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Re: GPL and other licences

From: Stefaan A Eeckels
Subject: Re: GPL and other licences
Date: Sun, 12 Feb 2006 14:00:32 +0100

On Sun, 12 Feb 2006 00:11:52 +0000
Graham Murray <> wrote:

> David Kastrup <> writes:
> > Your access is limited to what the owner of the copy allows you to
> > do with it.  The GPL grants rights to the owner of the copy, not to
> > you. Since you have not bought or otherwise acquired ownership of
> > the copy, you don't get the rights associated with its ownership.
> No. The owner of the physical copy does not have the authority to
> permit creation of additional copies or modifications. Only the
> copyright owner has that authority. The copyright owner has, by
> licensing under the GPL, given permission for copies and modifications
> to be made and for the these (possibly modified) copies to be
> distributed subject to certain conditions specified in the GPL. 

Indeed. But please notice that the GPL doesn't oblige you to distribute
copies, it gives you the right to do so if you want to. And instructing
an agent to perform an installation on one of your machines is not
distribution, which is the act of giving ownership of copies to third
parties. If you cede ownership of a copy to your employee, then yes,
you have to do so under the GPL. But there is no transfer of ownership
here, just a sequence of actions to be performed by the employee/agent.

> You do not have to be the owner of the copy in order to exercise the
> rights given in the GPL. 

If you are not the owner of the copy, the license --whatever it might
be-- doesn't enter into it at all. 

> For example you borrow from the library a book which comes with a
> CD containing GPL'd software. Under the terms of the GPL are you not
> entitled to make a copy of that software before returning the book
> and CD to the library? You do not need the library's (owner of the
> physical copy you copied) permission to do so. 

You cannot make a copy of that CD because the Copyright statutes
explicitly forbid making copies, and neither can the library grant you
the (legal) right to make a copy. The library can make lawful copies of
the CD as long as the CD contains the source code because the library
is the lawful owner of the copy. You, on the other hand, are not the
lawful owner, and hence you most definitely cannot make any copy,
whatever the license may be.

Obviously, the simple expedient of asking the library to make a copy
would give you both a lawful copy and the right to make further copies
under the GPL, so to a degree the point is moot. But from the legal
perspective, there is a chasm between your making an unlawful copy, and
the lawful copy made by the library.

Take care,

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

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