GPL License with clause for Web use?

simo simo.sorce at
Thu Nov 22 16:42:46 UTC 2007

On Thu, 2007-11-22 at 16:17 +0000, Sam Liddicott wrote:
> * simo wrote, On 22/11/07 16:07: 
> > On Thu, 2007-11-22 at 15:24 +0000, Sam Liddicott wrote:
> >   
> > > * simo wrote, On 22/11/07 15:11: 
> > >     
> > > > Ciaran, you fell in Mj Ray's trap with both feet. 
> > > > You are confusing restrictions with requirements.
> > > > 
> > > > GPLv3 added new requirements not new restrictions from my POV.
> > > > Of course any requirements can be spelt as a restriction from the point
> > > > of view of the distributor, but the point of view of the GPL is to
> > > > protect *user*'s freedom not distributors freedom.  
> > > >       
> > > With this meaning of "user" (as it pertains to the point of view of
> > > the GPL) _one_ of the users freedoms is to distribute, or therefore a
> > > distributor is a user in that sense.
> > >     
> > 
> > This is your interpretation which I reject. Even for copyright law use
> > and distribution are 2 different things. When you say *use* in the
> > context of a license you have to use the copyright meaning not the
> > everyday meaning, as every day meaning is broad and general.
> >   
> Funny, I used the philosophical GPL meaning, as you seemed to indicate
> you were:
> "but the point of view of the GPL is to protect *user*'s freedom not
> distributors freedom"
> And lets look at the front page:
> "Free software is a matter of the users' freedom to run, copy,
> distribute, study, change and improve the software. More precisely, it
> refers to four kinds of freedom, for the users of the software"
> You can reject my interpretation and I expect you will also supply an
> explanation of how you are not also rejecting the FSF interpretation

Sorry I don't see the contradiction.

> > > Because of this I don't think we can say "the point of view of the GPL
> > > is to protect non-distributing *users* freedom" because such a
> > > statement contradicts the idea of the freedoms.
> > >     
> > 
> > Users are users, there are no "non-distributing users", or "distributing
> > users".
> >   
> Surely *this* is heresy? Distribution is one of the freedoms the GPL
> guarantees to users.

Again you mix roles.
*Users* are free to distribute, The moment they distribute, they become
*also* distributor. In the role of *distributors*, they have to fulfill
The license is clear, *mere use* does not require you to accept terms.
But if you want to *distribute* things matters change, you *now* have to
fulfill requirements.

> > There are users and distributors. The fact that someone can be in both
> > categories at once, is not relevant.
> > 
> >   
> It is from a GPL philosophical point of view.

Philosophy is not legally binding. And you are confusing what a license
can do with what you wish it could do.

The license can't tell you what is right or wrong, good or bad. The
license sets the rules, humans can attach emotional meaning to the
rules. This doesn't change the legal nature of the rules.
Rules can be drafted (limited by the law) to match as closely as
possible someone believes, but to be effective you have to get on the
legal ground and choose carefully wording getting to the best and
legally valid approximation of what you think is right or wrong.
But the license is not a moral guide, it is a legal text. And as a legal
text it is limited in what it can say and has to make compromises
balancing what you can accept and what you can't to reach your goal.

That said, even on philosophical grounds, I do not see any problem, I
just think that *users* can be charged with much more meaning than what
it should, probably the FSF should disambiguate the same way it try hard
to do it with the word "free", for the benefit of the true believers.
(Which with no doubt at that point will run screaming the FSF is
changing the rules, mixing cards and generally betraying the *true

> > > And so I don't know what you mean by what you said.
> > >     
> > 
> > Cause you should stop mixing common use terms with technical terms.
> > 
> >   
> You were the one who placed the scope on the word user:
> "but the point of view of the GPL is to protect *user*'s freedom not
> distributors freedom"

Exactly. I used user in a specific way, not in a generic way.

> And yet.... if I misunderstood what you meant by user, please explain,
> because in any case as I said it doesn't make any sense however you
> look at it.

Sorry, I can't be more explicit than this, what I know of law is self
taught and just good enough to let me grasp (I hope) basics, not enough
to clearly explain to a layman with adequate words (and English not
being my main language makes that even more difficult).

But you have to understand that a license is a legal document, therefore
you have to read it keeping in mind the legal framework and language.

If you keep thinking about the GPL as something else, well, bad luck, no
wonder you will keep finding it difficult to understand the language and
the requirements, and who is the recipient of such requirements.


More information about the Discussion mailing list