On Thu, Jan 30, 2020 at 6:20 AM Haelwenn (lanodan) Monnier
<cont...@hacktivis.me> wrote:
> [2020-01-27 12:41:26+0100] Ulrich Mueller:
> > So, the question is, should we allow ebuilds
> > # Distributed under the terms of the GNU General Public License, v2 or later
> > in the repository, or should we even encourage it for new ebuilds?
> >
> > I have somewhat mixed feelings about this. One the one hand, I think
> > that GPL-2+ should generally be preferred because it offers better
> > compatibility. For example, the compatibility clause in CC-BY-SA-4.0
> > won't work with GPL-2.
> Is there another reason for GPL-2+ than just compatibility?
> Because I quite find the "or later" thing to be quite a scary one as
> whatever will come up next as a GPL will become applicable and it feels
> quite weird to me to have a license that can evolve to whatever
> license over time.

Well, there are two sides to this particular issue.

GPL 2+ means that anybody can choose to redistribute the code under
the terms of any version of the GPL that is >=2.  So, if they add
terms to GPL v4 that you really don't like, you can still redistribute
it under the terms of GPL v2-3 if you prefer.

The other side to this is that you can't stop others from
redistributing it under v4.  They could also incorporate it into other
code that is v4+ which you could only redistribute under v4 or
greater.  Of course, the original code can still be redistributed
under v2 - it is just the parts that are comingled with other v4 code
that is at issue.

Really the main threat (IMO) is that the code could be de-copylefted.
They could make GPL v4 a copy of the BSD license, and now anything
that was v2+ is effectively BSD and can be used in non-FOSS software
without issue.  I guess that isn't any worse than the previous case of
it instead being merged into some other v4 variant that you can access
the source for but prefer to avoid because of something else in the
license, except now you might not see the code at all.

The advantage of 2+ is of course flexibility:

For one it reduces license proliferation.  Code that is v2-only is
effectively orphaned with regard to v3, v4, v5, and so on projects in
the future.  GPLv2 is fairly restrictive by design around
compatibility with other licenses and accepting future versions helps
mitigate this insofar as you trust the FSF.

And of course if at some point some fatal flaw is found in the GPL in
a court case, it is possible that a future version could mitigate that
flaw.  Of course, if that flaw lets anybody ignore the copyleft bits
you can't prevent people from using it under the old flawed v2, but at
least you can still use the code in your own v4 or whatever.  Of
course, if the flaw effectively made the v2 code public domain you can
do that anyway, but if the flaw were of a different nature it might
cause problems having code being locked up as v2-only.

> I think I would personally slightly prefer to have it be properly
> dual-licensed GPL-{2,3} or GPL-2 & CC-BY-SA-4.0 instead.

The problem like this is that this is basically just kicking the can
down the road.  It is of course equivalent for the moment, but when
GPLv4 comes along we have to go through this again.  Right now most of
the Gentoo authors are alive and might be willing to explicitly sign
off on a relicense (maybe).  However, maybe in another 10 years when
GPLv4 comes out it is going to be much harder to track everybody down.

On the flip side the fact is that none of us know what the FSF will
look like in 10 years, or 40 years.  There are plenty of large
non-profits today that bear little resemblance to what they looked
like 100 years ago, for good or ill.  The GPL v2 (or v3) are known
quantities that we can debate on in a concrete manner, but unknown
future versions can only be speculated on.

Another solution to this problem is the FLA - which is something we've
talked about but shelved until we've sorted out some of our other
copyright issues which were thorny enough.  Perhaps we could consider
taking that up again.  Without getting into the details it is a bit
like a copyleft-style copyright assignment, which isn't actually an
assignment.  We envisoned it being voluntary and would allow any
contributor to give the Foundation the authority to relicense their
contributions, with a number of restrictions, like the new license
being FOSS.  I'd have to dig up the latest version and take a look at
it again.  Basically instead of trusting the FSF you'd be trusting the
Foundation instead, but there are some limitations on what they'd be
allowed to do, and if they violate those limitations the agreement
would be canceled and the rights would revert back to whatever was on
the original contribution, which would probably be whatever the author
originally wanted.  That said, I'm not sure it really provides a whole
lot more protection over what happens except for the fact that
Foundation members have more say in how the Foundation operations than
the FSF, if only because the number of people allowed to vote are
limited to a relatively small pool Gentoo contributors, at least
compared to the entire FOSS community.


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