The highly interesting busybox license change process rumbles on. For me at least, it is the first time that I saw anyone really try to grapple with the implications of the upcoming GPL version 3 on projects that licensed some or all of their sources under GPL V2 "or later" terms. As I described in my previous post, until now nobody seems to have thought through the ramifications of allowing a distributor to specify the license version he chooses to distribute under, or how he should specify what he has done in a non-conflicting way. There must be a surefire way to use and distribute a GPL 2 "or later" package under GPL 2 rules. For example, so that a recipient cannot try to apply the GPL 3 "give me your crypto keys" rules when the distributor honestly and correctly wants to play only under GPL2 rules. But as I described in the previous post, merely noting that you distribute the sources under specifically GPL2 rules leaves the package you pass on in conflict with itself. The source files in the package are still annotated to allow "modification" under the terms of the GPL 2 "or later". What I proposed on the busybox list here and explained more clearly here was that a very strong way to make it clear how you are distributing would be to modify the GPL terms shown in the source files, ie, to show that you are distributing under GPL2 only as allowed to by the license, removing the "or later" part from the originally GPL2 "or later" sources. This has the advantage that the distribution method is consistently shown throughout the sources, and the action is 'sticky', ie, if you were given those sources under GPL2 only then they remain GPL2 only through further distribution. While the maintainer seemed to like the idea, there was a cognet objection from Glenn L McGrath, who says
In addition to that concern, Clause 1 of GPL2 also seems to not like the idea as I noted in a replyGPLv2 clause 9 states "If the Program specifies a version number of this License which applies to it and "any later version", you have the option of following the terms and conditions either of that version or of any later version published by the Free Software Foundation." I dont see where it implies the right of licensees to remove the "or later" statement. For all i know removing the "or later" clause may be adding a further restriction to the license which isnt allowed according to clause 6.
Well something will have to give. What is needed is some definitive recipe to tell people who wish to distribute GPL2 "or later" projects under specifically GPL2 terms, as the license grants them the right to do so, such that unfair - unfair because they in good faith chose to play under GPL2 rules - GPL3 demands cannot be applied to such distributors. Bruce Perens and the current busybox maintainer ended their argument for now by agreeing to both consult with the Software Freedom Law Center, a place that has found its moment to leap forward with advice I should think. So hopefully instead of IANAL there will shortly be an opinion from someone who IAL and who has a grasp of the confusing niceities of the text for a change.''1. You may copy and distribute verbatim copies of the Program's source code as you receive it, in any medium, provided that you conspicuously and appropriately publish on each copy an appropriate copyright notice and disclaimer of warranty; keep intact all the notices that refer to this License and to the absence of any warranty; and give any other recipients of the Program a copy of this License along with the Program.''