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Re: Intellectual Property II

From: Alexander Terekhov
Subject: Re: Intellectual Property II
Date: Sat, 04 Feb 2006 18:03:37 +0100

Lee Hollaar wrote:
> In article ? writes:
> >"Licenses are not contracts: the work's user is obliged to remain
> >within the bounds of the license not because she voluntarily promised,
> >but because she doesn't have any right to act at all except as the
> >license permits." [quoting Eben Moglen]
> That might be true IF "she doesn't have any right to act at all except
> as the license permits."  But as I have pointed out here and in my
> comments to the FSF regarding the new GPLv3, that is not the case.
> United States copyright law provides a number of exceptions to the
> exclusive rights of the copyright owner, including "first sale" as
> covered in 17 U.S.C. 109 and the right in 17 U.S.C. 117 of the owner
> of a copy of a computer to reproduce or adapt it if necessary to use
> it.
> The convenient redefinition of things in the GPL reminds me of a
> quote from Abraham Lincoln:
>      How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg?
>      Four.  Calling a tail a leg doesn't make it a leg.
(Professor Eben Moglen Replies)

5) PHB opinions
by Eric Seppanen 

My boss' boss (who is quite sharp technically as well as an attorney) 
thinks that the GPL is stupid because it doesn't read like it was 
written by a lawyer. He doesn't object to the principles and methods 
involved-- he's just disgusted by the unlawyerly writing. He says it 
was written by an amateur, not a lawyer, giving the impression that 
everyone using it is an amateur, and not serious about their work. 
What would you say to that? 


With all due respect to your boss' boss, he may not have appreciated 
the context in which the GPL is drafted. Most distributors of 
copyrighted material use a different copyright license for each 
country in which their work is distributed. That's not feasible for 
the free software movement: we have no control over the international 
path that any given piece of code may take, as it is copied and 
redistributed by its users, and we must therefore do business all 
over the world on a single license. What would seem good lawyerly 
drafting to a lawyer in one country might seem like officious or
loquacious nonsense to a lawyer in another. Moreover, unlike the 
licenses written by the legal departments of proprietary
content companies, our licenses are meant to be read by individual 
programmers, who we hope will choose to use those licenses to 
distribute their own programs. So the GPL is not addressed to 
lawyers in a single legal system, but to developers in every legal 
system around the world. Doing optimal drafting for that rather 
unusual set of needs is plenty serious business, I will say. It 
isn't work for amateurs. Whether we have been successful in 
achieving our intentions can only be judged by the results. 

Got it now? It was written for GNUtians and only GNUtians. And
the only legal system where that license-not-a-contract fiction
is not a fiction is the legal system of the GNU Republic.


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