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Re: SFLC's GPL court enforcement -- track record

From: Tim Smith
Subject: Re: SFLC's GPL court enforcement -- track record
Date: Wed, 23 Jul 2008 21:22:30 -0700
User-agent: MT-NewsWatcher/3.5.3b2 (Intel Mac OS X)

In article <pyPhk.25095$nD.18107@pd7urf1no>,
 thufir <> wrote:
> To my understanding, the buyer does have the right, under the GPL, to the 
> source.  After, the GPL is targeted, you could say, at buyers to protect 
> copyright owners.
> If no buyer has rights to the source, then that would make the GPL 
> pointless, which, I suppose is your argument?
> >> The manufacturer is distributing binaries, so must make the source
> >> available to its customers.
> > 
> > Yes, but it is not the customer who can enforce this.  The manufacturer
> > has an obligation to the copyright owner to make the source available to
> > his customers.
> That seems backwards in that, for example, the copyright holder might be 
> dead, and lets say has no heirs and no will.

The issue is one of standing.  Only the copyright owner in these 
situations is going to have standing to sue for copyright infringement.  
If someone gives you some GPL software, and doesn't play nice and give 
you the source when you ask, your only recourse is to notify the 
copyright holder.

As far as dead copyright holders go, if there are no heirs and no will, 
ownership of the copyright would be determined the same way it would be 
for any other property of the deceased.  It would probably end up owned 
by some government.  (Note that even though some governments have laws 
that make their works public domain, those do not apply to works of 
others that are given to the government.  E.g., if the government were 
to assign an employee the task of writing a griping novel about forest 
ranger, in order to raise awareness of land management issues, that 
novel would be public domain.  But if you or I were to write such a 
novel, and then give the rights to the government, it would NOT become 
public domain).

I suppose one could imagine a situation where the copyright ends up 
owned by the government of a small country, and some natural disaster 
completely wipes that country off the face of the earth.  Presumably, 
the code would then be public domain.

--Tim Smith

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