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Re: GPL & Possible Derivative Work

On Saturday 18 June 2005 07:18 pm, Glenn Maynard wrote:
> On Sat, Jun 18, 2005 at 06:11:45PM -0700, Sean Kellogg wrote:
> > Shocking as it may sound, I agree with everything Michael has said here.
> > Cleanroom implementation is not a good defense against copyright
> > infringement.  If you want to write code and release it under a license
> > under the GPL, then don't look at the GPL'ed code.  Otherwise you are
> > copying something...  and while its possible that that "something" isn't
> > itself copyrightable material, chances are good that it is AND it really
> > goes against the whole "meaning and intent" of the GPL.
> This seems to boil down to "once you've looked at GPL code that does
> something, you're forever banned from writing anything similar to it
> under another license".  I hope I'm not the only one that finds that
> questionable.  And no, it doesn't go against the intent of the GPL;
> the GPL is intended to lock a piece of software into itself, not whole
> programmers.
> I've seen a whole lot of GPL'd code.  It's awfully hard to make money
> writing GPL'd code.  Should I be looking for a new career?

Look at all the GPL'ed code you want...  but if you intend to look at code, 
attempt to cleanroom the code YOURSELF, and then re-implement it, as the 
original poster suggested, then I think you've got a problem.

But it raises a unique problem from a legal test perspective.  Non-literal 
infringement generally requires two things A) similarity, B) access.  In the 
case of proprietary code, B is often missing...  but how does the test work 
in a FOSS setting where everyone has access?  Is the only legal issue 
similarity, or does the public availability alter the analysis?  


Sean Kellogg
2nd Year - University of Washington School of Law
GPSS Senator - Student Bar Association
Editor-at-Large - National ACS Blog [http://www.acsblog.org]
c: 206.498.8207    e: skellogg@u.washington.edu
w: http://probonogeek.blogspot.com

So, let go
 ...Jump in
  ...Oh well, what you waiting for?
   ...it's all right
    ...'Cause there's beauty in the breakdown

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