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Re: GPL and other licences

From: Stefaan A Eeckels
Subject: Re: GPL and other licences
Date: Tue, 14 Feb 2006 08:44:20 +0100

On Tue, 14 Feb 2006 02:10:22 +0100
"Alfred M\. Szmidt" <> wrote:

>    That was not what I asked. You have placed a lot of software (under
>    the GPL and under more restrictive licenses) and on your disk, and
>    for the sake of the argument, your disk needs to be recovered. You
>    give the disk to a repair person, and grant this person access to
>    your disk, ostensibly for the purposes of recovering it. During the
>    recovery, the repair person notices that some directories contain
>    the file COPYING (usually associated with GPLed software), and
>    decides --without asking your permission-- that because the GPL
>    allows copies to be made, that these directories are fair game and
>    copies them for her use. Or maybe keeps a copy of the whole 80GB
>    because it contains a file called COPYING.
> The existance of a COPYING file does not change the copyright status
> of a file.  If you think that it does, then it shows that you have not
> studied copyright law, even basic copyright law.

Indeed. But this is what _you_ say when you maintain that you can copy
software that you believe is under the GPL. I give you, as my employee,
a CD to install on my machines. You look at at, and say "Hey! this is
GPLed software - let me make a copy of it." You do not, and cannot know
that this is GPLed software.
> >   Think about this situation, and then answer the following
> > questions. Please note that I will consider an incomplete or evasive
> > answer as proof that you are clueless.
> Once again you resort to name calling.  The only person who is
> clueless is the person who cannot dicuss something without name
> calling.

I'm not calling you clueless. I said I will consider you clueless if
you skip pertinent questions as you are wont to do. Learn to discern
the basic meaning of words. 

>    * Does a third party with obviously lawful access to your disk,
> but not for the purposes of making personal copies of well-defined
> files, have the right to decide, for themselves, that certain files
> on your disk are GPLed and thus can be freely acquired? 
> This assumes that the person can slap a license over files that do not
> have such a license, which is illegal unless you are the copyright
> holder.

Thanks again for making my point. Obviously, files are not covered by a
license simply because of proximity. Thus, even _if_ the GPL would
allow copies to be made of files you do not own but merely have access
to, you have no way of knowing which files are indeed covered by the
>    * Is the presence of the file COPYING a reliable indicator of the
>    license status of the files on a computer storage device?
> COPYING is a verbatim copy of the license, it has no legal
> significance over what a file is licensed under.

Thanks for making my point. 

>    * How does a third party, without your approval or instructions,
>    determine which files -if any- are covered by the GPL? 
> A copyright notice in the file.  I suggest you read the `How to Apply
> These Terms to Your New Programs' from the GNU GPL is a good place to
> start.

This is how you can inform people about your intentions. It doesn't
mean however that it is mandatory (it is not, because copyright under
the Berne convention is automatic - no need to register or put a mark
on each "page").

>    * How could you prove which files are not covered by the GPL if
> the text of the GPL appears in a directory (are all the files in that
> directory covered? All files in all sub-directories? The whole disk?)
> Only files with proper copyright notices can be protected by
> copyright, if there is no copyright notices: no rights.

No, every work of authorship is automatically covered by copyright
under the Berne Convention. 

>    * Does all GPLed software include a comprehensive and exhaustive
> list of all the files it contains, with suitable hashes so that
> prospective copiers can make sure they only copy genuine GPLed files
> and not a straggler with the same name?
> I have no idea what you mean here.

Because works are copyrighted even when not identified as such (Berne
Convention), there is no way in which someone with mere access to a
medium can determine which files are covered by the GPL. How can they
decide what they may copy?

>    * Are files that do not contain a copyright notice affected by the
>    presence of a file containing the text of the GPL on the same
> medium?
> If the file does not contain a copyright notice, then `no rights' is
> applied.  This is basic copyright law, one would assume that you had
> understood copyright law to participate in this discussion.

OK, you are clueless. Works do not need to be registered, nor do they
need to carry a copyright notice to be protected by copyright. You put
drivel on paper or in electrons, and presto, they're covered. 

>    * Are files that contain a different copyright notice still covered
>    by the GPL if the text of the GPL is somewhere on the medium?
> If they contain copyright notices, then the license that the copyright
> notice states is what the license of that particular file is.

Of course they could be covered by the GPL if they were under the BSDL
and are now re-licensed under the GPL. Hint: read up on licenses that
are compatible with the GPL.

>    * What happens if the texts of the GPL, BSDL, MPL, Artistic License
>    and the Microsoft and Adobe EULA all appear on the medium.
> Nothing.

Indeed - you cannot derive anything from either the contents of the
files, or the presence of files with words that look like a license.
Thus, you don't have a clue about the license status of files you
happen to have access to, and you cannot decide for yourself what can
be copied. Your idea that you can copy files you "know" to be licensed
under the GPL is not practical. 

>    * Is it a condition of the GPL that all material released under
> the GPL should contain a notice stating that it is covered by the GPL?
> It is a requirement by law to state this, otherwise: no rights.

No, no markings of any kind are required since the Berne Convention.
You're a blast from the past. 

>    * Do the copyright statutes mandate a copyright notice? (Hint: No).
> No, they don't.  But if you have no copyright notice: no rights.  The
> copyright notices states what you can and cannot do, in extention to
> copyright law.  Since the file does not contain a copyright notice,
> then default copyright comes into place, i.e.: no rights.

See above. Copyright is automatic since Berne. Get a clue. 

>    * Can files not under the GPL be copied if they are in a directory
>    that contains a file with the text of the GPL?
> Depends on the license of those paricular files.  A copy of the GPL
> does not change the status of the copyright of a paricular file, the
> copyright notice in the file does this.

Wrong again.

>    * What recourse would you have if certain files were not under the
> GPL, did not contain a copyright notice, and you would like to stop
> the computer repair person from distributing your unpublished love
> letters to Carly Fiorina, written in C++ without exceptions, under
> the GPL?

> SAE said (snipped sentence re-instated):
> > BTW, stating that your computer only contains GPLed software and
> > that you never wrote love letters to Carly is disingenuous. 
> If I love Carly dearly, I wouldn't mind having those letters
> distributed.  I'd hope that Carly would like the letters, and ask me
> on a date.

OK, you're disingenuous. Maybe you're just too stupid to notice, or
maybe you're a troll like Alexander. I will refrain from feeding you.

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

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