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Re: Is this a free license?

Jim Penny <jpenny@universal-fasteners.com> writes:

> On Thu, Dec 12, 2002 at 04:11:45PM -0800, Thomas Bushnell, BSG wrote:
> > Jim Penny <jpenny@debian.org> writes:
> > In the case of qmail, there *is* a rule that prohibits just this, and
> > so it would be a subterfuge to use an installer to achieve something
> > that cannot be achieved directly: a binary that uses qmail source, but
> > also isn't vanilla qmail.
> > 
> qmail prohibits distribution of modified binaries.
> So qmail-src, provided by (not part of) Debian, distributes qmail source,
> and a collection of patches, and a utility to apply the patches and 
> automate compilation.  How is the status quo not "a subterfuge ... to 
> achieve something that cannot be achieved directly"?

Courts care not about the technical details of *how* you copy, but the
fact that you copy.  You cannot copy qmail *at all* if you are making
a modified binary with it.  This means you cannot copy qmail and then
do with it what you want to.

And you cannot go out of your way to help someone else do it, if you
know they would be violating the copyright (that's called contributory

The general rule is to look at the *total result* and see if that
amounts to violating the law.  The law mostly enjoins *results* and
not *means*.

Consider, for example: Whether it's legal for me to drop rocks off my
roof depends intimately on the rest of the circumstances.  It is not
correct to say "you may drop rocks off your roof without fear of
prison", and it is not correct to say "you may not drop rocks off your
roof".  Rather, it depends on the details of the particular

Similarly for copyright infringement.  Looking to the actual copying
step in isolation might tell you that the copying step *in isolation*
is legal, but the very same copying step might be illegal if the
surrounding context changes.


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