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

Alex Hudson home at
Wed Aug 27 19:45:09 UTC 2003

On Wed, 2003-08-27 at 18:13, edA-qa mort-ora-y wrote:
> I found a few references indicating that a license is a form of a contract:

This is guidance issued to museums. And it doesn't support your position
very well, apart from the fact the language is rather loose.

> Further government information likes to use the terms "agreement" as 
> well, but in the Contract Law it uses the term "agreement" to define a 
> contract.  At best, the distrinction between a Copyright License and a 
> Contract in Canada is unclear, leaning towards treating the license as a 
> contract.

You'll find that Canadian law isn't unclear, but that there is no such
thing per se. For example, you stated that consideration was a necessary
part of a contract: that's not the case; Quebec's civil code doesn't
require it, although the rest of Canada does. Quebec is influenced by
French law rather than English law, hence the dichotomy. It's not really
correct to talk about Canadian law as a whole, therefore.

That said, I still don't see anything which supports your position,
Canadian or otherwise. You might find it interesting to read Eben
Moglen's discussion of GPL enforcement:	

        "Licenses are not contracts: the work's user is obliged to
        remain within the bounds of the license not because she
        voluntarily promised, but because she doesn't have any right to
        act at all except as the license permits."

(Gratuitous misuse of the neuter pronoun... ;)

> But the GPL is not a one-way grant, because it puts additional onuses on 
> you, should you wish to distribute it. 

That's not the case. It's a limited grant. Copyright doesn't say "You
can give people the right to copy or not; there is no middle way" - you
can cede your rights in any way you please. Yes, it does place
restrictions, but that's just the scope of the grant of license. If
you're outside of that scope, then the license doesn't apply and you
don't have the right to distribute (probably). It's purely one-way.

> > Ah, assignment of copyright is something completely different. In the
> > above, we're not assigning the copyright - we're licensing it. We still
> Sorry, slip of the hands, I meant licensing, not assignment, in many 
> countries you aren't even allowed to assign your copyright (like in 
> Germany -- but don't tell GEMA that, useless bastards).

Influence of continental Europe again ;) 


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