' wishes when they say something and want something
different instead? I can't read their minds. It's not feasible to ask
all authors when there are hundreds (and I don't even consider it fair,
it won't pass the desert island).

If those unwritten exceptions are common, I've probably violated
authors' whises a lot of times already :(

Reply | Threaded
Open this post in threaded view
|

Re: upstream changing from GPL-2+ to GPL-3+ without copyright holders permission

Florian Weimer
* Roberto:

> On Mon, Aug 05, 2019 at 11:37:22PM +0200, Florian Weimer wrote:
>> In general, I agree.  But there might be cases that are less
>> clear-cut.  For example, if the upgrade from GPLv2+ to GPLv3+ is used
>> to gain permission to combine the work with an AGPL work, especially
>> if this is done in an “open core” context.  Or if the author clearly
>> intended that uploading the original (GPLv2+) work to someone else's
>> computer was distribution under the GPLv2 terms, and the GPLv3 upgrade
>> is used primarily to circumvent that.
>
> I don't understand that. If the author provides written permission to
> upgrade to a later version but he don't really want people to do that,
> it looks to me like lying. He should either clarify the cases where the
> upgrade is not wanted, or avoid writing those permissions at all.

The alternative explanation is that the FSF did something unexpected,
from the author's point of view.

>> I also think that in general, Debian should try to respect copyright
>> holders' wishes, even if the project is not required to do so.
>> Disregarding authors rarely leads to good outcomes.
>
> I would want to be respectful, of course, but how can I respect
> copyright holders' wishes when they say something and want something
> different instead?

Many authors provide conflicting license statements.  It's not
unusual.  In the extreme case, it makes the software undistributable
and unsuitable for Debian.

> If those unwritten exceptions are common, I've probably violated
> authors' whises a lot of times already :(

I was mainly talking about written clarifications, not unvoiced
thoughts of the authors.

Reply | Threaded
Open this post in threaded view
|

Re: upstream changing from GPL-2+ to GPL-3+ without copyright holders permission

Francesco Poli (wintermute)
In reply to this post by Eriberto Mota
On Mon, 5 Aug 2019 09:38:08 -0300 Eriberto Mota wrote:

> Hi folks,

Hello!

>
> I have a basic doubt.
>
> A program called "test" was released by Bob over GPL-2+. This program
> got contributions from Ana and Chloe. The development was stopped some
> years later and, now, Ted want continue this development. However, Ted
> kept the name "test" and changed the licensing to GPL-3+ without a
> permission from previous copyright holders, that are inactive. Is
> possible do it, only considering the plus signal in previous licensing
> (GPL-2+)?
As far I can tell, Ted can redistribute the program called "test" under
the terms of the GNU GPL v3 or later, since he has permission to
redistribute it under the terms of the GNU GPL v2 or later (and, in
terms of options, GPL-3+ is a subset of GPL-2+). This means that Ted
can choose to comply with the terms of the GPL v3 and he will be fine
with respect to his obligations on Bob's, Ana's and Chloe's
copyrighted material.

Ted cannot change the fact that Bob's, Ana's and Chloe's copyrighted
parts of "test" are available under GPL-2+, but Ted can do the
following, if he so wishes: by continuing "test" development, Ted
can release his own contributions under GPL-3+.
In the newly released "test" versions, Bob's, Ana's and Chloe's
contributions will be under GPL-2+, while Ted's contributions will be
under GPL-3+. The net result will be that the new "test" versions will
be effectively under GPL-3+ as a whole (although some parts of them
will stay under GPL-2+ and will thus be redistributable under GPL-2+,
assuming they may still be identified and extracted from "test").

I hope this clarifies.

Obviously, what I said is my own personal understanding of the issue.
I am not speaking on behalf of the Debian Project, I am not a lawyer,
this is not legal advice, and so forth...


--
 http://www.inventati.org/frx/
 There's not a second to spare! To the laboratory!
..................................................... Francesco Poli .
 GnuPG key fpr == CA01 1147 9CD2 EFDF FB82  3925 3E1C 27E1 1F69 BFFE

attachment0 (849 bytes) Download Attachment
Reply | Threaded
Open this post in threaded view
|

Re: upstream changing from GPL-2+ to GPL-3+ without copyright holders permission

Roberto
In reply to this post by Florian Weimer
On Tue, Aug 06, 2019 at 09:18:23AM +0200, Florian Weimer wrote:
> Many authors provide conflicting license statements.  It's not
> unusual.  In the extreme case, it makes the software undistributable
> and unsuitable for Debian.

I know, conflicting statements are a serious problem. But that's a
different issue.

>
> > If those unwritten exceptions are common, I've probably violated
> > authors' whises a lot of times already :(
>
> I was mainly talking about written clarifications, not unvoiced
> thoughts of the authors.

Then I agree, written clarifications should be followed if possible.
But, if those clarifications are not part of the license, and they are
only suggestions, authors should be completely fine when they are
ignored. If they are not, they must be part of the license, otherwise I
consider it lying on the actual distribution terms, and it is unfair.

