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Re: GPL traitor !

From: Alan Mackenzie
Subject: Re: GPL traitor !
Date: Wed, 13 May 2009 13:00:43 +0000 (UTC)
User-agent: tin/1.6.2-20030910 ("Pabbay") (UNIX) (FreeBSD/4.11-RELEASE (i386))

Hi, Hyman,

In gnu.misc.discuss Hyman Rosen <> wrote:
> David Kastrup wrote:
>> Sure.  But it does not mean that the work is necessarily free from the
>> copyright of others.

> It is free from the work of others unless it contains pieces of
> the other work copied into it.

You've been saying this for several days now, that copyright only
applies to copying the text of an original work into another, and have
been deducing various absurd results from it.

This assertion is false, not in minor detail but manifestly so.  I'm not
talking about things like pictures, films, and recorded music (where
the images and audio are effectively "text").  Counterexamples to your
assertion (translation of a novel to a different language, compilation of
computer source code), have been in this thread, unchallenged, for some
time, yet your arguments have remained blithely oblivious to them.

Copyright covers not only the literal copying of a work, but also its
use, including adaptation.  (If you disagree with that, go and correct
the wikipedia page on copyright, please.)

Given this, most of the propositions you've deduced from this notion are,
let's be polite here, in need of more rigorous substantiation.

Some of the things you've been saying don't even pass the straight-face
test.  Here are some of them:
(i) Anybody may extract the guts of any computer program and combine them
  with his own stuff without regard to the copyright of the original, on
  the pretext of "interoperability".
(ii) That copyright law has no concept of a complete work (such as a novel
  or a computer program); that in considering a putative derived work,
  it ignores the nature, essence and context of the work, taking into
  account only the superficial literal copying of text from the original.
(iii) That when you create a new work based on an existing one, say by
  bolting a new code generator onto an existing compiler, this isn't a
  work "derived from the original", and you do not need permission from
  the compiler's copyright holder.

Now nothing personal here, you've been winding us up, trolling (in the
original sense), and getting a good laugh out of me (and David K, to
some extent).  No hard feelings, I can see the funny side of it too.
But some people, perhaps less bright than they might be, are going to be
taking you seriously at face value, and as a result will spread confusion
around the world, which isn't a good thing.

> Yes. But these have never been applied to computer code. Just the
> opposite, in fact - that an expression is the only possible way to
> represent something is a defense against copyright violation.

In certain specific circumstances, such as the external interfaces to
operating system functions.  For example, if Linux copies the OS
interfaces from Unix, so that it can compete with Unix by offering itself
as an alternative.

> You cannot use copyright to prevent interoperability with separate
> programs.

This is inconsistent with your assertion that copyright law has no notion
of a coherent program.  Without such a notion, the idea of a "separate"
program is meaningless.

The GPL doesn't use copyright in that manner, since it explicitly
disclaims any influence over separate programs.

Note that Apple is currently asserting copyright (of its operating system)
to prevent interoperability with a separate "program" (hardware/software
made and distributed by Psystar).

Alan Mackenzie (Nuremberg, Germany).

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