GPL3 to close a loophole

September 28, 2005

Many years ago I was a keen user of the Arsdigita Community System. Coming out of MIT, it was licensed under the GPL. This worried me a little:

As I understand it, the GPL states that any work derived from the GPL’ed work also comes under the terms of the GPL. Doesn’t that mean that any customized ACS web site must be available publically? I have also noticed with interest that comparable open source projects seem to be releasing under the LGPL (Library GPL).

The response was a very direct “don’t worry about it”, sensibly trying to shut down any concerns or worries of users and their customers. But, his answer also showed a misunderstanding of the GPL and the general loose care factor at the time about using it:

I’m not a lawyer. I just have an office down the hall from Richard Stallman’s so I used his license… I’m too busy programming the next release to worry too much about legal stuff…

But, under the changes proposed to the GPL3 to “close a loophole” I suspect we’ll have no choice but to worry.

Developers and website administrators have to be very careful about the software licenses they don’t read. The “I’m not a lawyer” argument just won’t hold up in court.