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Re: Do I have to release the patch for a GPL software under GPL?

From: Merijn de Weerd
Subject: Re: Do I have to release the patch for a GPL software under GPL?
Date: Sun, 14 May 2006 18:03:23 +0200
User-agent: slrn/ (FreeBSD)

On 2006-05-14, Alfred M. Szmidt <> wrote:
>    If I distribute the modifications, then yes. In this example only
>    *instructions* are provided. Saying "crop the photo so you see only
>    the face, then put it in a red frame" is not a derivative work of
>    that photo.
> All of this is irrelevant.  The instructions to crop a photo can be
> applied to millions of photos, your instructions on how to modify the
> program can only be applied to a single program to have a useful
> result.  The instructions are the modifications in this case.  

No, they are instructions and they do not actually *contain* all
or part of the preexisting work. If there is no trace of the
preexisting work, the instructions by definition cannot be a
derivative work.

I could tell you to go to and copy the
text of article 2(b). That instruction is specific to that document
and really has no useful result when applied to other documents.
In my opinion it's absurd to say that that sentence therefore
is a derivative work of the GPL text.

> A patch
> by any means is a set of instructions on how to modify something, and
> a patch is always a deriviate work since well, it is a patch...

A patch as used by patch(1) is virtually always a derivative, I
agree with you there. But not every HOWTO is a patch(1)-patch.

>    That's not the copyright law criterion for a derivative work.  The
>    derivative has to *contain* all or part of the pre-existing work.
> And your list of instructions does contain that.  You simply choose to
> represent the dervivate work in a different form.  

No, an instruction like "copy the text of article 2(b) of the GPL" 
does not _contain_ all or part of the GPL. A patch(1)-style
patch would be more like this:

+ b)  You must cause any work that you distribute or publish, that in
+ whole or in part contains or is derived from the Program or any part
+ thereof, to be licensed as a whole at no charge to all third parties
+ under the terms of this License.

That _does_ contain parts of the GPL. 

> How it is
> represented is not relevant here since your modifications contain
> specifc knowledge of the original work.

A set of instructions on how to modify do not always actually
_contain_ the modifications. The text "dDelete paragraph 3" does 
not contain anything _from_ paragraph 3. 

I'll immediately admit that this is a trick that circumvents 
the intent of the GPL. Judges may frown on tricks, true. But
that does not make instructions the same as patches.

PS: no need to cc me when replying
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