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Re: GPL/LGPL confusion

Anthony Towns <aj@azure.humbug.org.au> writes:

[one dictionary definition deleted]
>A license is a grant of permission from whoever's authorized to grant
>that permission.

	I know "license" is a word in the dictionary.  Websters lists
a variety of definitions, some of which are relevant to the ambiguity
of the term.  In particular, the meaning "a document, plate or tag
evidencing a license granted" is part of the misleading imagery that
suggests that there is something abstract attached to an individual
copy of a work that is "the" license, as opposed to permission from
the copyright owner to the public (in the case of most free software

	However, at least to my knowledge within the US, a "license"
that it is not a fundamental legal building block, but rather a term
that is used to refer to different legal arrangements in different
contexts, and that ambiguity can leads to erroneous conclusions, such
as your belief that a work you must have permission to "sublicense" a
work in order for it to be GPL compatible.

>> 	If you write copyright permissions and call it a "license",

>What else are you meant to call it?

	"Permissions" avoids this image of something that has some
kind of physical attachment.

>(s196 of the Copyright Act for Australia)

	Alright, so in Australia they do use the term "license" in
their copyright law.  That is very interesting.  Thanks.

>> the courts may interpret it as a unilateral grant of permissions
>> related to *your* copyright interests only, and (more likely) they may
>> interpret it the offer phase of the formation of a contract.  Ask
>> yourself this, if somebody violates the "license", what law creates
>> the private right action by which you could sue them to enforce it?!?

>You can't violate a license, you can only not abide by it.

	I don't see such a distinction either in any dialect of
English that I am familiar with or in terms of any legal definition.
Perhaps if you would make up out some examples that have nothing to do
with legal issues, that might help clarify you semantic argument.  On
the other hand, it might not be relevant to the underlying question,
so you might just want to skip it.

>If, in so
>doing, you're abiding by some other license you've been granted on the
>given work, that's all well and good. If you're not, you're breaking
>copyright, and can be sued by the copyright holder, and possibly others
>on the copyright holder's behalf.

	By "breaking", I assume you mean "infringing" (as opposed to
say, "invalidating").  I don't think you're clear on who could so whom
for what in these situations of comingling GPL'ed material and material
covered by say the X11 copyright that the FSF's FAQ links to.

	Let's apply that to the example of the X11 copyright
from the FSF web page, which does not specify a permission to "sublicense."

	1. You put a file covered by that copyright into your GPL'ed
	   work and distribute that resulting derivative work.  Do you
	   claim that is illegal?  If so, whose copyright are you
	   infringing who has not given permission to do this?

	2. Someone then takes that derivative work and then copies the
	   X11-copyrighted code into a X11-compatible but some
	   GPL-incompatible arrangement and distributes the resultant
	   derivative work.  Do you claim that is illegal?  If so,
	   whose copyright are you infringing who has not given
	   permission to do this?

>You might have to go far enough afield to be looking under laws related
>to power of attorney or something to find the legal basis for the ability
>to sublicense.

	"Might?"  Don't you have any recollection of where *you*
learned about the precise definition of "sublicensing" to the point
where you argued that a "sublicensing" provision is absolutely
necessary for a non-GPL'ed copyright work to be GPL compatible?

	It is possible to imagine many different basically consistent
legal systems that could hypothetically exist.  The question is
whether in the legal systems that ACTUALLY EXIST, this sublicensing
provision is necessary for GPL compatability.

>> 	If you visit=20
>> http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/license-list.html#GPLCompatibleLicenses,
>> and look at the list of GPL compatible "licenses", and click on the
>> link labelled "The X11 license", you will notice that the word
>> "sublicense" DOES NOT APPEAR in the X11 license,

>I have no idea why the FSF's site would have a different text for the X11
>license than the Debian pckage or the xfree86 website.

	 That's irrelevant.  The point is the FSF says that these
non-GPL copying conditions that do not specify a permission to
"sublicense" are GPL compatible, contradicting your claim that the
"sublicense" provision is necessary for GPL compatability.  In a
sense, you are arguing not just with me but with FSF and its lawyers.

Adam J. Richter     __     ______________   4880 Stevens Creek Blvd, Suite 104
adam@yggdrasil.com     \ /                  San Jose, California 95129-1034
+1 408 261-6630         | g g d r a s i l   United States of America
fax +1 408 261-6631      "Free Software For The Rest Of Us."

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