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Re: The worst that can happen to GPLed code

From: Stefaan A Eeckels
Subject: Re: The worst that can happen to GPLed code
Date: Wed, 16 Jun 2004 23:54:04 +0200

On Wed, 16 Jun 2004 19:23:22 +0200
Alexander Terekhov <> wrote:

Can't you write a single post without forcing me
to get out of vim and use a browser (especially 
when you're refering to your own prose). Here's
what you wrote, quoted in full:

> I have no problem whatsoever with the obligation to return DERIVATIVE 
> code (read: bug fixes, optimizations, whatever MODIFICATIONS)

The FSF might suffer from a liberal interpretation
of what consitutes a derivative work, but yours is
by far too narrow. Once you go beyond fair use, 
it's a derivative work. That means, for example,
that your integrating one file from another program
in your code makes it a derivative work. 

> back to the community. Even when I do not distribute the derivative
> code. That is "quid pro quo" (one thing in return for another).

A few bug fixes for a complete program? I'm overwhelmed
by your generosity. You're the type that wants to use
other people's work without paying for it, because _you_
don't consider their contribution significant enough. 
That explains your references to readline.

> I do have serious problem with the FSF's "everything in return 
> for something" idiotic interpretation of the GPL that has no legal
> basis under the copyright law.

Sorry to burst your bubble, but that's _exactly_ how
copyright works. If you want to put one of my poems
in your 1000 page compilation, you cannot do that 
without my approval. If I publish it under a license
that allows it to be freely copied but not integrated
in a compilation that contains works by Byron,
then you'll have to choose between Byron and me, 
whatever the size of the poem and its value for
the compilation. 

> Expansive FSF's claims are barred by the doctrine of copyright
> misuse and the doctrine of first sale. If you believe in freedom, 
> defend fair use, first sale, and very narrow scope of derivative 
> work. Stallman is out to destroy freedom.

Chanting mantras isn't going to make things come true. That
applies equally to RMS and to you. His interpretation of what
makes a program a derivative work of a dynamic library is,
IMVHO unlikely to be upheld in court, but guess what - it's that
interpretation that will decide his suing you. In that case, 
the mantra above isn't going to help you. The judge will 
evaluate whether your actions deprive the copyright holders
of their rights. The moment you start making what look like
derivative works, you'll in all likelihood be nailed. 

I fail to see what you try to gain from first sale anyhow.
The GPL gives you the right to make and distribute or sell
verbatim copies. That's about as much as you can hope to
get out of first sale (and no-one cares anyway). The GPL
lays no claim on work that is not a derivative work, but
simply stipulates that you do not get the additional right
to prepare and distribute derivative works (something the
Copyright statutes forbid) unless you accept the license.

It doesn't matter that the FSF, or anyone else, has different
interpretations of what constitutes a derivative work. 
In case of differences of opinion, the only things that matter
1. Are you sufficiently convinced of your position
   to go to court.
2. Is your interpretation not so far off the mark that no
   amount of competent counsel is going to stop a judge
   from dismissing the case out of hand (guess what! your
   interpretation is more likely to be thrown out than
   that of the FSF, as yours seems to be an isolated
   position, and your idea of what constitutes a derivative
   work is decidedly whacky).
3. Can you sustain the cost of litigation (you can't
   get a pro-bono for this type of case).

If you're not able to say yes with confidence to all of
the points above, you'r better off conforming to the stated
wishes of the copyright holder. Don't forget, no-one
forces you to use GPLed code in your projects; you _can_
get off your lazy butt and write it yourself.

Take care (and stop using links to your own posts,
it's bloody annoying).

"What is stated clearly conceives easily."  -- Inspired sales droid

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