William H. Magill on Mon, 21 Jul 2003 11:05:24 -0400

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Re: [PLUG] Which license?

On Monday, July 21, 2003, at 07:02 AM, Tobias DiPasquale wrote:
On Sun, 2003-07-20 at 18:21, Magnus wrote:
On Sunday, July 20, 2003, at 10:44 AM, Tobias DiPasquale wrote:
The copyright is the real power. With it, you can revoke these rights
at a later date, if you wish.

Nope. Once under the GPL, always under the GPL. You can never recall software & code once you've assigned someone else GPL rights to it.

This statement is patently false. Revoking the GPL license from code has
already been done by several companies (Corel, Caldera to name two) in
certain circumstances. Once again I note that if you own the copyright
you can do anything you please within the IP laws of your jurisdiction.

I think this last phrase sums it all up... "within the IP laws of your jurisdiction."

What this means is -- if no one contests your actions in a court of law, then you can do whatever you please. Implications of anything else are just window dressing. (Note that "getting caught" has no meaning, as this is a civil action, and no criminal laws are involved. And the vaunted "court of public opinion" has surprisingly little clout, and an even shorter memory.)

The idea that you can have the same thing with two DIFFERENT copyrights is one which fails to hold up in court, time after time. Different licenses for the same thing are clearly a different thing, which DOES hold up in court. Note that the "oldest" copyright wins -- provided that it can be established that it really IS older... which is difficult to do with an electronic copy (too easily modified), now that it is no longer necessary to file a hard copy with anybody to establish a copyright. Although, one supposes that an SCS, RCS or CVS log file would in fact work. Don't know.

The "fact" that Corel and Caldera have revoked the GPL is interesting. One wonders if their actions have in fact been litigated, or if it is simply the case that nobody but them cares enough to bother. People may yell and scream, but if they don't litigate, it's just yelling and screaming. (Not to mention the fact that it costs big bucks and no little amount of time to litigate.)

Similarly, knowing the *nix side of Compaq, the fact that Sistina wanted money for something which they claimed Copyright to would be enough to scare Q away from contesting the claim -- Copmpaq has always been concerned about the "contamination" theory of the GPL. Q made some big bucks licensing and selling various aspects of Intellectual Property (like the coming Intel IA64 - with Alpha inside).

Of course, a lot of these claims, like SCO's suit against IBM, are simply aimed at "out of court settlements." The suing party is desperate and has nothing to loose. The party being sued wants to limit its costs (especially when there are no assets on the other side) so it offers to settle "out of court." A deal is cut and no legal precedence determined or set.

The idea that some companies have managed to exploit the Letter of the GPL without supporting the Intent just shows how little regard the GPL has in legal circles (and apparently also in the general computing community.)

We need a return to the Bardic tradition of Ridicule!

Sigh, All of which supports my earlier comment -- the only license which has any meaning is the one YOUR lawyer will defend.

T.T.F.N. William H. Magill # Beige G3 - Rev A motherboard - 768 Meg # Flat-panel iMac (2.1) 800MHz - Super Drive - 768 Meg # PWS433a [Alpha 21164 Rev 7.2 (EV56)- 64 Meg]- Tru64 5.1a magill@mcgillsociety.org magill@acm.org magill@mac.com

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