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Ask an Attorney About Open Source Licensing

Roblimo posted more than 13 years ago | from the expert-advice-from-the-experts dept.

The Courts 181

I first ran into Daniel B. Ravicher on the Open Source Initiative's license-discuss email list. He's a rarity: a young lawyer actively interested in and sympathetic to Open Source licensing. In fact, he wrote a detailed article on this topic for the Virginia Journal of Law and Technology last year while he was still in law school. Dan is now an associate at Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison LLP, a firm that handles, among other things, business law and intellectual property matters. Who better to ask about Open Source under the law? (The usual attorney disclaimer applies, of course -- that Dan can only answer general law questions, and if you want specific legal advice you must directly engage an attorney yourself.) One question per post, please. Tomorrow we'll forward 10 of the highest moderated ones to Dan by email, and put up his answers as soon as we get them back.

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Re:GPL and low level code (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#240183)

If there is only one decent way of writing something, then it's not just immune to the GPL, it's immune to copyright.

Civil Disobedience (3)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#240188)

Many people download from Napster, reverse engineer software like DeCSS, etc. Are there any general legal strategies, etc., that can be used to limit one's liability while still publishing information on things like cryptography?

Alternatively, how would one go about constructing a straw-man case most likely to overturn the DMCA's restriction on publication of said material?

How to reduce legal boilerplate to one src line? (3)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#240189)

I hate to see source code where there's more lines of legalese than code. How can the legal part be reduced to one or two lines? I presume a well-crafted reference would be the mechanism, but what are the legal requirements? Would an md5 "checksum" of the referenced doc help? Is there any legally recognized repository of standard legal boilerplate that can be referenced, and where new boilerplate could be officially registered for this purpose?

GPL and mis-use of copyright law (5)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#240190)

I am sure there will be plenty of other GPL related questions. Mine is fairly narrow and specific. In that the GPL attempts thru a clevel legal hack to achieve a specific end result thru the use of copyright law that is different than what some envisioned the intent of copyright is, it has been suggested by some in the legal community that the GPL itself can be invalidated as a mis-use of copyright law. Is this a valid interpretation?

Supremacy Clause and shrinkwrap "no review" terms. (5)

coats (1068) | more than 13 years ago | (#240193)

Daniel, you write,
59. There is a huge flaw with this core of these Supremacy Clause preemption arguments. The underlying rationales given for performing a separate Supremacy Clause preemption analysis are exactly the same arguments made for finding the license procedurally or substantively unconscionable under state contract law.
How does this square with shrinkwrap license clauses that demand no one publish reviews or benchmarks without permission? Both Microsoft and Oracle employ such clauses, for example. It would seem to me that this conflicts with the original (1823?) Supreme Court decision that established the "fair use" doctrine -- the Court declared that Congress might not pass a copyright law so stringent as to restrain freedom of speech nor freedom of the press... and benchmarking and publishing the results certainly is a legitimate exercise of the latter! And the subject would seem to me to be precisely a Supremacy Clause argument...

Re:Validity of non-sign agreements (3)

David Price (1200) | more than 13 years ago | (#240194)

The GPL contains language designed to address this concern:
5. You are not required to accept this License, since you have not signed it. However, nothing else grants you permission to modify or distribute the Program or its derivative works. These actions are prohibited by law if you do not accept this License. Therefore, by modifying or distributing the Program (or any work based on the Program), you indicate your acceptance of this License to do so, and all its terms and conditions for copying, distributing or modifying the Program or works based on it.
The GPL isn't a license to *use* software, it's a license to modify and redistribute software. So using GPL'd software doesn't commit you to following the GPL, because the GPL doesn't cover the act of running the program. If, however, you copy or modify GPL'd code, the only way you can legally do so is by following the demands of the GPL.

Of course, this only applies to licenses that are a grant of copyright rights like the GPL. Licenses that take away rights (such as the "no reverse engineering" clause in nearly every piece of commercial software) are another story; this is why the industry is trying so hard to get UCITA passed.

What of dumping? (5)

nickm (1468) | more than 13 years ago | (#240196)

Suppose we reach a Free Software nirvana: the GPL is successfully defended in court, the DMCA/patent/UCITA/other restrictive laws must keep their mitts out of free software, etc...

