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Re: GPL and other licences

From: David Kastrup
Subject: Re: GPL and other licences
Date: Thu, 09 Feb 2006 12:01:56 +0100
User-agent: Gnus/5.11 (Gnus v5.11) Emacs/22.0.50 (gnu/linux)

"Bernd Jendrissek" <> writes:

> In article <> Stefaan A Eeckels
> <> wrote:
>>Actually, as far as I understand it, you would be the only person in
>>trouble. The company might have a pre-release of David's GPLed
>>software, but this does not give you, their employee, the right to copy
>>and distribute it. The fact that the software is licensed to the
>>company under the GPL does not mean that it is licensed to you under
>>the GPL, and hence you would be in the dock for theft (of the CD, and
>>the software).
> The company would be vicariously responsible for the actions of its
> agent, no?

The company could not be made responsible at all, since it has the
_right_ to _give_ the employee the software under the GPL.  The
copyright holder can only sue the employee if the company does not
cover for him.  Why would they not cover for him?  Maybe because there
has been an _understanding_ that the software was not supposed to get
redistributed in its current form, and breaking that understanding
will make it harder for them to get stuff in prerelease state in

The only party that actually _can_ be sued in such circumstances is
the employee.  By the copyright holder to cease distribution (damages
would be hard to estimate, though, since literally the company could
have chosen to pass a copy of the software on), by the company for
misuse of company resources.

> That responsibility would either include liability to David the
> copyright holder, or it would not.
> If liability to David arises, the licence was obviously not an
> unencumbered GPL, since GPL gives the company exactly the rights
> which the employee exercised.

It gives the _company_ the right to pass a copy of the software under
the GPL.  It does not give the employee the right to just grab it.

> Other than that I fail to see how the employee can get into any
> trouble other than insuburdination, which is a matter between
> employer and employee only.

If the company does not back up the employee, he has no license to do
what he chooses with the company copy of the software.  They employee
is not in trouble because of his acts as an agent of his company, but
because of his acts as a private person.  If the company covers for
him and declares him to have been acting as the company's agent when
licensing himself as a private person a copy of his own, there is
nothing the copyright holder can complain about.

> If David doesn't want employees distributing his software before he
> wants it distributed, I'm sure he's smart enough not to distribute
> it under the (unencumbered) GPL in the first place!

David is smart enough not to play license mess.  That's only
aggravating to your business partners.  If one does not believe they
can keep their employees disciplined, just cease business with them.

It is important that copies of the software can be taken to employees'
computers and tested there as well without legal worries.  Business
relationships need a certain amount of common sense in them.

If the other is noncooperative, too bad.  Then you just pick your
partners or your way of dealing with them more careful in future.

David Kastrup, Kriemhildstr. 15, 44793 Bochum

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