German software licensing law

Seth Johnson seth.johnson at
Tue Sep 27 15:32:12 UTC 2005

Ciaran O'Riordan wrote:
> Seth Johnson <seth.johnson at> writes:
> > The reason the GPL applies without consent is because copyright
> > "just applies."
> No.  The GPL is a valid grant of rights, even without consent, because it's
> only a grant of rights.

You're veering into copyright = natural rights territory, now . .

> > The GPL asserts authorial rights
> No.  Authors assert authorial rights.


Sure.  The GPL is rights asserted by an author.

> > , most essentially the right to
> > control derivative works.
> This is done by authors.  And to be clear, derivatives aren't controlled,
> only the publication of derivatives are.
> > > and I didn't even say that the GPL "exempt[s] you from [a] right".
> >
> > { For example, the GPL grants you exceptions to copyright law
> > { (copyright law says "you can't copy", the GPL says "you are
> > { exempt from that - so you can copy - IF you also pass on these
> > { freedoms...".
> ...and note that the word "right" is not in the above paragraph.
> The GPL exempts you from restrictions (mostly caused by copyright law), not
> rights.

No.  The GPL is a certain way of asserting rights.  Yep, by an

> > > I don't think I can see your point, or what you're trying to explain.
> > The GPL doesn't require consent because copyright "just applies."
> I disagree that the mechanisms of the application of copyright is the reason
> why the GPL doesn't require consent.

That's the very key to the GPL.

> For example, if copyright only applied when ownership was registered their
> ownership with a government, the GPL still wouldn't require consent from
> anyone.

The beauty of the GPL is that it doesn't assert that the rights
in question are natural or fundamental ones; it simply asserts
the statutory rights that are accorded by the law.

> > The trade in considerations you're describing (I give you
> > exemptions if you pass on freedoms) would require a contract.
> I disagree.  The GPL already does this.  "You're prohibited from copying by
> copyright law, but you can copy (you're exempt from that restriction) if (or
> 'on condition that') you make the source available to recipients."

The GPL is able to stipulate the freedoms and have them apply,
because of its use of the author's statutory right to control
derivative works.

> Obviously this could also be done by using a contract, but I disagree that a
> contract is required.

Well, sure, the GPL manages it.  But your explanation isn't
really the explanation of how the GPL works.


> --
> CiarĂ¡n O'Riordan, ___________________/        Join the Fellowship of FSFE to
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