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Copyrights and GPL (and QT) (was Re: Meaning of `source code')

In article <199711040711.HAA06828@linda.lfix.co.uk> you write:
>I have asked them, but they do not want to distribute the Eiffel code. 
>I think they have dreams of making a parallel commercial distribution.
>Although the GPL gives the right to the ultimate source, it is only
>enforceable by the original author; so that's a dead end, isn't it?

That's the effect, but it's not for those reasons.

[Anti-lawyer blurb: Warning: I am not a lawyer.  All of the following is
        my opinion, and, while I believe it to be correct, it may not be.
        Your country may vary.  Yadda, yadda.]

I've seen quite a lot of people with this kind of misapprehension about
copyright licences.  Copyright licences -do- -not- bind the original
authors (unless those authors have transferred their copyright to
someone else).

Say I create a work.  I own the copyright.  I can licence out that right
to others, but I -cannot- violate it myself.  I own it.  Even if I put a
notice on the work saying "This is Copyright. Nobody may copy this work",
I still have the right to copy and distribute it with impunity.

If I create a work and distribute it under the terms of the GPL, anyone
who does not already have the right to copy it -- i.e., anyone other
than me -- may not copy it unless they abide by the GPL's terms.  If I
don't provide the "complete, machine-readable source code", I am still
perfectly entitled to distribute my work under the GPL, but nobody else
may redistribute it because they would have to break the terms of the GPL.

In other words, I'm only allowing you to redistribute my program if
you include full source code.  You don't have that source code?  Oops!
That means you can't copy the program!

(Hmm.  Thinking about this, it may interact somehow with the law on
Unfair Contracts.  But I don't know much about that...)

I am incapable of violating my own copyright, in the same way as I'm
incapable of stealing my own property.  I could try it, but it wouldn't
be theft.  (However, if I tried to claim for it on my insurance, that
-would- be fraud.)

What I'm saying is: the original author may be the only one able to
enfore a copyright licence, but he could not enforce it against himself
even if he wanted to.

About the issue of GPLed QT-based programs: some people have been talking
about an "implied relaxation" of the GPL for programs originally written
for QT.  I don't believe you can rely on this.  The author may not have
realised he was forbidding any redistribution of his program when he
GPLed it, but then some people try to make their programs "free" by
putting no copyright notice on them at all, and we already know that
that has the same effect.

Sorry to lecture; I just felt I had to clear up this misunderstanding...

--Charles Briscoe-Smith
White pages entry, with PGP key: <URL:http://alethea.ukc.ac.uk/wp?95cpb4>
PGP public keyprint: 74 68 AB 2E 1C 60 22 94  B8 21 2D 01 DE 66 13 E2

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