Now what of antitrust law? Yes, we're doing this for the good of humanity, but larger institutions could (especially in the eyes of the courts) use Free Software as a way to quickly drown competitors. Could a company be held liable for releasing free software, especially if it's a "category killer" that makes the proprietary competition irrelevant?

Would the fact that the competition can build on the released codebase help matters any?

I noticed

open source version/proprietary version (2)

Zooko (2210) | more than 13 years ago | (#240197)

A possible strategy for making a profitable business based on open source software development would be to write an application, release it to the public under an open source license (e.g. the GPL), and then sell to other companies the right to use the application without the GPL's restrictions.

But what happens when other people, not associated with your company, start contributing bugfixes or improvements to the open source version? Can you sell your customers the right to use these patches in a way that violates the GPL, or are the patches effectively copyrighted by their respective authors and transferred to you under the GPL?

What if you were to keep the open source and the proprietary versions separate and you only sell licenses to use the proprietary version -- does this mean you cannot ever implement a bugfix in the proprietary version that someone has committed to the public version?


US Law on European citizen (2)

zander (2684) | more than 13 years ago | (#240198)

I am an European citizen and working on (and have copyright of) an open-source project. What effect can American patents have on my work? Can I be sued by an American company? Since America has the majority of software-patents the US is my main concern in staying active in the OSS world.

GPL Sturdiness (3)

ewhac (5844) | more than 13 years ago | (#240200)

Realistically, if it came down to a fight in court, what do you believe are the chances the Gnu General Public License would be upheld and enforced? (And please don't answer with, "It depends" :-).)


Re:Conversion of GPL'd Projects To Proprietary (2)

Rob Kaper (5960) | more than 13 years ago | (#240201)

Yes, you can, if you have a copy of the old version. You obtained it while GPLed and thus he can not place any restrictions (other than those of the GPL) on the code you have in your hands.

What is more interesting: is it his prerogative to change the license and not release new additions under the GPL even though it is a derivative work of his GPLed code? I think so, because he never had to accept the GPL himself and thus falls back on his rights as author.

Or even: is he obligated to give you the sources (at the cost of distribution) just because the code was GPLed? I actually think he does not have to do that, again because he never had to accept the GPL himself for his own code.

Written word or intent? (4)

Rob Kaper (5960) | more than 13 years ago | (#240202)

How much influence would the intent of the GPL have above its wording in court?

In Dutch law, you cannot demand - for example - a brand computer for $9.95 if it's a misprint of $995, because it should have been obvious that you could not get a brand new computer for ten bucks.

I wonder how important this would be in the case of open source licenses and particulary the GPL, since its mere existance comes forth from a philosophy and releasing code under the GPL usually is done because the author supports that (GNU's) philosophy.

Multiple Licenses (2)

imp (7585) | more than 13 years ago | (#240204)

If I write a piece of software under license A. Someone else takes that software, makes modifications to it and then releases it under license B, what leagal recourse would I have? Let us say that A is the BSD license and B is the GPL. Can someone who created a derivitive work change the licensing for the whole work, or are just the changes that person made covered by the new license.

How best to respond to legal threats (5)

imp (7585) | more than 13 years ago | (#240205)

What is the best way to respond to a legal threat? In the past, I've been told to tell anyone that makes legal threats or demands of me or my software to talk to direct all such communications through my lawyer as a matter of policy. Is this a good policy? When does taking a matter public do more harm than good?

Irony? (1)

troyboy (9890) | more than 13 years ago | (#240207)

Be careful. Just because someone went to law school doesn't mean that they don't come from an open source programmer's background, or don't have the same political inclinations as you do...

My experience (as a law student) has been that most copyright law students do have the pro-copyright bias, but the balance is tipping. Damn, as soon as I pay off my student loans, I'd love to go work for the EFF!

Re:Open Source License Enforcement (1)

Ex Machina (10710) | more than 13 years ago | (#240208)

Of course you can! GPLing code does not preclude licensing it under another license (commercial or what not). You could also claim that your product has lost "value" by hazingv the license violated....

Contributor Agreements (5)

dood (11062) | more than 13 years ago | (#240210)

I'm one of the lead developers on the Open Source project Jive [] . Many of our contributors work on the project as part of their job duties at their place of employment. In light of that, we've been considering a mandatory Contributor Agreement for all code that is submitted to the project (excluding one-liners).

