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Re: Questions about legal theory behind (L)GPL

On Sat, 15 Jan 2005 21:54:29 -0800 Michael K. Edwards wrote:

> On Sat, 15 Jan 2005 19:27:26 +0100, Francesco Poli [...] wrote:
> > In my understanding "sublicensing" means redistributing under a
> > different license, and that is what a copyleft license is supposed
> > to not allow...
> > If I'm wrong, then someone please explain me what's the meaning of
> > "sublicensing"!
> A designates B as an agent to issue a license to C to use A's
> copyright material.  The terms of that license can be specified in
> advance in the designation of agency.  That's how I (IANAL) read the
> authorization to create derivative works and offer them under the GPL
> terms.

IANAL either, but I disagree.
Section 6. of GPLv2 states, in part:

|   6. Each time you redistribute the Program (or any work based on the
| Program), the recipient automatically receives a license from the
| original licensor to copy, distribute or modify the Program subject to
| these terms and conditions.

Thus, when *you* distribute to *me* a work based on Linux-2.6.10, *I*
automatically receive a license from the *original licensor* (the set of
Linux-2.6.10 copyright holders) for Linux-2.6.10.
In the meanwhile, *I* receive a license from *you* for *your
modifications* to Linux-2.6.10 (I'm of course talking about a case in
which *you* created the derived work, starting from Linux-2.6.10).

I don't think there is any "sublicensing" here.

> > > She has issued a promise not to pursue a copyright infringement
> > > claim(that's what a copyright license is, basically, at least in
> > > the case law I've read).
> > 
> > I'm really surprised by your definition: in my understanding, a
> > copyright license is a permission to perform copyright-restricted
> > operations.
> > 
> [snip]
> > 
> > In general, a "license" is a "permission", not a "promise not to
> > punish forbidden actions"...
> Same difference, legally.
> [...] "a mere waiver of the right to sue" [...]

So you are saying that, when I copy and distribute a GPL'd program, I am
violating the law and staying unpunished.
In other words, I'm doing something illegal and the only reason why I am
feeling safe is that the copyright holder has promised to close his/her

If that were true, the entire concept of free software would be really
in trouble: one of its strengths is that you can /legally/ copy and
distribute it. Because you have permission to do so!
Saying "you don't have permission, but, nevermind!, the copyright holder
won't sue you anyway" doesn't sound good to me.

As I said, copyright law grants the author the exclusive rights to do
and to authorize others to do some operations. Once the author
authorized me to do one operation, I have his/her permission and can do
it legally, no matter what he/she says afterwards.

          Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday.
  Francesco Poli                             GnuPG Key ID = DD6DFCF4
 Key fingerprint = C979 F34B 27CE 5CD8 DC12  31B5 78F4 279B DD6D FCF4

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