GNU GPL and European law

Olivier Berger oberger at
Mon Nov 27 22:11:15 UTC 2000

Jan Schaumann a écrit :
> Just the other day I found out that in Germany, there is no such thing
> as a "Copyright" - the "Copyright" is an american thing. The closest
> thing in Germany would be the "Urheberrecht", IIRC.

Neither in in France ;)

> Now my question is, if there is no equivalent to the US-Copyright, does
> the GNU GPL hold in Europe?

I think that nothing refers in the GPL directly to any precise american
copyright law. Instead, the GPL grants the user some right, and prevents
others to prevent this (in french, in '68 they had a moto : "Il est
interdit d'interdire" ;)... and this has not really anything to do with
copyright, as it is a licence contract that both parts (or I should say
many parts) agree on in using and distributing the software.

So, the absence of copyright notion in the European law systems is not a
restriction preventing us to use the GPL. Many other issues though could
diminish the GPL's efficience here, but it's another question ;)

> Of course, IANAL, so I'd be interested in some responses from people
> with a clue, who are able to explain things in laymens terms.

Hmm... these are only my understandings and I'm no law professionnal,
just a free software user and programmer... so correct me if I'm wrong.

Olivier BERGER - Secrétaire de l'association APRIL 
APRIL ( - Vive python (
Pétition contre les brevets logiciels :

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