FW: Ethics of Circumventing OS (ALSO LONG)

Ricardo Gladwell ricardo.gladwell at btinternet.com
Sat Apr 14 19:30:13 UTC 2001

  > Mr. Trachtmans article is not a circumvention of OSS at all! Rather it is
  > a rather nifty workaround for if you can't get code that was *supposed*to
  > be LGPLed in the first place to act (legally) as if it's LGPLed. This at
  > the price of a lot of coding gymnastics.

That's odd, it's clearly entitled "Can CORBA Sidestep Open-Source 
Licensing?". Anyway, even if what you say is true you are still saying is 
that code placed under the GPL (and not the LGPL) you can use it as LGPL'd 
code - against the original intentions of the author(s)! This is what I 
originally claimed the article did - using someone's GPL'd code for 
personal profit without the permission of the author(s). And I quote from 
the article:

"...you might be able to use a CORBA-based programming strategy to
split your program into two parts: one open-source and one

What is more the article makes no mention of the LGPL - if what Mr. 
Trachman says is true you can use CORBA to access GPL code without even the 
licensing restrictions of the LGPL. Again, IANAL so I'm not in a position 
to explicitly say one way or the other, but then neither are you.

Besides, the technical/licensing issues of the article do not concern me
that much: as I originally stated, the tone of the article is of greater
concern. Even you admit it is openly hostile to the open-source community.

  > Interesting. Maybe you might want to contact xs4all.nl or vuurwerk.nl (or
  > the FSFE by the way) and ask them for help in this.

Hmm... I'm well aware of the difference between open-source and the free 
software movement, but thanks all the same.

  > Sure. Originally copyright was instated so that authors wouldn't get
  > ripped off by their publishers. It also makes it possible to write and
  > maintain books, newspapers, magazines, etc etc etc.
  > It also allows the GPL to work.

I'm well aware that copyright, in it's original form, was designed to
protect an individual's creative work. However, the modern copyright laws 
that we all suffer under these days serve to protect big business and not 
the work of individuals. Modern copyright (if you would prefer) is 
hypocritical in the sense that it only really protects a wealthy minority 
of international companies. Just ask any number of small-time inventors who 
have had their ideas copied by large companies and can't afford any legal 

My point here is that we don't *need* the GPL to work. Programmers survived
without a GPL license for many years sharing their code openly in much the
same way that we do now. IMHO, I doubt that it would make much difference
if we didn't simply publish our code without any license other than 'do
what thou wilt'. The incidents of GPL'd code being ripped off are many
(just check the annals of slashdot.org) and those are just the ones that
get picked up on - what about all the ones that go unnoticed?

  > Legally I would be the copyright holder for the software, and I can set
  > any terms for use, distribution etc. that I like (short of taking away
  > someones rights of fair use). I would have set the terms to be equal to
  > the GPL.

Good point, but if the proceeds of GPL'd software do belong to you as an
individual then what about the many, anonymous developers who contribute to 
open-source projects? If you successfully sue another company for copyright 
infringement on your GPL'd code can you then claim that the monetary award 
you receive belongs to you and not the (theoretically many) other authors?

Besides, if I were to sue for copyright infringement on my GPL'd code the 
correct thing to do with the proceeds would be to return them to the FSF, 

  > Well, seeing that this is a rather open-and-shut case of copyright
  > infringement, the author of the GPLed code would probably win pretty
  > easily

My point here is that there is no such thing as an 'open-and-shut' case of
copyright, especially in this period of big business litigation. Are you
seriously telling me that if, say, AOL or Microsoft or used your GPL'd code
you could challenge them in any court of law? I seriously doubt it.

  > Wel ummm, copyleft doesn't have to be upheld in a court of law. Anyone
  > with a little business and legal sense can see that breaching the GPL is a
  > lot like shooting yourself in the foot. This is especially true if a
  > lawyer were to explain it to them slowly.

Really? I would imagine that it makes good business and legal sense to rip 
off GPL code and get away with it. Just think of the man-hours you would 
save writing code. And if you do get found out, all you have to worry about 
is possible legal repurcusions from a few private individuals. For a big 
company, that isn't really much to worry about.

Of course, all this pedantic point-scoring over minutiae is irrelevant - my 
original problem with the article is not it's technical of legal 
correctness but with its ethical correctness which is, by your admision, 
dubious. Mr. Trachtman and Web Techniques remain unapologetic about it. 
What is of more concern is the open display of hostility towards the GPL 
demonstrated by the article in a magazine which often uses open-source 
software in it's articles.


Ricardo Gladwell
9 South Drive, Cheam
Surrey. SM2 7PH
Tel: +044 (020) 8643 2392
Mob: (07779) 841 444

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