We want the agreement to accomplish three things:

  1. Stipulate that the code is being released to the project under the project's license (for our project this is the Apache License).
  2. Ensure that the contributor has permission to release the intellectual property to the project, including any necessary permission from their employer.
  3. Make sure that the contributor does not apply for patents for the code that they're submitting.
My question is:
  1. Do you see legal value in this sort of agreement?
  2. Do you know of any boilerplate agreements that exist?
  3. Shouldn't more Open Source projects be worried about IP issues that a contributor agreement seeks to prevent?

Validity of non-sign agreements (2)

Erik Hensema (12898) | more than 13 years ago | (#240212)

What is the validity of an agreement you don't sign? Does using (use/read the source, or even simply running it) the software imply you've read and agreed to the terms of the license?

Re:Open Source License (2)

earlytime (15364) | more than 13 years ago | (#240213)

To me it sounds like you are talking about distributing software in a "free" model, but in one which restricts anyone from profiting from its use(and/or)distribution. If that's you're talking about, then that's not free software. That's shareware.
"Free software" licensing is designed to protect the intellectual property (or maybe just ordinary property) rights of the owner, while still granting the public an unrestricted right to use the software. Public domain software is essentially the same thing as free, but without the intellectual property protection.
If you want to distribute software, but not unconditionally, then yes, you would need to license it. That's what a license is for, to set the terms under which you make you property available to others. I don't think the need for licenses has anything do do with the real or imagined existence of a "litigation crazed atmosphere in the US" (not that i believe it is imagined), but with the universaly accepted concept of "ownership" and how an owner can protect their property which is made availble to others.

What is a "Derived Work"? (1)

Crispin Cowan (20238) | more than 13 years ago | (#240216)

The GPL says in 2.b:
You must cause any work that you distribute or publish, that in whole or in part contains or is derived from the Program or any part thereof, to be licensed as a whole at no charge to all third parties under the terms of this License.
For classical user-space programs written in C, this clearly means "if you link in GPL'd code, then you're derived." But there are much more ambiguous circumstances:
  • loadable kernel modules. Linus has said he does not view these as derived works of the kernel.
  • loadable kernel modules that require a custom-hacked kernel. Linus has said that he does view these as derived works of the kernel.
  • Perl modules: how intimate do you have to get with a module to be a derived work?
  • .Net, the hot topic de jour: if someone provides a GPL'd .Net service, are programs that use that service derived works? If so, is not a web client a derived work of a web server, and vice versa? If not, then is putting your program on a separate machine sufficient to escape the GPL of the software it connects to? Is putting it in a separate process sufficient to escape the GPL?
Crispin Cowan, Ph.D.
Chief Scientist, WireX Communications, Inc. []
Immunix: [] Security Hardened Linux Distribution

Can my employer force me to patent an idea? (2)

Mr T (21709) | more than 13 years ago | (#240217)

Can they? Or can they just take my idea and get some other people to sign the papers and claim to be inventor? If they can force you, how do they go about doing it? A court order or something?

How can we change perceptions? (4)

Pahroza (24427) | more than 13 years ago | (#240218)

My question is what can we do as a group to change the perceptions and misconceptions that judges specifically, and courts in general have toward open source licensing. This industry has grown up telling us all that almost everything belongs to someone. How can we turn over a new leaf and bring into fruition the thought that yes, we can share, that it's OK to share?

Re:GPL Sturdiness (1)

Engelbot (24601) | more than 13 years ago | (#240219)

Or at least, if you do answer "It depends," tell us on what it depends. :-)

Open Source License Enforcement (5)

RavenDarkholme (27245) | more than 13 years ago | (#240220)

The main question I have is, how do you enforce your GPL or other Open Source licensed product? Certainly, you can go to the offending party, and say, "You are in violation of the license agreement," but if they don't comply, what can you do? What are the damages? If I GPL my software, I can't very well go to court and say "You are stealing my property and costing me money" and thus sue for money lost since, after all, the GPL means anyone can copy it without paying. Without a ton of money to begin with, I can't do anything at all about people violating the licence even if there were monetary damages. So, I'd like an attorney's opinion on what tack you should take when trying to enforce GPL/Artistic/BSD or other Open Source licenses in a way that would be effective.

