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Re: The GPL means what you want it to mean

From: Alan Mackenzie
Subject: Re: The GPL means what you want it to mean
Date: Mon, 6 Apr 2009 14:46:39 +0000 (UTC)
User-agent: tin/1.6.2-20030910 ("Pabbay") (UNIX) (FreeBSD/4.11-RELEASE (i386))

In gnu.misc.discuss Rjack <> wrote:
> Alan Mackenzie wrote:
>> Where do you see the difference, in practice, between software 
>> being in the public domain, and software being licensed under the 
>> GPL, understood as you understand it?

> Code in the public domain doesn't have ownership or other rights
> attached to it. That's a BIG, BIG, difference between code in the
> public domain and code subject to claims of promissory estoppel.
> Claims of promissory estoppel would give a particular litigant rights
> to use the code IF the claim meets the criteria:

> "Certain elements must be established to invoke promissory estoppel. A
> promisor ? one who makes a promise ? makes a gratuitous promise that
> he should reasonably have expected to induce action or forbearance of
> a definite and substantial character on the part of the promisee?one
> to whom a promise has been made. The promisee justifiably relies on
> the promise. A substantial detriment ? that is, an economic loss ?
> ensues to the promisee from action or forbearance. Injustice can be
> avoided only by enforcing the promise."

Well thanks, and all that, but the above is in legalese.  Presumably it
means something to lawyers.  Where's the BIG, BIG, difference, when the
legalese is translated into English?

> For example, if someone uses your licensed code and invests a million
> dollars in developing and improving the code then they shouldn't be
> out a million dollars because the copyright license that *you* offered
> turns out to be legally unenforceable. This principle is implicit in
> the rule of contract interpretation which holds that contracts are
> construed against the offering (drafting) party.

You've asserted, occasionally, that the GPL is unenforceable.  Assuming
for the current purposes that you're right, then your last paragraph
seems pretty much the same as saying that if the code is GPL'd,
he can freely invest a million dollars in a way which violates the GPL,
yet not be subject to any sanctions by the copyright holder.

This is, in effect, the same as GPL code being in the public domain.
Isn't it?

> Sincerely,
> Rjack :)

Alan Mackenzie (Nuremberg, Germany).

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