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Re: The worst that can happen to GPLed code

From: Lee Hollaar
Subject: Re: The worst that can happen to GPLed code
Date: Fri, 18 Jun 2004 12:14:50 +0000 (UTC)

In article <> Stefaan A Eeckels 
<> writes:
>As far as I understand it, the doctrine of first sale applies
>to the book, not the individual intangible works (like short
>stories) that it contains.  Thus, one cannot (as was suggested
>in the post I replied to), use first sale to justify using
>the intabgible works (as opposed to the book) in the way allowed
>by first sale. In other words, first sale doesn't give one the
>right to extract files from a downloaded tarball, and recombine
>them with other (one's own or other similarly "acquired" files)
>into an "aggregation" without asking the permission of the
>copyright holder.  Am I right here?

In the United States, the "owner of a copy of a computer program"
has an absolute privilege to copy or adapt that computer program
as long as it is "an essential step of the utilization of the
computer program with a machine."  17 USC 117(a).

No permission of the copyright holder is required.  The copyright
owner has only the rights listed in 17 USC 106, and Section 117
starts out by saying "Notwithstanding the provisions of section 106,
it is not an infringement ..."

The GPL does not claim that a person with lawful possession of a
copy of the computer program is not the owner of that tangible
medium, as many proprietary licenses do.  The GPL does not say
that an exact copy made of a work is not lawful.

So, if I lawfully own a copy of a tarball because I was allowed
to download it and write it to media that I own, then I get to
copy and adapt it in any way necessary to use it on a machine,
including extracting a particular function and combine it with
other computer programs.

First sale has nothing to do with the absolute privilege for the
owner of a copy of a computer program to copy and adapt the
computer program as necessary to use it in the way the owner
sees fit.

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