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SubjectRe: Is the BitKeeper network protocol documented?
On Mon, 20 Jan 2003 11:31:53 -0800 (PST), David Lang wrote:

>so are you saying it's illegal for an opensource project to use a
>commercial version control system, or that use of such a version
>system by a GPL project forces the company to GPL their version
>control system?

I don't understand how I can be clearer than I've already been. The
GPL requires you to do some things if you want to distribute
binaries. One of those things is to distribute the source code in the
"preferred form" for modifying it. Thus, if you don't have the source
code in its preferred form for making modifications, you can't
distribute binaries.

This then brings up two more complicated issues.

First, what is the preferred form of a work for making modifications
to it? Here, I argue that if a project is based around a version
control system, then checking out the source code removes vital
metainformation and does not produce the preferred form. The loss of
the check in explanations and change history makes modifications more

Second, is distributing useless source is equivalent to distributing
no source at all? Here, I argue that distributing the source in the
preferred form for making modifications to it but such that it cannot
be actually modified without agreeing to a license other than the
GPL, does not meet the GPL's requirements for source distribution.

That's what I'm saying. You can draw whatever conclusions based upon
my arguments that you like. But those are the two arguments I'm
making and I've already posted the justifications for them.

My motive in making these arguments is quite simple. If Congress had
to comply with all of its laws, it'd probably make better laws. So if
the people who choose to apply the GPL to their projects are more
inconveniences by its quirky bits, perhaps they'll choose better
licenses in the future.

I submit that it is impossible to comply with the GPL and distribute
binaries if the preferred form of a work for the purposes of making
modifications to it is in a proprietary file format. This is
tantamount to encrypting the source.


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