German software licensing law

Ciaran O'Riordan ciaran at
Tue Sep 27 14:27:19 UTC 2005

Seth Johnson <seth.johnson at> writes:
> Some licenses are contracts

I think there's a name for licenses that are contracts: "contracts"


> It's not as if the GPL found a magic category of the law


> the GPL does bind people

That doesn't make sense.  The GPL (like all licenses) is passive.  At what
point are the conditions of the GPL interesting?  Only when the person wants
to do something prohibited by law.

The person thinks "oh, I want to give a copy of this software to a friend".
Copyright prohibits this act, so the person checks their license and sees
"you can distribute if you make the source available".

If the person distributes without making the source available, they haven't
followed the license, and they've plainly violated copyright law.  They
don't violate the license, because the license doesn't bind.  They violate
copyright law.

This is explained by Eben Moglen:

In a follow-up mail, Seth Johnson continues:
> To be more particular, the GPL doesn't actually grant you an
> exemption; it stipulates what kinds of derivative works you can
> produce from the work in question.  It asserts a right in a
> certain way; it doesn't, in its formal legal structure, exempt
> you from the right.

All this sounds like juggling words around - and I didn't even say that the
GPL "exempt[s] you from [a] right".

> What you are describing -- "you are exempt
> if you also pass on freedoms" -- would require a contract.

I don't think I can see your point, or what you're trying to explain.

CiarĂ¡n O'Riordan, ___________________/        Join the Fellowship of FSFE to _/ support the campaigns against software
___________________________________/      patents and IPRED2

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