Can the Government write GPL code? (1)

mrfrostee (30198) | more than 13 years ago | (#240221)

What are the implications of the law that says "Works by the U. S. Government are not eligible for U. S. copyright protection."?

Does this mean that all software written by Government agencies is public domain?
Does this mean that the NSA cannot release Linux modifications under the terms of the GPL?
Does this mean that Microsoft's apparent worries about Government sponsored GPL code are unnecessary?

Strong copyright (1)

Ducon Lajoie (30475) | more than 13 years ago | (#240223)


I've been reading a lot about the anti-open source crusade by Microsoft.

Now the way I see this debate is: for the crazy hyper restrictive bordeline abusive EULAS that are now common in the software word, a very strong copyright law must exist. The law must give wide and far reaching means to the autors to control the distribution of their works.

Now, if the law gives MS the right to control their works in such a complete and broad way, how can a licence like the GPL or any other community based licence not be strenghten by the strong stance software developpers are taking?

It seems to me that for MS to win on this front, "we" have to win to.

Or is there something I don't get? I know some people on /. just go nuts when the discussion moves onto copyright law , but the fact is that for the GPL to be enforceable, we NEED a very very strong protection on software. If "we" get it, so does MS. And MS is likely to be working very hard to insure that they have the law on their side, thus doing work for the open source/free software/alternative licencing creed communities.

Is there a loophole where the rights of MS on their software could be different that rights granted by open licences?

Re:Doesn't the GPL "infect" all derivitives? (3)

Valdrax (32670) | more than 13 years ago | (#240225)

This is easy.

You can license your own product under multiple licenses. Commercial vendors do this all this time with proprietary code. You can also release a product under multiple Open Source licenses. If you are the copyright holder, you control the licenses.

Now, you can't retroactively change the licensing of version 1.0 or any other released versions to a non-GPL license, because you've already got a binding license agreement with your users. However, any future releases of the software can be licensed as the author sees fit.

On the other hand, if you accept GPL'ed patches, and you don't get copyright from the patch owner, and you don't get their permission to relicense the work, then you are in violation of the GPL as it applies to their works.

Re:GPL Sturdiness (2)

jazman_777 (44742) | more than 13 years ago | (#240229)

Realistically, if it came down to a fight in court, what do you believe are the chances the Gnu General Public License would be upheld and enforced? (And please don't answer with, "It depends" :-).)

The key is to find a one-handed lawyer, so he can't say, "On the other hand...". Does this lawyer have two hands?

Re:Open Source License Enforcement (2)

Pedersen (46721) | more than 13 years ago | (#240230)

Ah, the old damages are everything tactic. Instead of assuming that monetary damages (which are suppsedly non-existant) are the only option, take some other tactics:
  • Don't take 'em to court for money (yes, your honor, I'm giving t away, but I want them to pay), take 'em to court and require that they follow licensing. In other words, you are suing to make it a legal requirement that they follow the licensing which you have set forth. And since you'll be able to show license violations (in numerous ways, since they almost have to help you do it), you should be able to win. You get your license followed. Oh, and make sure you include as punitive damages enough to cover some very high quality attorneys.
  • Another tactic to take is that they HAVE done monetary damage to you. After all, haven't they made money without recompense to you, based on your work? I think that's called derivative work in copyright law, and many courts are telling us that this is bad. Nail 'em for it.

    • Just my two cents worth.

No lawyer needed to answer this question: (2)

Ramses0 (63476) | more than 13 years ago | (#240234)

1) You create program "Foo v1.0", release under GPL

2) You change string "Hello World" to "Goodbye World", and release "Foo v2.0", under MS-License.

You are totally within all your rights to do this. You "own" Foo, and release it to *OTHERS* under GPL. When you make changes to *your* code, and re-release, life is good.

However, consider the following:

1.5) HelpfulUser submits a modification to you which adds a feature. They give you license to use that code as GPL. this case, you *cannot* relicense your code with their code under a more proprietary license than the GPL. That's because it's not all your code.

For your last question: "Why can't a user of the Windows version sue for the source code, citing the GPL on the *NIX version? Why doesn't the GPL on the *NIX version trump the proprietary license on the Windows version?"

