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Re: GPL traitor !

From: Alan Mackenzie
Subject: Re: GPL traitor !
Date: Wed, 13 May 2009 21:45:54 +0000 (UTC)
User-agent: tin/1.6.2-20030910 ("Pabbay") (UNIX) (FreeBSD/4.11-RELEASE (i386))

'Evening, Hyman!

In gnu.misc.discuss Hyman Rosen <> wrote:
> Alan Mackenzie wrote:
>>> It is free from the work of others unless it contains pieces of
>>> the other work copied into it.
>> 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.)

> Copyright law is very careful to disallow itself from being used to
> prevent interoperability of computer programs.

We have been discussing, in the main, a single computer program, the GCC
compiler.  It presents no i14y problems with any other program, since the
format of all its data (for input, see K&R or Stroustrup, or ....., for 
output see the OS documentation of the object/executable format, for
error and incidental messages, read the man page) is openly documented.

> <> - Page 239
>     (f) Reverse Engineering.?
>     (1) Notwithstanding the provisions of sub-section (a)(1)(A),
[ .... ]

Eh?  What's that got to do with anything?  It just means you're free to
crack a program restricted by "technological measures" to discern its
external data formats and interfaces, so that you can build a compatible
program.  That's irrelevant for GPL'd programs, since the source code is
available, and (by definition) GPL3 programs don't contain such
"technological measures".  I suppose you might crack a GPL program as a
technical exercise, training for cracking close source programs, but so

>> (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".

> Why do you persist in conflating copying with independent creation?

I haven't talked about independent creation.  Neither have you, really.
If you create an independent creation it's yours.  You need to understand
what "independent" means.

> If by "extract the guts" you mean copy code, then that causes the new
> work to fall under the copyright of the old. If by "extract the guts"
> you mean understand how the other program works so that you can write
> new code to interoperate with it, I invite you to study the reverse
> engineering section of the law above.

OK, I can see where you're getting confused, now.  That reverse
engineering section specifically applies to reverse engineering,
specifically for creating compatible programs.  It means that Abiword
can crack Microsoft's .doc format so that Abiword can read and write it.
It DOESN'T mean that they can crack MS-Word and plug code for ODF into
it.  And it also only applies in the USA.

>> (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.

> That is fact; courts have found that computer programs are not novels,
> and have no narrative structure to be followed. Only literal copying or
> transformation violates copyrights of computer programs.

Stop being so evasive.  Courts understand that there is a thing "a
program", as contrasted with "173 lbs. of programming" - it is coherent
whole with well defined boundaries separating it from the rest of the
universe, just as a novel is.

>> (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.
> The bolted-on portion is not a derivative work in the sense of copyright
> law, because it is not a significant auctorial transformation of an existing
> work. If it does not contain copied portions of the other work, it does not
> violate the copyright of that work. Copyright is about text.

<sigh>  You're wrong, in the general case.  We've covered this.  A
translation of a novel copies no text from the original, yet is subject
to the copyright license from the original.

> Computer programs do not have themes or characters, and
> interoperability is explicitly protected by the very law you believe
> would prevent it.

You don't seem to understand what i14y means.  It means it can work with
a _different_ program, independent from the first one.  It doesn't mean
creating a hacked version of the first program.

>> taking you seriously at face value

> I am completely serious and intend to be taken at face value.
> I am not trolling, I am describing how you are incorrect.

If you are not trolling, you are confused.

>> 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.

> No. A separate program is a program which is not part of the work
> being copyrighted. It's quite simple.

Well that gave me a good laugh!  But your first sentence is correct.
Just you've got a rather simplistic idea about what "is part of" means:
Extracting a piece of a program into a separate library file doesn't
make it any less a part of that program.

> I write a computer program and distribute it. [ etc. ]

You're [deliberately?] failing to distinguish between writing your own
program and extending somebody else's.  If you do the first, it's yours.
If you do the second, you do it with the permission of the other program's
copyright holder.  Precisely where the line between these two actions
lies isn't always obvious, but the courts will decide if necessary.  If
you think "not copying text" from the program you're extending is
sufficient to release you from its copyright restrictions, then try it
and see what happens to you.

And I agree with you on another thing: there's little more to be
discussed on this theme.

>> 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).

> Anyone can claim anything. When the case is over, we will see what the
> courts say.

We will.  I suspect Apple will prevail, and this is not a good thing,

Alan Mackenzie (Nuremberg, Germany).

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