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Re: What exactly is Derivative ?

On Thu, 25 Mar 1999, Richard Braakman wrote:

> Paul Nathan Puri wrote:
> > However, the author of the GPLed work or the author of the GPL have the
> > right to change the meaning of 'derivative' to suit their own purposes.
> Where does the author get this right?  If my work is not a derivative
> of the GPL'd work, under copyright law, then how can the terms of the
> GPL (including its definition of 'derivative') possibly affect me?  
> Remember, I have not signed any contract with the author.

The author gets this right by virtue of copyright ownership.  The real
property analogy applies.  I can allow you to cross my yard as a short cut
to get to school.  This amounts to a use license.  I can revoke this
license.  There are two legal rights at work:  1) property right, 2) right
to make decisions that effect the property the property, license it, sell
it, whatever.  The licensee (one who received the license) only has rights
according to the license.  The property owner has rights under the
property law (copyright law), and under the law that governs the license
(contract law, some copyright law).
> > I think it would be entirely appropriate for the GPL to have an extensive
> > definitions section.  Otherwise, individual coders can make their own
> > definitions.
> This is a practical matter, and I am not sure if it is a good idea.  The
> NPL tried this, and in my opinion it's become an unreadable mess because
> of it.  The lawyers may like it, but the programmers don't :)
> (Certainly I would have packaged Mozilla for Debian as soon as it came
> out, if I had been able to figure out my responsibilities under the
> NPL.  Now it's an orphaned package.)
> > The holder of the copy of a GPLed app has a contract with the author to do
> > or not to do certain things according the the license.
> Ah, I think this claim could use some explanation.  It's the key point
> for the first paragraph above.  At what point do I become bound to this
> contract?  I don't think that I do, at all, until I try to do something
> with the GPLed app that copyright law does not allow me to.

This question will be governed by the click-box case (I need to find it).
Point and click licenses are enforced because they show that the user has
read and agreed to the terms of the license.  In the case of GPL software,
this does not usually occur.  It's a new issue, and the courts may not be
willing to get rid of the acknowledgment requirement.  But then again they
> The holder of the copyright in the copy owns the right to revoke the
> > license, change the license, 
> Hmm, then what use is the license?  If the copyright holder can change
> it at will (you do mean for _existing_ copies?), then the license is
> meaningless, and no software is free.

Where you agreed to a contract, the licensor cannot change anything.  But
in the case of a use license (similar to the land analogy above) where the
licensee does not formally agree to anything, the terms can change at the
licensor's will so long as he makes reasonable efforts to notify the
licensee.  You are right, no software is free as long as intellectual
property laws exists.  There's no free land right?  Same thing applies
here.  The GPL is intended to assuage the strict imposition of the
property rights.  I'm not sure it is entirely successful.  In the US,
copyright and patent are Article 1 Constitutional rights.

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