From m-w: License: a permission granted by competent authority to engage in a business or occupation or in an activity otherwise unlawful

It is unlawful to run code that belongs to other people without their permission. Usually companies give users a license (permission) to use their code, and it is totally legit for the *owner* of the code to discriminate (or place restrictions on it's use) when letting other people use it.


Re:Open Source License Enforcement (2)

bugg (65930) | more than 13 years ago | (#240236)

You actually don't have to register the copyright immediately, in fact, you can register after the violation and sue them then.

How Can We be More Effective? (5)

bwt (68845) | more than 13 years ago | (#240237)

The open source community interaction with law and politics to date has been almost completely reactive. Typically some company or governement institution has or is about to do something draconian before we are able to mobilize. Sometimes we get there in time, sometimes not. Examples are: DMCA, UCITA, and hundreds of software patents, Microsoft's embrace and extend campaign of the week, ... the list goes on.

What can we do as a community to be more effective in protecting ourselves. I'm someone who has joined the EFF, written letters to the copyright office, participated heavily on Openlaw, and written letters to my Congressmen. Many of us are involved in these ways, but somehow we've got to take it up a notch. What's the next step?

Open Source and Patents (2)

mesocyclone (80188) | more than 13 years ago | (#240243)

Since every trivial thing you can do with software these days is patented, doesn't releasing your open source also open you up to patent infringement attacks?

Re:Open Source License Enforcement (2)

passion (84900) | more than 13 years ago | (#240244)

I can't very well go to court and say "You are stealing my property and costing me money" and thus sue for money lost

Nope, you wouldn't have necessarily lost money, but perhaps that party gained money from your work without following the license. So this is similar to the RIAA's complaints that you haven't necessarily emptied a record store of it's inventory, but by duplicating copyrighted material that they lose on sales. Your corollary would be that they worked with your code, and didn't pay you back by releasing their changes.

I could see suing for a fair chunk of their revenue from that product, and forcing them to releasing their changes to the code.

Can we use the DMCA to our advantage? (4)

LordNimon (85072) | more than 13 years ago | (#240247)

Developers of Open Source software typically don't have large reserves of cash and big corporations backing them up. So far, the DMCA has been used against us, but technically anyone should be able to use it to protect his intellectual property. In what ways can an Open Source developer make us of the DMCA?
Lord Nimon

When will source code be considered speech? (5)

LordNimon (85072) | more than 13 years ago | (#240248)

Every programmer knows that source code is speech, and should be protected like any other speech. However, the courts just don't seem to realize that, probably because none of the judges have ever been programmers. What would it take for the court system to generally acknowledge that source code is speech, and how long will it take for that to happen? What do you think will be the biggest ramifications if/when it does happen?
Lord Nimon

Trademark issues for open source alternatives ... (2)

supton (90168) | more than 13 years ago | (#240250) propietary software. Note: Hopefully this is not off topic, but this (in addition to licensing), seems to be an important issue.

I have noticed that many open source projects are started as an alternative to a closed source product. For, example, from the looks of it, OASIS (an open sourc ad server), seems to be started by folks who wanted a better, open-source alternative to RealMedia's OAS (open AdStream). The name is very similar; likewise, *-GL or *-GLX seems to be the norm for Open-GL clones. From what I read on Slashdot and elsewhere, it seems SGI is more than happy to sue some of those *GL[X]? folks for trademark infringement.

So, I guess, my question is: if you create an open-source project that is designed to compete with a commercial product, and you name is similar (like OASIS vs. OAS), what liabilities might you have in terms of trademark infringement? What is the likelyhood that a trademark holder would have the grounds to sue? Are there any legal tests/thresholds to determine this? Well-known federal case-law?

Helping avoid contributory and vicarios liability (5)

cworley (96911) | more than 13 years ago | (#240254)

Fred von Lohmann wrote a White Paper [] for the EEF concerning avoidance of "contributory and vicarious copyright infringement" (being liable for writing software that promotes "fair use", but can be used for copyright infringement).

In that, he states guidelines for developers. One of the guidelines is: "Be open source".

I would think Open Source would set you up for liability in such matters: anybody who modified your code, making it able to infringe on copyrights, would make you vicariously liable for opening the code in the first place.

