[Top][All Lists]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Re: Automake: use of modified Perl modules & GPL

From: Russ Allbery
Subject: Re: Automake: use of modified Perl modules & GPL
Date: 22 Apr 2001 19:27:31 -0700
User-agent: Gnus/5.0807 (Gnus v5.8.7) XEmacs/21.1 (Channel Islands)

Elaine -HFB- Ashton <address@hidden> writes:
> Russ Allbery address@hidden quoth:

>> I believe that the legal liability of the archive maintainers is
>> precisely the same whether you ask for explicit license statements or
>> not.  I pulled out and objected specifically to your previous statement
>> because it sounded like it was partly based on the widespread but
>> entirely inaccurate belief that filtering submissions by some criteria
>> incurs additional legal liability.

> I believe I raised an issue with a particular module a while back and we
> sought a professional legal opinion on the matter. As far as I am aware,
> the CPAN mirror falls under the 'common carrier' umbrella [
> ].

I would be absolutely shocked if the CPAN mirror fell under the common
carrier umbrella.  I would be very interested to know what legal counsel
told you that.

Common carrier status is, as I understand it, not something that one
automatically picks up just by doing something; it has to be granted and
it's only given to specific industries (see that web page that you cited,
which very explicitly limits the law to mail carriers; telephone providers
have also been granted that status by Congress in law that isn't on that
web site).

This is an area of the law that I've had some personal dealings with,
since I'm a Usenet news administrator.  Usenet news servers have been
pretty well-established to *not* be common carriers, the hopeful thinking
of some providers aside, and given that I think the chances of an ftp site
being declared a common carrier are extremely remote.

If you're currently making decisions based on your believe that CPAN is a
common carrier, I'd recommend that you check that belief with competent
legal counsel.  I'm guessing that if this really became an issue that
needed checking, that somewhere among the broader Perl community someone
would know a who would be willing to give a pro bono opinion or at least

You don't *want* to be a common carrier, since one of the implications of
that as I understand it (certainly for the telephone carriers) would be
that you wouldn't be allowed to deny service to anyone without following a
formal and probably legal procedure.

> I would also think that going through CPAN and making certain everything
> had a license, etc. would increase our liability in these matters.

Yes, I thought that's what you were thinking, which is why I wanted to
address this portion of your message, since that's almost certainly
incorrect from everything that I've heard about this area of the law.  And
this has come up quite frequently in discussions of network abuse.

As I understand it, those CPAN mirror sites in the United States probably
*already* obligated to make a good-faith effort to act on complaints (such
as a DMCA complaint from someone claiming that someone has made available
on CPAN copyrighted material), and refraining from screening submissions
on various criteria isn't going to change that obligation.

(I should note that all of the above is assuming US law, and therefore
only applies to those CPAN sites located inside the United States.  I
don't know enough about the law elsewhere to say anything at all about the
legal status of PAUSE or the other portions of CPAN located outside the
United States.)

> :) Noone likes thinking about licensing since it's not much fun and it's
> really not our bailiwick. A lot of Perl people take the 'same terms as
> Perl' to be rather implicit so, perhaps explaining why this isn't so
> would be productive. Writing code is supposed to be fun, not some droll
> exercise in copyright law.

> Something standard would be good too as getting search.cpan to index
> licenses would be far less painful that way. It's a fine idea, but since
> there is no standard way to do this at the moment, I'd probably have to
> go through much of CPAN manually to double-check for accuracy.

I'm not asking anyone to do that.  :)  That's a lot of work.  Personally,
I think that if either the testers or the upload processing just checked
for a license statement in some standard location (a LICENSE section in
the POD text, a LICENSE file, something like that) and nagged authors that
didn't have such a thing, the problem would decrease in magnitude rather
quickly to the point where after a year or two of module updates, one
could probably easily enumerate the remaining modules without a standard
indication of license and decide whether or not to do anything about that
at that point.

I definitely agree that writing code is supposed to be fun and not an
exercise in legal tedium.  :)  That's one of the reasons why I prefer
simple licenses and boilerplate that can be easily slapped on everything
so that I don't have to think about it.

Russ Allbery (address@hidden)             <>

reply via email to

[Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread]