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Re: IBM's interpretation of the GNU GPL contract

From: David Kastrup
Subject: Re: IBM's interpretation of the GNU GPL contract
Date: Thu, 23 Nov 2006 20:08:06 +0100
User-agent: Gnus/5.11 (Gnus v5.11) Emacs/22.0.91 (gnu/linux)

rjack <> writes:

> IBM submits on p23:
> "Section 2 grants a licensee such as SCO the right to create and
> distribute derivative works . . . –-- provided that the derived work
> “as a whole” (which in this case included the Linux Kernel) must be
> licensed as a whole at no charge to all third parties under the terms
> of this License.(Ex. 128 § 2(b) . . .)"
> In other words one of the *original* license (contract) terms is to
> *again* license (contract) with “all third parties” under the terms of
> the GPL license (contract).
> This is a contract between SCO and IBM agreeing to again license the
> created derivative work among SCO, IBM and “all third parties” (who
> choose to accept the GPL offer).
> Unfortunately (for the GPL) one “essential term” of any contract is
> the specific identity of the contracting parties. “All third parties”
> describes a potentially infinite number of unagreed upon parties.
> Any accepting “third party” must also agree to license his [as yet]
> unagreed upon “modifications” (which serves as an “essential term” of
> consideration from the potential offeree).
> So now we have an original contractual obligation to form a second
> contract with unspecified parties for an unspecified consideration.
> "—[A] contract to make a contract is enforceable only where all
> material terms have been agreed upon. 1 Corbin, Contracts, § 2.8, at
> 131, 133-34 (Perillo ed. 1993)." Prisma Zona Exploratoria de Puerto
> Rico, Inc. v. Calderón, 310 F.3d 1 (1st Cir. 2002).
> "Under Michigan law, "[t]o be enforceable, a contract to enter into
> a future contract must specify all its material and essential terms and
> leave none to be agreed upon as the result of future negotiations."
> Socony-Vacuum Oil Co., Inc. v. Waldo, 286 N.W. 630, 632 (Mich. 1939)”
>  "‘If the document or contract that the parties agree to make is to
> contain any material term that is not already agreed on, no contract
> has yet been made; and the so called "contract to make a contract" is
> not a contract at all.’" Hansen v. Catsman, 123 N.W.2d 265, 266
> (Mich. 1963).
> “To constitute a valid contract, the parties must assent to the same
> thing in the same sense, and their minds must meet as to all the
> terms. If any portion of the proposed terms is not settled, or no mode
> agreed on by which they may be settled, there is no agreement. Gregory
> v. Perdue, Inc., 47 N.C. App. 655, 657, 267 S.E.2d 584, 586
> (1980). . . A "'contract to make a contract'" is not an enforceable
> agreement. Northington v. Michelotti, 121 N.C. App. 180, 184, 464
> S.E.2d 711, 714 (1995)(quoting 1 Joseph M. Perillo, Corbin on
> Contracts, §2.8(a)(revised edition 1993))." Wilkerson v. Carriage Park
> Development Corp., 130  NC App 475 (08/04/1998 97-1387)

All of this is correct: there is no contractual obligation unless the
licensee agrees to make use of the license offered to him.  He can, at
his whim, decide whether he wants to make use of the license.  When he
does, he enters into contractual obligations.

David Kastrup, Kriemhildstr. 15, 44793 Bochum

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