Or, take for example, TiVo. Their systems are open source, they've posted their kernel and tool modifications on their web site (as per the GPL). Now they're worried that someone could use that to easily create code that will allow MPEG extraction from the unit [] (and widespread distribution of copyrighted materials).

I'm not sure how being open source can protect a software developer from such litigation.

Can you explain this?

Distributed Copyright (2)

ClarkEvans (102211) | more than 13 years ago | (#240255)

What do you think of Distributed Copyright [] ? Especially the suggested remedy [] sent to Judge Jackson? Thank you! Clark Evans

Re:free(speech) ! free(beer) (1)

SilverSun (114725) | more than 13 years ago | (#240259)

No problem with releasing under two licenses. thought, there is no way that you can force somebody to pay for your GPL program. That would be against the point.
nope. no problem in selling your GPLed code for $$. Only, who ever buys it is allowd to redistribute it for free. So that makes only sense in special cases.

Offer support for a game? It's a bad game then.

GPL is a very good license, but it's not one-size-fits-all. There a many places where GPL is just not the way to go.


Dude, it's a license (1)

Galvatron (115029) | more than 13 years ago | (#240260)

Think of it like a contract. He owns the code. He says "you may use this code forever provided you obey the GPL." He has made that contract with you, and can never take it away.

Now, he's not releasing it under the GPL anymore. Since he owns the code, he never had to agree to obey the GPL. This is the one fundamental weakness of open source projects. With many contributors, no one really owns it. That's why XEmacs split from GNU Emacs. The FSF was insisting that all patches have their copyrights turned over, so the the FSF would 100% own the code.

The only "intuitive" interface is the nipple. After that, it's all learned.

He's not licensing it (2)

Galvatron (115029) | more than 13 years ago | (#240261)

The author of the original code is not bound by licensing agreements because he wrote it. He owns the copyright. Hence, he's not bound by the GPL. Now then, had he accepted GPLed patches without requiring the submitters to surrender their copyrights to him, then maybe that'd be different.

The only "intuitive" interface is the nipple. After that, it's all learned.

To What Extent Is "Contamination" Real? (2)

istartedi (132515) | more than 13 years ago | (#240264)

Many people talk about "contamination". For example, they will say things like, "if you are writing a compiler you cannot look at the source for gcc because it will contaminate you and you might later be held liable for GPL violation".

I'm inclined to believe that this is FUD on the part of the Free Software community designed to make proprietary developers overly shy about getting ideas from other people's sources and/or to convince them that they need to GPL their work if they get ideas from GPL'd works.

Unless your work can be shown to be plainly derivative of the GPL'd work, I find it hard to imagine that there could be any legitimate claim of "contamination".

As a non-programming example, let me cite the recent "The Wind Done Gone" case. This was a violation of "Gone With The Wind" copyright because it used characters and places from GWTW. However, if the author had simply written a Southern novel, or made passing reference to Tara, or even done a parody of GWTW it would have been OK. In the case of a parody, the author would have certainly read all of GWTW but the parody would be considered a separate work.

Likewise, if I read all the source for gcc, but create a totally different compiler from scratch using compiler algorithms that are generally known, and have a complete understanding of the working of the compiler as an independant work, and do not do any cut-n-paste from gcc, I don't see how any charge of "contamination" can be levied.

Also, I have never heard of "contamination" in music, film, or other intellectual persuits. Except of course that there are limits on "sampling" which is analogous to cut-n-paste.

As a side note, how do you feel about copyrights on "snippets". For example, some people have tried to pass off Duff's Device as GPL, when the original USENET correspondance made no mention of GPL.

I'm of the opinion that code less than a certain length shouldn't be copyrighted, but placed in the public domain. However, *can* such short code be copyrighted? Is there any precedent in music (such as copyrighted "riffs") or film (such as attempts to copyright a camera technique, e.g., the "Matrix" pan).

Re:Open Source License Enforcement (3)

rgmoore (133276) | more than 13 years ago | (#240265)

AFAIK, you can ensure that you can collect some damages by registering your copyright with the Copyright and Trademark office. Every work is inherently copyright by its authors unless they explicitly place it into the public domain, but without registering it they're only allowed to collect real damages, i.e. proven economic losses resulting from the infringement. If it's registered, though, they're allowed to collect statutory damages, which are specific fines established by law as a punishment for violation. Also, IIRC, once you've won your case the violator has to stop distributing in violation of copyright, and if they continue to infringe then you can collect more in the way of damages.

