Freedom to use software on restricted devices (was: [linux-elitists] The GPLV3 Position... (and a suggestion to Jon Corbet))

Ben Finney ben@benfinney.id.au
Mon Sep 25 22:00:05 PDT 2006


On 25-Sep-2006, Greg KH wrote:
> [GPL] v3 is forcing the FSF's intrepretation of DRM to try to
> prevent the creation of devices that do not allow anyone to run
> modified versions of the code on it.  Like a Tivo.

They're not trying to prevent the creation of devices, and a copyright
license couldn't do such a thing anyway. Anyone is free to create such
a device. Anyone is free to create software to run on such a device.

If they choose to receive software from other parties, they will
receive such software under a license. If that license is the GPLv3,
they will receive all the freedoms granted by the GPLv3. If they then
redistribute that software -- to run on the above-mentioned device,
for example -- the GPLv3 will require that they allow the recipients
all the freedoms they received under the GPLv3.

This may not be to the liking of those who want to distribute software
they received under GPLv3 freedoms without also granting all the same
freedoms. I fail to see why that should concern us here, though.

> The FSF is restricting the use of GPLv3 software on these systems

No. The GPLv3 restricts what the *re-distributor* can do.

If the party who wants to re-distribute GPLv3 code *chooses* not to do
so because of what the GPLv3 requires, they can make that choice. But
to call that "restricting the use of ... software [by the GPLv3]" is
backwards. The license grants freedom to use the software,
unconditionally; it also grants freedom to redistribute, with
conditions.

If they want to redistribute the software, they will need to allow
their recipients to exercise all the GPLv3 freedoms. If they decide
they don't like those conditions, it's not because the GPLv3 has
restricted them. They were offered more freedom than would be granted
in the absence of a license, and chose to refuse the exercise of that
freedom.

The use of that software on that device by the recipient is *not*
restricted by GPLv3 -- indeed, the GPLv3 works to ensure the recipient
can run the original *and* modified software on the device, so I don't
see how you can claim the GPLv3 is restricting the recipient in their
use of the software on that device.

-- 
 \       "From the moment I picked your book up until I laid it down I |
  `\    was convulsed with laughter. Someday I intend reading it."  -- |
_o__)                                                     Groucho Marx |
Ben Finney <ben@benfinney.id.au>
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