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Re: Bug#523093: undetermined copyright/license violation

In message <[🔎] 20090410081139.GB27332@thorin>, Robert Millan <rmh@aybabtu.com> writes
On Thu, Apr 09, 2009 at 10:27:19PM -0500, Adam Majer wrote:

License and copyright are one and the same.

GPL license relies on copyright law, just like almost any other open
source license there is, be it BSD, Artistic or LGPL. Without copyright,
the license is meaningless. Without license, you have no right to the
source code.

Thanks for the explanation;  but I think what you mean is they're dependant
on each other.  This doesn't imply they're the same thing though.

I think we all agree the "Copyright" lines, whenever they were present, need
to be preserved.  The license bits in general too, but what happens when the
license terms explicitly give you permission to relicense?

I gave this example in another mail (sorry if I sound redundant);  my
understanding is that in "2 or later" terms in a GPLv2+ header the license
version can be updated by recipients of the code, and that keeping the old
license blob around is not a must;  is this correct?  Does section 12 of LGPL
2.1 work the same way?  If not, where's the difference?

I think you're wrong here! The GPL does NOT give you the right to change the terms on which the original author granted use of the code!

What it does give you (if the author uses the "or later" wording) is the right to use a later licence to cover what YOU do. Let us say that I licence something under "Version 2 or later". I have NOT given you the right to relicence my code! What you *can* do is say "I prefer the terms of version 3, the licence grant gives me the right to claim version 3 as my permission to use this code, therefore I will modify/distribute/etc under version 3". It DOES NOT allow you to take away my grant of version 2.

If you then distribute modified code and say "modifications are v3 only" the resulting file becomes distributable under v3 only. It still hasn't taken away my grant of version 2 to my code. THAT is why it is downright offensive to change the licence on minor modifications to someone else's file. Your 5% modification is taking away rights that the author of the other 95% granted. You just DON'T DO THAT in the Free Software world.

So I repeat, minor fixes should never change the licence. If the changes are large enough to warrant a licence change, they should be in a separate file.

And be careful - check your licences. Do they give you the right to *change* the licence on *someone* *elses* *code*. The GPL DOESN'T. The legal result may not matter when mixing licences. But the Free Software world places the SPIRIT of the grant much higher than the letter (okay, the letter has to be correct, but in the Free Software world, abusing the spirit makes enemies!).

Anthony W. Youngman - anthony@thewolery.demon.co.uk

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