GPL and Moral Rights

edA-qa mort-ora-y eda-qa at
Sat Aug 30 13:06:58 UTC 2003

João Miguel Neves wrote:
> The moral rights can not be waived (neither by authorisation nor
> contract), but there are some decisions made by the author that limit

In our friendly litigious society (USA), one can waive these rights, and 
in neighbouring Canada I thought one couldn't, but then the copyright 
act implies one can.

> Such reasoning also applies for the integrity: if the author allowed
> specific modification defending the works integrity doesn't make sense.

A concern I would have is in the event of the author's death, when the 
estate inherits their copyrights.  In theory, the estate could then make 
a moral objection to *any* modification of the work as it devalues the 
contribution of the original author at a time when they can no longer 
guide contributions and derivations.

In a sense, could an estate not argue that the code, at time of death, 
should be maintained as is out of respect, and to honour, the deceased. 
  The argument being that while the person was alive, they intended to 
continually contribute to the project as to build their fame -- if 
modifications which removed his contribution after death, would be an 
afront to the fame/honour that he built.

It's a stretch, but it sounds plausible, and certainly we've seen a lot 
sillier arguments make it through the judicial system (in regardless of 
which country we live).

> author prevent distribution of a derived work whose distribution and
> modification he/she authorised? My first answer would be no, but I
> haven't found such a court case.

My first answer is yes, but my theoretical example (at this time) is 
from the movie/book industry instead.  Author A gives license to Studio 
B to create a screenplay of their work, which is an inspiring novel 
about the pursuit of peace.  In this agreement A allows a creative 
license in order to adapt the book to film.  Then B goes out and 
produces a movie that glorifies war and twists the words of the book so 
that one would believe the author felt peace was only obtainable when 
one side remains.

Has A actually authorized this adaptation of his work?

> That's one of the reasons FSF requires copyright assignements.

But this is where I found it interesting, is that even in the case of 
copyright assignment, the original author retains their moral rights. 
However, now the recipient would have a single license from FSF if 
everybody assigned copyright, but that would not preclude any one of 
those individuals from raising a moral objection (in which case, the 
single license may be worse...?)

(Note: I think you meant to say FSF *requests* copyright assignments, as 
they don't require them for the GPL)

> If he authorised any modification (by using the GPL) I doubt the
> objection would be valid. In the worst case scenario, probably one of
> the other authors would be able to replace the contested contribution.

Referring to my first example, what if a large system was built, and in 
order not to prejudice the author's honor, it was no longer legal to 
remove his contributions?

edA-qa mort-ora-y
Idea Architect

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