The GNU GPL is not an EULA!

2008-02-25

MPlayer’s OS X pkg displays the GNU GPL in the license section of the installer. The installer then requires that I click a button laballed “Agree” in order to continue. This is all fine and normal practice for the EULAs that are attached to software. MPlayer is not the only one that does this, quite a lot of open source software packaged for the Mac does it.

But the GPL is not an EULA!

The GPL is not a license to use the software. I can use the software without agreeing to the GPL. It says so, right there, clause 0: “The act of running the Program is not restricted”. The GPL is a license to distribute the software, if I don’t do any distribution I don’t need the license.

This is an important point about the GPL that is not understood by enough people. The GPL is not like (most) other software licenses, because it does not restrict my use. Unlike a tradition EULA which attempts to prevent me from doing something which I might otherwise be able to do, the GPL only licenses me to do something that I otherwise wouldn’t be able to do, namely distribute it. If I don’t want to distribute the software (and I’m certainly not obliged to), then I don’t need to agree to the GPL.

I think the GPL is very cunning in this regard.

So to summarise: The license section of the OS X packager is for EULAs, and I never want to see the GPL in that section again. Okay?

3 Responses to “The GNU GPL is not an EULA!”

  1. Clive Says:

    Strictly speaking, isn’t it a violation of the GPL to distribute it with the condition that users have to agree with the GPL before they can run the software? (-8

  2. Vilhelm S Says:

    Though note that the GPL also contains a block in menacing all-caps saying that the software comes with NO WARRANTY. You might want to make the user click “accept” for that part.

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