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Re: GPL and other licences

From: Stefaan A Eeckels
Subject: Re: GPL and other licences
Date: Thu, 9 Feb 2006 14:34:35 +0100

On Thu, 9 Feb 2006 09:32:37 +0000 (UTC)
"Bernd Jendrissek" <> wrote:

> Hash: SHA1
> 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?

If the agent acts against the company's explicit instructions, the
company would not be responsible at all. 

Remember that the point Alfred was making is that because the software
is licensed under the GPL, he is allowed to make a copy _even_ if the
CD is not his property and he was acting as an agent of licensee/owner
of the copy. To him, the license is a magical property attached to the
software, and not an agreement between licensor and licensee.

> That responsibility would either include liability to David the
> copyright holder, or it would not.

There are two totally separate issues here. The first one is between
the employee and the employer/licensee. It is obvious that license
agreements entered into by an employer are not automatically applicable
to the employee (and vice versa). Even if not formally instructed not
to distribute software, the employee doesn't get the right to distribute
software obtained by the employer even if the license permits the
employer/licensee to distribute copies (the moment you think of
software not licensed under the GPL this becomes evident). 

The second one is between David (as licensor) and the employer. If the
software was licensed under the GPL, then David cannot stop the
licensee from redistributing it. If he shows pre-releases under another
license, or no license at all, then it is obvious that the terms of the
GPL would not apply. 

But in no case does the employee gain any rights from a license he was
not party to. 


> 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 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!

I think that employees do not have any rights to their employer's
property, whatever the conditions were under which it was acquired. The
same would apply to the files on my computer if you were to borrow it.
None of the software on that machine is a "copy that you rightfully
acquired", and hence you have no right to copy it, whatever its
license. You own no copies, and you have no license. It's as simple as

Take care,

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

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