your gnupg patches

Marcus Brinkmann marcus.brinkmann at
Tue Mar 30 16:53:08 CEST 2004

At Tue, 30 Mar 2004 08:15:47 -0500,
Tom St Denis wrote:
> > > Well I'd think that a public release would inherently fall under the GPL
> > >  since the GPL mandates that.
> >
> > Its not about the GPL, see
> Personally I don't believe in the GPL that's why I don't use it myself.  These 
> patches were written ontop of a GPL product, that makes the patches GPL.

This is simply not true.  Everything you write is copyrighted by you,
and by default is not licensed to anyone at all.  This is true in all
countries which have signed the Bern convention (basically all).

What the GPL says is that _if_ you distribute your modified version of
the program, then you are only allowed to do that legally if you
license your changes to the recipient under terms _compatible_ with
the GPL.  This can be of course the GPL itself (it is compatible with
the GPL), but also under the LGPL, revised BSD style (without
advertisement clause), X license (the old one) and under a plethora of
other GPL-compatible licenses.

If you do not do that, then you can not legally distribute the
modified program.

To make your patches GPL, you have to explicitely license them under
the GPL.  How to do this is explained in the GPL document (after the
license terms).  Basically, you a copyright and license statement to
the files you add etc.

The FSF asks for copyright assignments because only then the FSF can
defend the software in front of a court effectively (the FSF can often
defend the software without any court involved.  For example, the FSF
has successfully defended the copyright on the Linux kernel in the
past.  However, it is much harder to do so without copyright
assignments.  In front of the court it is _impossible_ without
copyright assignments, though).  Sometimes, a disclaimer is good
enough.  The FSF is consulted by actual lawyers (and university
professors of law), and we benefit from their advice.

As the maintainer of the software, we have the responsibility to
ensure that the copyright of the whole software as we distribute it is
in order.  Copyright assignments also can help with that, because one
part of the assignment that you sign will say that you assert that you
are the sole copyright owner of the changes.

Nothing requires that everything is licensed under the GPL, nor are
assignments always required.  More or less independent changes
(additional modules, etc), can sometimes be incorporated without
assignments, as they can always be removed without disturbing the rest
of the code.  What is required in which case is purely a matter of
legal requirements and negotiation with the contributor.  However, in
the end the legal requirements decide what can be included and what
can not.


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