does a free license make software free?

Alex Hudson home at
Tue Oct 16 08:12:29 UTC 2007

On Tue, 2007-10-16 at 12:49 +1000, Ben Finney wrote:
> This specific point doesn't seem to contradict common thinking, 
> though. Why should "Here, *I made this*, you can have a copy and do 
> stuff with it under FOO conditions" bind the person granting that 
> permission to the same conditions? I can't think what common thinking 
> would make that leap of logic.

It wouldn't necessarily bind someone to the same conditions, but there
is effectively an agreement there on the same text.

The "contract" versus "license" thing is mostly disinteresting; it's a
jurisdictional thing, and in many places a license is [part of] a
contract. I don't think the discussion is really about that though; it's
about what effects if any the GPL has on a licensor.

The obvious test case would be if a licensor distributed copies of their
software in binary-only form with a written offer to give the source:
under a strict "permissions only" reading, a licensee cannot enforce

However, I wouldn't be surprised if a licensee could get some kind of
remedy if the licensor doesn't release source, particularly if the
software was sold to them - the GPL would almost certainly then be part
of the contract. 



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