No funds, no change of winning? (4)

antis0c (133550) | more than 13 years ago | (#240267)

I'm a freelance programmer, and like most programmers I do it for the love of the "art", and because of that most of my creations are licensed under GPL.. However, my question is, what would happen if Big Corporation X were to take my code, integrate it into a proprietary system, and sell it for millions, ignoring all demands to release source to the modifications (and thus breaking the GPL).. What could I honestly do besides writting letters threatening legal action?

I obviously don't have the funds to compete in the courtroom with Big Corporation X, and even if I were to try, the expense and time alone would set me into debt for probably the greater part of the rest of my life. What chance does the GPL or any other Open Source licensed software have, if a good part of it's development team is composed of just average guys with bills, debt and little free time?

Re:Not really relevant. (2)

ekrout (139379) | more than 13 years ago | (#240270)

If you read the GPL ( [] ), you would have noticed the line in the beginning which states that "This License applies to any program or other work which contains a notice placed by the copyright holder saying it may be distributed under the terms of this General Public License."

Junkbusters' Spamoff (5)

ekrout (139379) | more than 13 years ago | (#240271)

Is this ( [] ) GPL'd disclaimer that an individual will not tolerate spam email really admissible in court? Could I change the amount from $10 per spam email to, say, $1000 per smam email, then send it to Spammer #1282733, and then take them to court if they send me another spam email and win $1000?

I'm not money hungry, but I do detest spam.

Demand for Technical Lawyers? (4)

egc4ever (139385) | more than 13 years ago | (#240272)

As an avid follower of Slashdot, I have a keen interest in open source systems, intellectual property, and technology. In my former life, I was an engineer, and I hold an advanced degree in mechanical engineering. I currently make a living working for a business consulting firm performing large scale technology implementations. Whether it's e-business, high-tech, or Internet-related, I experience a great deal of "Slashdot" in the workplace everyday.

I would like to know how much demand exists in the field of law for a person with a skill set and background comparable to my own. Can the current market for lawyers who possess a deep technical background offset the cost of three years of law school, especially in comparison to what I would be making if I stayed with technology consulting?

Judging from the sheer number of issues surrounding technology and the law raised in this forum, it seems that the open source/technology community could certainly benefit from more advocates with roots in technology. I'm just deciding whether it's worth it to make the move myself...

Conversion of GPL'd Projects To Proprietary (2)

Mr_Perl (142164) | more than 13 years ago | (#240273)

I have been using a piece of software on my site for several years, a useful bulletin board program which was originally released by the author under the GPL.

The author has since removed any reference to the GPL in his latest releases, and is now using a proprietary license.

I would like to take the GPL'd version of the code which he previously released and use it as a base for a continued open source project, but I'm not sure that I can legally do that if the author objects- after all, I'll be using his code to "compete" with his own commercial "fork" of the project.

Can I fork his code to start my own project?

Ask a. . . (1)

Laplace (143876) | more than 13 years ago | (#240278)

The title of this interview reminds me of The Onion [] series, "Ask A," in which [] a gut shot cop [] and Navy Seal [] answer reader questions. Should we expect the same sort of thing from "Ask a Lawyer" on Slashdot?

Question (2)

quickquack (152245) | more than 13 years ago | (#240280)

Mr Ravicher,

What is your opinion on the DeCSS court case involving 2600 Magazine and the MPAA? Do you think that DeCSS itself is legal? Should linking be legal?


Re:Open Source License Enforcement (1)

|<amikaze (155975) | more than 13 years ago | (#240281)

How would you feel if your code was stolen by companies like RedHat? I certainly wouldn't like it!

RedHat *isn't* stealing code. RedHat is using GPL'd code, and is obeying the license agreement that comes along with it. They have the RIGHT to do that. Just like you or I. If I were to write a useful program, and RedHat were to "steal" it and put it into their distribution, I would be very happy. My software that I made is being used by other people around the world, because it is useful! If *you* don't like contributing freely to others, than I think something other than the GPL would better for you.

advice for potential lawyers (2)

xenon54 (167168) | more than 13 years ago | (#240284)

What advice would you give to people who are interested in technology and intellectual property and who are considering a cereer in law? What is the best way to start such a career? Can someone make an impact on the future of IP rights by pursuing a legal career? And do you consider it a viable career path?

