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Re: GPL and other licences

From: Stefaan A Eeckels
Subject: Re: GPL and other licences
Date: Sun, 5 Feb 2006 18:05:02 +0100

On Sun, 05 Feb 2006 12:12:30 +0100
"Alfred M\. Szmidt" <> wrote:

> The workers are also the licensees.

They are not. The company has signed the license. The employees did not
sign anything, and hence aren't licensees. For the purposes of the law,
a company is a separate entity (a "legal person" as opposed to a
"natural person").

> Since copyright does not apply to _me_ I can go and install anything I
> want on the companies machines.

You can only install that what the company allows you to install. Most
companies do not allow employees to install anything on company
computers, or to connect anything to the company network, etc. After
all, it is the company's property, and it can decide what can, and
cannot, be done with its property. And by the way, when I say that "a
company decides", it is a shorthand for "the CEO/Board of Directors or
whatever entity or person nominated in the company statutes decides". 

> Now you are contradicting your self, either a company worker is
> partially responsible for something, or he/she isn't.  You have
> claimed several times now that the company worker is not bound by
> anything.

He has said no such thing. He has said that workers, as agents of a
company, are bound to act as instructed by the company, and do not act
in their personal capacity. In other words, Joe Bloggs who uses
software as an agent of the company has not received it (acquired
ownership) as Joe Bloggs, and can only do with this software what his
company allows him to do.

> Property != Software!  Why are you confusing the two?  I'm not talking
> about property, we agree on that.  If the company lends me a car, then
> it isn't my car.  Simple as that.  Why are you insisting on this?

And if the company gives you its software to perform your duties, it
isn't your software, simple as that. You have only the right to use the
software as instructed by the company, like you have only the right to
use the company car as instructed by the company.

> You also seem to not grasp anything that we are discussing, it is the
> _software_ located _ON_ the CD, not the CD itself.  Stop insisting
> that it is otherwise.

But you have no rights to that software. The rights are with the
company, and the fact that is software has nothing to do with it.
If the company gives you a design of one of its products on CD, does
that give you the right (because the design is intangible) to "copy"
that design? The essence of Intellectual Property is that intangibles
like designs, novels, images and software are deemed to be the property
of the creator, and hence your having access to this IP on a tangible
medium such as a book, CD, videotape etc. doesn't mean that you can
copy it, unless _you_ have received authority to do so from the
copyright holder. And you, as an employee of the company, have never
received such authority. Clearer now?

> If I have the software in my hand it is _I_ who am the licensee.  Not
> the company.  You cannot buy a license for a company, you can buy a
> license for N number of people.

You are mistaken. A company is a legal person that can and does enter
into contracts. If this weren't the case, creditors could sue the
individual employees when a company doesn't pay. This would not be

> I cannot do anything with the physical copy yes, if I make a copy of
> the software located on the physical copy, no, then I'm bound by the
> license of the software.

You cannot do anything with a physical copy that is not your property,
including making copies of its content.

> You cannot redictate the terms that a copyright holder put on
> something.  It doesn't matter if it is `internal use' or not.  If you
> give me as a company employee a CD with software on it, and that
> software allows me to use, modify, distribute, and study it, then I
> can do those things. 

You misunderstand the meaning of "give". The company has not ceded
ownership to you, it has handed you a CD with, for example, the
instruction to install the software on a company PC. Even though the
word "give" is used, it doesn't mean the same as when I give (i.e.
transfer ownership of) a CD to you. The fact that you hold the CD in
your hands doesn't matter. 

>  I cannot go and give away the _CD_ unless I have
> permission from the company, but I can redistribute the software that
> is stored on that CD if the copyright holder gave me such permission.
> The company cannot ever redictate the terms of the copyright holder,
> period.

You are confused. Would you claim that the postman has the right to
make copies of CDs he's delivering because the content is GPLed? Of
course not. The postman doesn't own the copy, and hence it doesn't
matter what the license of the contents of the CD is. Similarly, if you
steal a copy of a CD with GPLed software, you cannot invoke the terms
of license of the contents, as you are not the legal owner of the copy.

For the license to apply you _must_ be the legal owner of the physical
copy, which you are _not_ when you are handed the CD as employee of the
company (or when you're the postman).

Take care

As complexity rises, precise statements lose meaning,
and meaningful statements lose precision. -- Lotfi Zadeh 

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