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Re: LGPL module linked with a GPL lib

On 8/3/05, Raul Miller <moth.debian@gmail.com> wrote:
> There's probably a lesson in here somewhere.
> "information" is also a term used to describe how people
> communicate.

Indeed, among other things; and it is a term sufficiently broad and
vague as to have very little utility in law.

> You try to draw a distinction between "ideas" and "information".
> And, indeed, they are spelled differently -- they have different
> physical representations.  And yet, both of these terms refer
> to the same underlying concept, in this context.

And yet, the law does distinguish quite successfully between "ideas"
and "expression"; and disputes about that borderline rarely get as far
as an appeals court, usually when someone is deliberately pushing that
border for economic gain at another's expense.

> If we can't even manage this issue in the context of a single
> paragraph, what hope do we have of codifying protection
> for newly thought up instances of this issue, in law?

That would be the reason that the integrity and competence of judges
matters.  Your Pyrrhonist (I just learned that nifty word) jump from
imperfect certainty to quietism does not persuade me.

> Answer: codification is easy -- it's easy to put words down on
> paper and call them law -- but it's unlikely that this codification
> will ever be meaningful in a general context.
> Thus, no one really wants to take copyright issues to court,
> because fundamentally the laws don't make sense.  When
> taken at face value, the concepts are simple enough, but
> the protected works are not real property.  As you point out,
> they're not even chattels.

If you think no one takes copyright issues to court, then you have a
very different perspective on the literature than I do.  Copyright law
mostly makes sense to me, and I rarely feel that I would have decided
a recent appellate case differently (though I favor Corey Rusk over
Rano and am not that fond of Eldred v. Ashcroft).  I do not think this
can be attributed to a tendency on my part to accept authority.  :-)

> (Though I challenge you to show me any cases of real
> property which does not stake out a physical chunk
> of the planet.  (I'm aware that you can, at least in some
> cases, move dirt from one location to another, without
> changing the legal definition of the property boundaries.
> But my point is: you can determine those property boundaries
> because of physical properties of matter, such as the fact
> that mass is conserved, which do not apply in the realm of
> intellectual property.))

You certainly have a point that the boundaries of a copyright (or
patent or trademark) holder's rights are imperfectly defined; but if
you have ever owned rural property you may be aware that the same is
often true of land, although survey-grade (centimeter-accurate) GPS
helps.  :-)  Modern copyright is an imperfect system, but it sure
beats hell out of what preceded it.

> As for xemacs and emacs:  RMS has not accepted xemacs
> code into emacs because the xemacs developers would not,
> or could not, transfer copyright ownership on that code to
> the FSF.

Which has little to do with (US) copyright law, given precedents such
as Aalmuhammed v. Lee; but I probably would have done likewise in his
position.  I have used both within the past couple of months, and each
has its strengths; but if I had the skill and the free time to do so,
I think I would rather contribute to GNU Emacs, and would cheerfully
assign any copyright I might possess in those contributions to the
FSF.  For the contributors to Lucid Emacs and XEmacs to have refused
to do so strikes me as somewhat churlish, and indeed to reflect a
delusional attitude about the value of "intellectual property" as
opposed to customers' and collaborators' trust.

- Michael

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