License option

Michael Crawford mdcrawford at
Wed Jan 13 17:58:54 PST 2010

Ever since the GPL version 3 was released, a whole bunch of projects
altered their license notices to specifically require GPL version 2
and no other.

There is a huge problem, because one cannot include GPLv2 and GPLv3
code in the same binary.  The two GPL versions are *completely*
incompatible with each other.  GPLv2+ code is compatible with GPLv3,
because one can then exercise the option to use the later version.
GPLv2 code - without the plus - does not permit one that option.

The GPL is not just one license; in reality we have four licenses
whose terms and compatibilities are quite significantly different from
each other:

GPL version 2
GPL version 2 or any later version
GPL version 3
GPL version 3 or any later version

It is a huge can of worms, and it's just going to get worse because so
many naive and innocent developers don't understand all the legal
ramifications of all the different GPL varieties.

I'm working on a GPL audio application called Ogg Frog.  I haven't
released anything at all yet, but the sources in my private repository
are all very specific that they require GPL version 2 and no other.

It's not so much that I object to GPL version 3 - I understand what it
was meant to accomplish, and I enthusiastically support all those
goals.  The reason that I don't permit GPL version 3 is that I find
the license document utterly beyond my comprehension.

I have asked for advice on numerous forums, including in particular
Debian-Legal, but all the explanations and arguments that result just
make my head spin.  Until I can understand in a deep and fundamental
way what it would mean for my code to have GPL version 3, I simply do
not feel comfortable using it.

Michael David Crawford
mdcrawford at gmail dot com

   GoingWare's Bag of Programming Tricks

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