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Re: GPL and other licences

From: Stefaan A Eeckels
Subject: Re: GPL and other licences
Date: Sun, 5 Feb 2006 23:00:11 +0100

On Sun, 05 Feb 2006 21:10:25 +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").
> You are confusing contract vs. copyright license.

I am not. A company is a legal entity that enters into agreements as
itself. Agents of the company are not party to these agreements. It is
not because a work is released under the GPL that you can grab from
whenever you please. 

>    > 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.
> No, not true.  The company cannot dictate the terms of how the
> software can be used, only the copyright holder can.  If the license
> of the software disallow something, the company cannot go and say that
> it is allowed.

Of course they can. The copyright holder most definitely cannot control
how the software is used (unless there is a contract stipulating
such), because copyright law doesn't give such rights - it's the right
to make and distribute copies that is granted to the copyright holder,
not how these copies are used. In the specific case of GPLed software,
the license specifically disclaims control over the use. 

In the case of unmodified GPLed software the case is moot, because it
can be obtained from a large number of sources and has no intrinsic
value. In case of modified software, copyright rests with both the
original author, and the company. In this case, the company can forbid
its employees from distributing the new work, and use it solely for
internal purposes. If they were to release it to third parties (which
specifically excludes agents of the company, whatever the contractual
relationship), then they would have to release it under the GPL. If you
were to copy the new work, you would be infringing on the rights of one
of the copyright holders (who are not obliged to distribute the work).

>    > 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?
> If the license of the design allows me to do this, yes.

Only if the design is licensed to _you_. The license is not an
intrinsic property of the design or software, but a grant of rights
from the copyright holder to _you_. This is were you are confused. The
fact that a design or software is intangible has got nothing to do with
the right to copy, it's whether _you_ have a license to do so. And in
the case of your employer entrusting you with a CD, you do not acquire
a copy, or a license, and hence the provisions of the GPL (or copyright
law in general) do not apply to you. 

>    > 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 popular.
> You are confusing contract law vs. copyright law.

Simply repeating a mantra doesn't make it true, you know. "To have
something in ones hand" is not the same as "being the owner of a legal

>    > 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.
> Not true if the content has a license that allows me to do so.  Once
> again people confuse intangible things with tangible ones.

OK, this again shows where you go wrong. The license is not part of the
content, but an agreement between two parties. This is why the
copyright holder can license the same work under different licenses to
different people. 

>    >  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?
> If he had recived the CDs in a legal way, yes.  If he poked into my
> mail and copied them, and he wasn't allowed to take the CD, of course
> not.  Once again people are making up absurd examples that have no
> relevance to the discussion.

But it _is_ relevant - the postman is not the owner of the CDs he's
delivering (though he has the CDs in his hands), and you as an
employee/agent of the company are not the owner of the CDs with the
GPLed software. Thus, neither you nor the postman can invoke the
license, or have the right to copy the CD.

>    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).
> Since the company gave me a copy of the CD legally, I am legally bound
> by the software licenses that are on the CD, and can only do the
> things that those software licenses dictate me to do.  If they allow
> me to redistribute the software to others, then I am allowed to do so.

Wrong. I tried to explain that the company handed you a CD for specific
purposes, but they did not transfer ownership of said CD. The fact that
the word "to give" can mean a transfer of ownership (I give you this
present) as well as a mere temporary transfer (I gave the parcel to the
postman) does not mean that you can pick and choose the meaning that
suits you. _If_ the company transferred ownership of the CD containing
GPLed software, then yes, you can decide to enter into a license
agreement with the copyright holders when you decide to redistribute
the software. If, on the other hand, they "gave" you the CD so you
could place it in a cupboard, you have absolutely no rights, whatever
the license the company obtained the software under.

> A software license is bound not to the company, but to the user of
> that software.

No, a license is between two parties, which can be either natural or
legal persons. Employees are not bound by the agreements entered into
by their employers, and neither are employers bound by agreements
entered into by their employees in their personal capacity.

If your employer gives you a PC with a copy of Word on it, Microsoft
doesn't grant you a license to use Word, your employer grants you the
right to use one of their copies of Word, something they are entitled
to based on their license agreement with Microsoft. The agreement
between you and your employer is that you will faithfully discharge
your duties to the company (like filing CDs in a cupboard), and that
the employer will pay you the agreed salary at the end of the month.
Merely manipulating your employer's property doesn't give you any
rights to it, even if it happens to contain GPLed software.

Please get rid of the backslash in your name. It looks ridiculous.

Take care,

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

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