ILIAS mix of GNU GPL with own terms

Jack jack at
Sun Jun 3 09:09:14 UTC 2001


Disclaimer: Contains legal-philosophical stuff which might be *very*
boring to some people...

On Sat, 2 Jun 2001, Bernhard Reiter kindly wrote:

> On Fri, Jun 01, 2001 at 04:28:33PM +0100, home at wrote:
> > On Fri, Jun 01, 2001 at 05:15:54PM +0200, Bernhard Reiter wrote:
> > > The FSFE wants to see a real GPL for the German law and has started
> > > some activities towards it. Many trying to get competent lawyers
> > > together lawyers in other countries and the FSFs lawyers.
> > > Expect progress to be slow on this topic.
> > 
> > This is quite interesting. Can we expect to see a meta-GPL? 
> We do'nt know yet.
> It has to be carefully discussed with competent lawyers
> and IANAL.

I am afraid I do not think it's a very good idea to fork the GPL, and I
have to say that being a lawyer. Many people might think lawyers are dull
and boring, but some of us  (lawyers) are at least able to appreciate art
when they see it.

The current version of the GPL is a wonderful work of art. I have looked
at it mostly  from the viewpoint of austrian and german law until know,
but also studied the situation in the US. I've read legal analysis of the
GPL from Spain and Italy and talked about it to lawyers I know from both

It seems that the GPL is a legal hack also in the sense that it is
abstract enough to be valid, i.e. enforceable independently from local
law (at least as long as the latter respects some kind of standards which
in the menioned cases seems to be true).

The Austrian Civil Code, the ABGB is from 1812. It is an artwork a a law,
because with its nearly 1500 paragraphs it survived until today with
relatively small changes. Yes, there have been revisions, but the corpus,
the concepts (eg for contracts, damages ownership etc) have remained
unchanged. This is because of an abstractness that still is able to cover
a major number of everyday cases. If you think the fact how many absolutly
braindead laws are made all around the world everywhere (espescially in
the context of telecommunications), you'll have to appreciate a law being
*useful* for nearly 200 years. And the ABGB is not some kind of king's
order which remained forgotten for 600 years and then suddenly came into
use in a single case after all that time. It's what austrian civil lawyers
are living and breathing everyday (the US Constitution seems to be a
similiar example, despite a lot of amandements). 

The GPL is not a law, but a license agreement, a contract and has been
useful for over ten years now. Without anybody having the guts taking it
to court. For a contract, even more for a software license, this is a
*very* long time. The simple beauty of it's abstractness has proven it's
value over that time. For each of us, didn't it?

We shouldn't mess that up.



Georg Jakob
University of Salzburg

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