FDL again, was: My concerns about GPLv3 process

Frank Heckenbach frank at g-n-u.de
Mon Feb 13 02:17:15 UTC 2006

Alfred M. Szmidt wrote:

> This is different, netfilter had presumable only a single copyright
> holder (or a few), Harald Welte.  This isn't the case with the whole
> of Linux.  For each infginged part, you would have to figure out who
> the copyright holder is, and ask them to sue.

Why each, and not any? Suing for any infringment should suffice,
AFAICS. (Though, as I said, perhaps for lesser damages etc., so it's
probably good to get as many and substantial contributors as
possible, but I can't see why all would be required.)

If your position is true, then how about the following scenario
(yes, I like to construct scenarios ;-):

- I take some important GPL GNU software project.

- I make some modifications to it (they don't even have to be
  substiantial or very useful).

- I release this modified work on my own (under the GPL which, of
  course, allows me to do that).

- If FSF asks me for a copyright assignment for my modifications, I
  politely refuse, as I don't care whether my modifications get
  included into the main project.

- E. Vil gets my distribution.

- E. Vil violates the GPL severly (making a propietary version, or

- FSF complains to E. Vil, who is unrelenting, so FSF wants to sue

- I don't want to sue, as I don't care much about the modifications
  I made anymore.

- E. Vil claims that as not all of the copyright holders of the work
  he obtained are suing, they cannot sue at all.

  That's obviously an absurd defense. I suppose you agree.

> I spoke about Linux as a whole, not in small parts.

Yes, you talked about "mak[ing] Linux [as a whole] a non-free
program". But since this would violate the license of the whole, it
would also violate the license of each of its parts (some
double-licensed parts perhaps excluded).

> For example you could do something like: take Linux, someone sues, you
> remove the infringing bit, continue distributing a non-free version of
> Linux, and simply wait until someone "sues" again (have any of the
> cases listed on gpl-violations.org gone go court?),

Yes, it's written there on the site (and was discussed here when it
happened AFAIR).

> and only do the
> minimal to comply with the bits you are infringing on.

So, if the one who sues is Linus Torvalds? You'd have to spend quite
some effort to identify and remove hit "bits", and even more
replacing them so you get something working again. And all that only
in order to wait for Alan Cox to sue you next (in which will
probably a rather simple court decision, given that it will be the
same situation applied to the next "few" source lines), etc. And
even in the meantime you probably can't do much with your non-free
version if you don't want to become liable for damages (probably for
intentional violation, at least from the second time). Seems like an
even sillier tactic than SCO's, IMHO. IANAL.


Frank Heckenbach, frank at g-n-u.de
GnuPG and PGP keys: http://fjf.gnu.de/plan (7977168E)

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