William H. Magill on Sun, 20 Jul 2003 15:23:06 -0400

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Re: [PLUG] Which license?

On Sunday, July 20, 2003, at 10:44 AM, Tobias DiPasquale wrote:
On Sat, 2003-07-19 at 21:40, William H. Magill wrote:
My understanding of the GPL is that the author GIVES UP "control" of
the code when they put it under that license -- that is to say, the
author 1) can no longer derive any "private" use of the code (i.e.
extractions/derivations/modifications etc. of that code are also
GPL'd), and 2) has no ability to say who can and who cannot use (or
modify) the code for whatever reason.

The copyright is the real power. With it, you can revoke these rights at
a later date, if you wish.

Interesting. I might even say fascinating...

The idea that code once released as GPL can be removed from GPL
seems to be counter to the purpose of the GPL.

The reputation of the GPL is that if you see it, the software is Open for use,
derivation and modification FOREVER.

It also seems to be something that, as they say, would be unenforceable.

I can see it now... a new "legal notices" section in ComputerWorld --

"As of this date, m/d/y, I hereby revoke the GPL on my code, XYZ .
No derivative works of this code are authorized to exist after this date.
Any GPL'd copies of XYZ are hereby deemed null and void.
Anyone using XYZ, deriving works from it or using derived works,
after this date, is expected to pay me royalties in the amount of
$5.00 per use."

Furthermore, the Copyright to the code is owned by the Free Software
Foundation, not the author. Which places the enforcement ability in the
hands of the FSF, not the author.

This is only true if you give it to them. This is not the case with the
Linux kernel, for example. Nor any GPL'd code I ever wrote. From the top
of linux-2.4.20.tar.gz:linux-2.4.20/COPYING:

 "Also note that the GPL below is copyrighted by the Free Software
 Foundation, but the instance of code that it refers to (the Linux
 kernel) is copyrighted by me and others who actually wrote it."

Interesting. Can't say that I ever noticed.

... One of those infamous "one sentence" provisions which changes the
entire set of meanings in the document.

On Saturday, July 19, 2003, at 10:09 PM, Jeff Abrahamson wrote:

From the preamble.

...which is not technically part of the license--see further down where it says "the precise terms and conditions ... follow."

I always assumed that the preamble was like those Insurance documents which
state the true meaning of the document in Layman's terms.

Again, one of those cute legalisms that change the meaning of the entire document.

Which basically translates into -- it doesn't matter what license you as a lay person
decide to use, It's up to YOUR lawyer to define what it really means to you,
because "your lawyer" will be the one who has to fight with "their lawyer."

William H. Magill
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