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Re: Documentation Freeness (Re: Packages to be removed from hamm)

Dale Scheetz <dwarf@polaris.net> wrote:
> Certainly, if you take my (as yet non-existant) best seller, modify it a
> bit and try to pass it off as either mine or yours, you will find yourself
> explaining to a judge why you thought you had the right to violate my
> copyright. Note, as well, that had you done the same thing without
> modifying any of the text, you would be violating the copyright as well.
> All of the above is predicated on the fact that I have not licensed you to
> do those things. If I have given you explicit license to do so, then you
> are not liable under copyright restrictions.

The GPL (which I believe is the context we're discussing this in) does
neither: it does not grant me the right to pass the underlying software
off as mine. 

I'm curious. Have you presented the GPL to your lawyer friends for
discussion, or are you just talking in conceptual terms?

> We say that if software has no copyright it is totaly non-free because we
> consider that state to be equivalent to a maximal copyright. The lawyers
> suggest that this is not the case; that material without copyright is
> public domain and you can do anything you wish with it.

That used to be the law, before the Berne Convention.  Your lawyer
friend(s) are out of date.

> Consider the problem with ircii: The original author's copyright is still
> distributed with the current code, which implies that it still has effect
> over the author's part of the current code, making it impossible for the
> later copyrighters to provide more liberal distribution rights.

The problem with ircii is ambiguous wording.  So, in court this would
come down to expressed intent.  If I were a lawyer, I'd probably want
to be able to show that we made a good-faith effort to clarify the
ambiguity, and to act within the intent as it has been expressed.

> The problem, from what I know at the moment, is that I might loose control
> of my copyright material if I allow unrestricted modifications to be
> applied to my copyright material. The courts could decide that I have no
> further rights to restrict the use of the code once it has been modified.

Of course, a judge is free to decide anything. But it's also possible
that the court would decide that if most of the code was still the same
that it's still the original work. Also, if the original work is still
under a free license, it's possible to also, for example, compete on

In court, you want to show that your side is reasonable and the other
side is not. For the case of the GPL, it's reasonable to ship GPL'd
source code with other non-GPL'd source code as long as you follw
its license. I'm not sure if other licenses would hold up if someone
replaced parts and shipped the result.


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