GNU GPL and European law

Jan Schaumann jschauma at
Mon Nov 27 22:45:27 UTC 2000

Olivier Berger <oberger at> wrote:
> Jan Schaumann a écrit :
> > 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. 

+------------ GPL ----------------
|  0. This License applies to any program or other work which contains
| a notice placed by the copyright holder saying it may be distributed
| under the terms of this General Public License.  The "Program", below,
| refers to any such program or work, and a "work based on the Program"
| means either the Program or any derivative work under copyright law

I think it's safe to assume that the term "under copyright law" refers
to the US 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.

Ack. However, it is related to copyright in so far as that they often
speak about the "original copyright-holder". I'm sure it's obvious that
the appropriate equivalent in other countries should take the place of
"copyright" in this context, but who know what lawyers could make out of

> So, the absence of copyright notion in the European law systems is not a
> restriction preventing us to use the GPL. 

Certainly not from using the GPL, but it might render the GPL somewhat
more vulnerable in some states, depending on the local copy-right (to
distinguish from the american "copyright") laws.

> > 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.

I always wondered why there is the acronym "IANAL" - this should be
implied; insted there should be an acronym "I_A_AL", but then again it's
not as amusing to some people. Whatever, sorry, I rambling ;-)



Jan Schaumann <>

Homer:	Here's your magazines.  How many of these guys are named Corey?
Lisa:	Eight.  Thanks, Dad.

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