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Re: GPL and other licences

From: David Kastrup
Subject: Re: GPL and other licences
Date: Sat, 11 Feb 2006 19:22:37 +0100
User-agent: Gnus/5.11 (Gnus v5.11) Emacs/22.0.50 (gnu/linux)

Graham Murray <> writes:

> Why do you have to be the 'owner' of the copy? Consider, for a
> moment, a different scenario. You borrow from a library a book
> containing a work which has passed into the public domain. Although
> you have not become the 'owner' of the work, you are legally
> entitled (under copyright law) to transcribe the work and create a
> copy. You then become the 'owner' of the copy you created.

That's because the copyright has ceased: the contents of the book are
no longer subject to the protection of copyright law.

> Why is a GPL'd program any different?

Because its copyright has not ceased.

> The copyright owner has, under the terms of the GPL, given
> permission for copies to be made as long as certain conditions are
> met.

This permission is bound to actual copies.

>From the GPL:

  0. [...]  Each licensee is addressed as "you".

This makes explicit that the GPL is valid only for licensees.  You
can't become a licensee without acquiring a physical copy: that's what
copyright covers.

> These conditions do not mention being the legal owner of work which
> is copied,

What about "licensee" don't you understand?

> just that source code must be made available (by one of the 3
> mechanisms stated), that the copy and any derivative works must be
> subject to the same licence, and that no extra conditions be
> added. The preamble of GPL2 states "to make sure the software is
> free for all its USERS" (my emphasis). Is this not saying that it is
> the user of the software, not just the 'owner' of the copy, that has
> the rights outlined in the GPL?

The GPL could state no such thing even if it wanted to.  Its reach is
to the owners of copies.

> So surely, all that is required is legal access to a copy not legal
> ownership of the copy.

The ink manufacturer can't grant people access to my letters, and the
GPL software manufacturer can't grant people access to my software
media.  Once I pass copies on into separate ownership, I can only do
so under the GPL (or the default provisions of copyright law).  But
internal use does not amount to that.

David Kastrup, Kriemhildstr. 15, 44793 Bochum

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