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Re: software licensing

Daniel Martin at cush <dtm12@jhunix.hcf.jhu.edu> writes:
> Actually, no, the same argument can't be used in this way.  This is
> part of the reason Microsoft puts the "use only on one computer"
> clause in their licenses.  As john@dhh.gt.org pointed out,
> distribution under copyright law implies an effective transfer of
> ownership, not merely copying.  Let's take several other hypothetical
> cases to flesh this out:

Okay, then, can I hand someone else my one backup copy (allowed under
copyright law) of a proprietary program, as long as I make sure not to
"transfer ownership"?  (For the sake of argument, let's assume that
the original is sitting on a shelf somewhere, so it isn't likely to be
in use at the same time as my buddy's borrowed copy.)

Last time I checked, that action would make me a software pirate and
copyright scofflaw, if I didn't also destroy the original copy.  How
can that be, considering that I haven't distributed anything?

> Suppose now that, since it's a really long article, I loan her my
> pilot overnight to do the reading.  Still, I do not need to give her
> the source to z-doc.

Convinced of the obvious superiority of the Pilot, she buys one of her
own.  Before returning yours the next morning, she copies ZDoc from it
so she can continue reading the article at her leisure.

Obviously, this copy of ZDoc is illegitimate.  (It has to be, since it
didn't come with source, and she didn't derive it.)  If I am the
original author of ZDoc (i'm not, by the way :), who do I sue?  I
don't seem to have a cause of action against her, since my code was
GPLed and she is thus allowed to have a copy of it.  Can I sue you,
perhaps for contributory infringement?  If not, then where the hell
have my rights gone?  Or does the original author have any rights at

I'm beginning to think the GPL isn't strong enough.  Strange,
considering that six months ago I was about as anti-GPL as Klaus
Schilling is pro-GPL :-)

Quite seriously, suggestions for an additional clause which can be
added to the GPL to remove this potential loophole are welcome.

> The problem here is that you view the employer as having given the
> employees copies of the program; however, this is not what has
> happened.

Yes, I do.  The last time I talked to a lawyer about something close
to this, my view was confirmed.  Admittedly, I wasn't asking
specifically in reference to the GPL, but the situation wasn't
entirely different, and the claim of "it's not distribution, it's only
being used in-house" was a major issue.

Perhaps I am wrong, but when I use the GPL it is quite precisely to
avoid my code being used in situations like this.  I am not aware of
any actual court rulings on the GPL's applicability in this situation,
so I see no reason to modify my opinion until one is provided.  (And
if my GPLed code is ever involved in a situation like this, I'll
probably be more than willing to seek such a decision myself -- win or
lose, no negotiations or settlements allowed.)

Well, it's obvious that I have a thin skin about this particular
issue... perhaps I am more pissed off about the crap the
aforementioned former employer tried to involve me in than I thought.
As I will never see this situation as acceptable -- if it is legal,
then the law is wrong -- I think this should be my last word on the
subject, because there is no point in arguing about it any more and
this is no longer of any importance to Debian.

Nominating self for debian-devel kook of the month,

Rob Tillotson  N9MTB  <robt@debian.org>

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