CPE exception

Florian Weimer fw at deneb.enyo.de
Thu Jun 7 15:46:41 UTC 2007

* Ciaran O'Riordan:

>> I understand that this is intended to give people the freedom to run
>> their local modifcations non-locally, perhaps in some kind of service
>> provider environment.  However, I don't like how it muddies the waters
>> as far as Customer Premises Equipment (CPE; routers, TV set-top boxes,
>> etc.)  is concerned.
> If my set-top box provider gives me some GPLv3'd software on my set-top box,
> I agree that he could claim that me running the software constitutes me
> providing a service for him (since it may be collecting personal info about
> me which he is selling to marketing firms), but I don't think he could argue
> that he gave me the software for the *sole purpose* of "[providing him] with
> facilities for running that software".

I could imagine that the clause might be interpreted as the "sole
purpose as far as activities covered by copyright are concerned".
After all, this is part of a software license, not some contract that
could deal with lots of unrelated things.

If I serve as a hosting provider with the main intention to receive
some kind of service, this would have to be considered unrelated under
this interpretation.

> But if there's an extra word or two that you think would make this clearer,
> please make a comment asap.

Is it really necessary?  Why can't you get rid of the clause entirely?

It's a rather strange beast, essentially saying that you can be forced
to relinquish your rights under the GPL, if only you do it fully and
completely.  Of course, you can't do much about people selling
themselves into slavery, at least without help from the legislator.
But you're certainly sending a conflicting message here, especially in
the light of your aggressive stance on Tivoization.

It's really, really hard to draw the line between someone who
voluntarily signs an NDA to make enhancements to some piece of GPLed
software (or support its operation), and someone who voluntarily
subscribes to a service which provides GPLed software without all the
freedom we usually associate with the GPL.

So, sorry, I haven't got a solution for you.

>> It also makes the GPLv3 incompatible with the prevalent interpretation
>> of the Sleepycat license
> Maybe they are still compatible.  Maybe a GPLv3+Sleepcat codebase
> could be legally distributed (thus they are "licence compatible"),
> but that codebase could not make use of the above service-provider
> exception.

Which would be a further restriction, wouldn't it?

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