IBM/SCO/GPL (Was: Re: (L)GPL remarks and FreeGIS licensing)

Alex Hudson home at
Tue Aug 26 17:36:48 UTC 2003

On Tue, 2003-08-26 at 18:02, edA-qa mort-ora-y wrote:
> The GPL is a contract.  Copyright law prohibits individuals from making 
> copies, the GPL effectively offers the right to make copies and more as 
> a benefit of the contract.  If the GPL is not a contract, then it is 
> nothing, and you really can't do anything with GPL'd code.

That's not the standard description, and I don't think it's a point of
view the FSF would subscribe to. The GNU GPL is a license, not a
contract - it permits the free copying, modification and distribution
under certain conditions. If I remember correctly, one of Larry Lessig's
criticisms of the GPL is that it's not a contract: I'm sure the OSI have
an alternative licence they dreamed up that did use contract law as it's
lever (i.e., more like a EULA).

The GPL isn't a covenant between two individuals, therefore isn't a
contract. I'm fairly sure that's the standard/intended thinking.

> SCO did distribute GPL code, as part of their Linux system offerings. 
> It is to be seen if *their* code was part of this offering at the time 
> they offered it (which was still quite recently).

They distributed it, but did not release it. They did not licence it
under the GPL, and the people who released it didn't have rights to
licence it under the GPL (iff SCO are correct ;). It's a copyright
license violation, I'm not sure that automatically means the GPL would
apply though. As far as I'm aware, you cannot force people to relicence
code on the basis of a violation - although I would guess it is a remedy

For example, if a company released a proprietary version of a piece of
GPL'd software, I'm not sure you could force them to GPL that software:
the law would allow you to stop them selling the product, and allow you
to claim damages, but I don't think you can automatically gain access to
the code.



-------------- next part --------------
A non-text attachment was scrubbed...
Name: signature.asc
Type: application/pgp-signature
Size: 189 bytes
Desc: This is a digitally signed message part
URL: <>

More information about the Discussion mailing list