Vim editor says: "Vim is Charityware. You can use and copy it as much as
you like, but you are encouraged to make a donation for needy children
in Uganda". It is not part of the license, so Vim is included in Debian.
And it seems to me that very few users of Vim are actually doing that,
but it should be fine since it's only a suggestion (I hope).

There are religion-based statements in music software included in
Debian, that I choose to not follow because it will be against my own
convictions. I hope the author is fine with that, otherwise I will
consider the program non-free and start writing bug reports for those
programs to be removed from Debian.

Reply | Threaded
Open this post in threaded view
|

Re: upstream changing from GPL-2+ to GPL-3+ without copyright holders permission

Ian Jackson-2
In reply to this post by Florian Weimer
Florian Weimer writes ("Re: upstream changing from GPL-2+ to GPL-3+ without copyright holders permission"):
> Andrej Shadura:
> > then it is totally fine to choose that option, since the copyright
> > holders have already given that permission you think they need to
> > give.

Yes.  For more detail, see Francesco Poli's response which I think
answers the legal question entirely correctly.

> In general, I agree.  But there might be cases that are less
> clear-cut.  For example, if the upgrade from GPLv2+ to GPLv3+ is used
> to gain permission to combine the work with an AGPL work, especially
> if this is done in an "open core" context.

Florian, are you still answering the legal question ?  Because I don't
see how these kind of considerations (eg, the reaason for the licence
upgrader's choice, or the business model of the original authors)
could make much of a legal difference.  So I think if you intended to
answer the legal question then I completely disagree with you.


If you intended to answer (given the introduction of "fine") moral
questions instead, then of course these questions are much more
subjective.

Then your view is a reasonable one, but I would tend to disagree.

Personally I have often taken GPLv2+ code and mixed it (either by
textual copying, or by linking) with AGPLv3+ code, taking advantage of
the GPLv2+ version upgrade and the GPLv3+'s AGPL-compatibility clause.
I have done similar things with LGPL'd code and the GNU GPL(s).

I dislike the open core business model; and I dislike
software-as-a-service models where the code is in practice Free for,
and owned by, only the service operators (usually, one dominant
service operator) - and thus in practice proprietary for everyone
else.  I don't think there is any ethical imperative to support these
business practices, and no obligation to avoid undermining them.

> I also think that in general, Debian should try to respect copyright
> holders' wishes, even if the project is not required to do so.
> Disregarding authors rarely leads to good outcomes.

I think taking proprietarised GPL service code, and making significant
enhancements under an AGPLv3+ licence, is a Good Thing.  Even if it
upsets the original authors or the proprietary service operators.

Whether it is a good community-building strategy is a different
question of course, and depends on how much interest there is in
freeing the code in question.

And, as individuals and companies we oftn need to make practical
political compromises (eg in our employment, or in our business
dealings, etc).  That might mean we would avoid doing things that
upset original authors, etc.

But Debian as a project is committed to Free Software.  As a project
we do not restrain our contributors from annoying proprietary software
companies, or more generally from fully exercising[1] the legal
freedoms we have to deal in Free Software.

In other words: how much weight to give to the preferences of the
original copyright holders is a matter for the individual maintainers.

Ian.

[1] Of course we want to act consistently with our own values, such as
the Social Contract, the Diversity Statement, and so on.  My claim is
that those values do not include refraining from exercising our rights
just because it would annoy proprietary software owners.

--
Ian Jackson <[hidden email]>   These opinions are my own.

If I emailed you from an address @fyvzl.net or @evade.org.uk, that is
a private address which bypasses my fierce spamfilter.

Reply | Threaded
Open this post in threaded view
|

Re: upstream changing from GPL-2+ to GPL-3+ without copyright holders permission

Florian Weimer
* Ian Jackson:

>> In general, I agree.  But there might be cases that are less
>> clear-cut.  For example, if the upgrade from GPLv2+ to GPLv3+ is used
>> to gain permission to combine the work with an AGPL work, especially
>> if this is done in an "open core" context.
>
> Florian, are you still answering the legal question ?  Because I don't
> see how these kind of considerations (eg, the reaason for the licence
> upgrader's choice, or the business model of the original authors)

I meant that someone might tru to turn the GPLv3 deriviate into some
“open core”-like thing.

> could make much of a legal difference.  So I think if you intended to
> answer the legal question then I completely disagree with you.

My point is that authors may have chosen GPLv2+ licensing explictly
because of its strong copyleft, and the project documentation reflects
that.  Arguably, the FSF has weakened copyleft protection in some
areas with the GPLv3, and it is absolutely not clear what the
resulting license conditions are if the author said both “GPLv2+” and
“strong copyleft” before the publication of the GPLv3.

> I think taking proprietarised GPL service code, and making significant
> enhancements under an AGPLv3+ licence, is a Good Thing.  Even if it
> upsets the original authors or the proprietary service operators.

You can also do the reverse: take free GPLv2+ code, make the
conglomerate effectively AGPLv3+, without a built-in source
redistribution facility, and then sell AGPLv3+ exemptions for
organizations who cannot comply with the AGPLv3+ requirements due to
the lack of built-in source code redistribution capabilities and a
requirement to configure the program through source code changes.