Interesting goings-on over on the Busybox list. Busybox is a single app that masquerades as a large set of common unix tools like ls, a shell and so on. The maintainer is planning to, well, sort of migrate the project to being GPL v2-only. It's a bit complex because there are a variety of copyright notices floating around in there at the moment. He discussed it on the list for some time and although there are some people that want to have GPL2+ (meaning, GPL v2 or any later version at the user's discretion) the proposal seemed to be gaining traction. The issue is significant, because in the current GPL3 drafts there is language that would require any signing keys to be given up with the sources. If you plan to design a device which, for the security of the customer, would reject code, eg, updates, that were not signed by the manufacturer, then the GPL3 would appear to disallow using GPL2+ or GPL3-only licensed code with such a scheme. Linus has already come out against this idea as one of the reasons he will be sticking with GPL v2 for Linux. But of course Linux is just one part of the puzzle, and Linux is fairly unusual in having changed the default language of the GPL v2 license from "version 2 or later" to fix it firmly with v2 only. There is a lot of code out there that may suddenly inherit this "I demand your crypto keys because I am treating your code as licensed under GPL v3" problem simply because they left the default "v2 or later" in there. Bruce Perens, who was in at the start of Busybox but left it many years ago, argued on the busybox mailing list against changing the license to GPL v2-only, but I think he is mistaken. I think GPL v2 "or later" licenses may turn out to be a very ugly can of worms. In any event the result was the maintainer a few hours later announced that busybox was going v2-only. The problems over on busybox are the first sign for me of what may be a major licensing train crash brought on by the thoughtless handing over of the author's licensing terms to Richard Stallman. Great man that he is, that is a lot of power he is channelling right now, he alone, through the FSF, can randomly dictate the licensing terms of a vast body of "GPL v2 or later" code that is currently in use. Under the banner of "increasing freedom", he is in the position to disallow current usage of existing code that is currently used in accordance with the license. For an unlikely but illuminating example, if he decides that the GPL v4 requires the distributor to donate $10 to the FSF, then recipients who decide they will use "GPL v2 or later" code on the GPL v4 terms can force the distributor to do this. And this is on code that is currently used based on the fairly well understood GPL2 terms where there is nothing like that. Now you may scoff at such a wild straw man argument, but I discover over the weekend there are people that believe that the GPL v2 requires you to give up any signing keys you may use on a binary created from it! In a subthread starting here, Rich Felker proposes the idea as fact and I argue against it. Later in the thread Rich insists he will take people to court if they fail to deliver such keys; I bring up Redhat's own signing of GPL'd packages as a case where he should attack according to his principle. He deflects this by saying that since it is possible to install unsigned packages, he will not need to sue Redhat. However, yum by default will not install unsigned packages, and besides you cannot do so without the root password for the box. For many reasons, a user may not have the root password. Does Rich propose that everyone with a box with GPL v2 software on it must be given root access? There has been no reply. Anyway, it is all getting a bit chilling this talk of negating the possibility of actions of users of free software in order to make them free. It's starting to sound a little bit like the start of a tortured logic found in Socialist states, where the workers must build palaces "to be free", grub around in the fields to feed people in offices "to be free". Purely by that innocent sounding "or later" found in the default GPL2, a huge amount of power, proportional to the amount of software with "or later" in the license, has landed on one person, Richard Stallman. Was everyone really aware they had elected a Great Leader, no matter how trustworthy, and that their package was part of a mobilization force under orders from above?