[Fedora-legal-list] Providing a copy of the GPL

Ruediger Landmann r.landmann at redhat.com
Fri Mar 18 06:07:57 UTC 2011

Hi all

I'm currently reviewing[0] a package (perl-NTLM) that was originally 
published under a mostly free license but with some unacceptable 
restrictions (not allowed to sell it, must send the developer the diffs 
of any changes).

The packager contacted the developer, and the developer agreed to 
license it under "GPL+ or Artistic". The packager correctly included the 
email with the clarification from the developer in the source RPM per 
Fedora policy.[1]

However, we would now be shipping a copy of GPL-licensed software 
without providing a copy of the GPL, which I understand we can't do 
under section 4 of the GPL.[2]

The packaging guidelines state that we must include a file that contains 
the text of the license "If (and only if) the source package includes 
the text of the license(s) in its own file" and that "the packager 
should contact upstream and encourage them to correct this mistake" if 
such a file is missing from the package.[3]

However, the GPL doesn't seem to require the upstream to include a copy 
of the license in their source -- it only seems to require this of 
people who make copies of the program (section 4 again). The FSF's 
guidelines for use of the GPL don't seem to insist on this either: they 
only say that the developer "should also include a copy of the license 
itself somewhere in the distribution of your program"[4] -- "should", 
not "must".


1. am I right in thinking that because the "Artistic" option doesn't 
specify the clarified version (or version 2.0) of the Artistic license, 
we're compelled to ship under the GPL?
2. assuming that we're shipping under the GPL, am I right in thinking 
that we cannot ship this code without including a copy of the GPL?
3. assuming that we must include a copy of the GPL, can we do so even if 
upstream does not?


[0] https://bugzilla.redhat.com/show_bug.cgi?id=688786
[2] http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-3.0.txt
[3] http://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Packaging/LicensingGuidelines#License_Text
[4] http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-howto.html

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