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Re: GPL/LGPL confusion



On Mon, Jul 02, 2001 at 10:20:35PM -0700, Adam J. Richter wrote:
> [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. 

And, in particular, it has the right meaning for what we're trying to talk
about. I'm not following why you don't want to use that word, when it seems
to be clearly the right one for what we're dicussing. It's the GNU General
Public _License_ after all.

> 	However, at least to my knowledge within the US, a "license"
> that it is not a fundamental legal building block, 

A license is a grant of permission. We're talking about grants of
permission, so license is the right word. There's no need to make this
harder than it is.

> such
> as your belief that a work you must have permission to "sublicense" a
> work in order for it to be GPL compatible.

I don't think I've claimed that yet, actually. I'm not sure I will, either.

> >> 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.

It's not a crime to violate a license.

Here: "I hereby give you a license to breathe air, as long as you pay me
$50."

You can choose to not abide by that license (by, eg, breathing without
paying me $50), but that doesn't make it illegal. If we'd made a contract
that only allowed you to breathe if you paid me $50 (there'd need to be
some other consideration for you though for it to be a valid contract),
then if you didn't abide by that contract, you'd have violated the
contract and be liable for damages and such.

> Perhaps if you would make up out some examples that have nothing to do
> with legal issues, that might help clarify you semantic argument.  

Not abiding by something doesn't have any negative connotatons -- you're
not particularly going to get punished. Violating something has the
connotation that you're doing something bad and will be punished, OTOH.

So I'm inclined to think talking about "violating licenses" is likely to
just lead to misconceptions, rather than clearing them up, especially when
a work might be available under multiple licenses.

> >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

Who can sue whom is a matter of local law, and isn't a matter that
particularly interests me, to be honest. The only thing that's really
interesting is if anyone can sue me, or if no one can.

If Alice gives a copy of some program she wrote to Bob, with a license
that lets him sublicense as he wishes (possibly under certain conditions
like retaining her name and copyright statement), and he then sublicenses
that to Carol under the GPL (but abiding by Alice's conditions), and
Carol then uploads to Debian, neither Carol nor Debian can be sued,
as long as they abide by the GPL.

> 	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?

One possibility:

Alice wrote foo.c, licensed under the GNU X11 license.
Bob wrote bar.c, and distributes FooBar.tgz, including foo.c and bar.c,
    and distributes the entire work under the GPL. He doesn't need to obey
    the GPL (he holds the copyright to foo.c) and thus can't violate it,
    so it doesn't matter, so the only possiblity here is if the GNU X11
    copyright is violated. It might be if Bob claims to have sublicensed
    the work, and isn't allowed to. It's not clear to me whether that is
    allowed or not.

A better possibility:

Alice wrote foo.c, licensed under the GNU X11 license.
Bob wrote bar.c, licensed under the GNU GPL.

Carol writes baz.c, and builds /usr/bin/baz by statically linking each of
      foo.o, bar.o, and baz.o. This time, Carol has to abide by both the
      GPL and the "X11" license. The GPL says she "must cause [the work]
      to be licensed as a whole at no charge to all third parties under
      the terms of this license". That doesn't require her to license
      baz.c like that, but it does require her to license /usr/bin/baz
      like that. As this is a derived work based on foo.c, the question
      is, can she do this? If not, she's either doing the same thing as
      Bob did last time and misrepresenting her ability to sublicense
      works based on foo.c and infringing on Alice's copyright, or she's
      not abiding by the terms of the GPL (ie, not licensing the work as
      a whole in the proper way), and thus infringing on Bob's copyright.

> 	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?

No: sublicensing something that's already licensed to the public at large
doesn't revoke the original license.

More particularly: if I give you a copy of a GPLed program, I'm exercising
my rights under the GPL (my license, if you will). But you may've already
received a license to do stuff to that program --- indeed you may have
received more rights than I had in the first place. That you got a copy from
me means *nothing*.

To put it another way, distribution of license, and distribution of
"physical" bits are independent. I can give you a copy of a program
without giving you the same rights to it I have (if I wrote it, or if
I'm allowed to sublicense it), and you can obtain rights to code I've
given you independently of me (I'm I'm not the author, or if I've allowed
others to sublicense it).

> >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"

Why do you think I've ever seen a precise definition of sublicensing?

Alternately, where's your precise definition of sublicensing that you think
it's an impossible thing to do wrt copyright?

> >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.

The FSF could be wrong, of course. It's not impossible.

In particular, AIUI, rms and the FSF believe the last clause from the
OpenSSL license makes that license GPL incompatible. To quote Aaron
Lehmann (giving advice from an unnamed friend) from a few weeks ago on
this list:

] In summary, the clause:
] 
]  * The licence and distribution terms for any publically available version or
]  * derivative of this code cannot be changed.  i.e. this code cannot simply be
]  * copied and put under another distribution licence
]  * [including the GNU Public Licence.]
] 
] ...is a no-op, as copyright law already implicity provides it. This
] clause does not cause much reason for concern.

It seems to me that if this is true (that is, sublicensing, like
modification and distribution, is reserved to the original copyright
holder), then this doesn't say anything more than what's already implied
by, say, the GNU X11 license.

OTOH, the BSD license (/usr/share/common-licenses/BSD) also doesn't
specifically let you derivative works under other terms, but BSD-licensed
software frequently is distributed under other terms, collectively at
least, such as its inclusion in Windows.

If you're not allowed to relicense a work, or a derivative work unless
you get explicit permission, should the FreeBSD project sue Microsoft
just for the heck of it? Could they?

If you aren't allowed to relicense a work, how can you cause a derived
work comprising BSD code to be licensed under any terms other than the
BSD license? Can you do it just by running a compiler/translator over it?
How about writing some of your own code? What if your own code is under
the GPL? What if it includes other code under the GPL? If you can cause
the derived work to be licensed as a whole under the GPL, why can't you
cause the original components to have the same thing done to them?

(Personally, I'm not convinced that the right to sublicense is quite as
reserved as Aaron's friend makes out. That seems the only way to make
sense of this. Well, another way is to consider the BSD's frequent
assertions that you can take BSD code and make it proprietry as an
additional license; and the FSF's webpage as non-authoritive...)

Cheers,
aj

-- 
Anthony Towns <aj@humbug.org.au> <http://azure.humbug.org.au/~aj/>
I don't speak for anyone save myself. GPG signed mail preferred.

``_Any_ increase in interface difficulty, in exchange for a benefit you
  do not understand, cannot perceive, or don't care about, is too much.''
                      -- John S. Novak, III (The Humblest Man on the Net)

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