Re:Trademark issues for open source alternatives . (1)

InsaneGeek (175763) | more than 13 years ago | (#240286)

I would say that trademarks are meant exactly for the purpose you state in the last paragraph.

Just because it is opensource doesn't make it any different than the rest of the world. I can't make a company "Tosheba" making a product named "50HD70" looking almost exactly like Toshiba's 50HX70, and expect not to have problems. If they were products who DID NOT compete no problem; but the way you put it, you are riding the coat-tails of the commercial product introducing ambiguity. Why should you want to name a competeing product the same as the commercial, except for to get the name recognition from the commercial product, which again is what trademarks are for.

If the opensource product has merits it should be able to stand on it's own, and as you say "compete" with the commercial product; hence it should not even have to have a name close to the commercial products. Look Gimp & Photoshop, the names aren't anywhere near the same, but they tend to compete against each other, and Gimp did it on it's own without having to bootstrap itself up from the name recognition of someone elses trademark.

Spelling & grammar checker off because I don't care

Microsoft Licensing (5)

Alien54 (180860) | more than 13 years ago | (#240288)

In your detailed paper, you note:

37. For instance, under the first sale doctrine, an owner of a piece of software can transfer her program to whomever and for whatever she desires. The use of a license prevents this doctrine from applying, which allows computer programming firms to price-discriminate between customer characteristics. If Microsoft wants to give Windows software to public schools at a cost blow the production cost and the transaction consummates a sale, the first sale doctrine would apply, and the school could resell the programs at a higher price to a corporation, retaining the difference. This would cause Microsoft to charge all customers one price, either by lowering its price, forcing it to run at a loss, or raising its price, thus making the program unavailable to schools and other meagerly funded organizations. This result is economically inefficient and would most assuredly be politically unpopular.

I am interested on the implications of the fact of Microsofts monopoly in as it applies to licensing. While it can be argued that the two issues are separate, and one is not relevant to the other, many people look at the practices of Microsoft in this regard and view it with horror and contempt. Are there instances where such licensing practices impose a non-legitimate enforcment of "rights", and in fact constitute improper maintenance of a monopoly? Or do people have these separate issues confused, when they should be treated separately?

Check out the Vinny the Vampire [] comic strip

What are ... (5)

3seas (184403) | more than 13 years ago | (#240289)

What are the weakest points of the GPL?
3 S.E.A.S - Virtual Interaction Configuration (VIC) - VISION OF VISIONS!

Re:Public Domain (2)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 13 years ago | (#240290)

I'm curious, why would releasing the code in the PD make the author more likely to get litigated? All you need to do is put a disclaimer file in with your code stating you're not responsible, etc, etc (much like what you see in the GPL, Artistic License, BSD, etc, etc). Or, if you're just interesting in releasing your code freely, use a particularly free license (like Artistic) which has this caveat embedded in the licensing agreement.

US IP versus European IP standards (2)

djve (191622) | more than 13 years ago | (#240291)

The difference between European standards for patents and intellectual property has been shown to be vastly different to the rules applied in the US. The EEC has turned down patents in gene technologies and software that have been granted in the USA. Some patents, most of us feel, are less than worthy.

Unless there is synchronisation between the difference sovereign territories in these issues how does the US or the EEC hope to enforce the issues of copyright and IP in other jurisdictions?

Obviously without the issue going to a court there is no precedence for these issues directly. So I assume parallels from the state of current legislation for music, video and literature will be the basis. But these have not worked well in the past when considered on an international basis. Is there any hope of agreement for a single standard?


flikx (191915) | more than 13 years ago | (#240292)

Do you usually end all communications with IAAL, or do you still accidentally append IANAL?

Re:Where does the interest come from? (1)

nooekanami (192720) | more than 13 years ago | (#240293)

that is deliciously thick irony, isnt it, that we now have lawyers representing the interests of people who wish to adopt open source methodologies. Its like hiring a corporate trainer to make your employees more productive, spontaneous and creative. And why isnt this article titled "Its Funny. Laugh"???

Re:Irony? (1)

nooekanami (192720) | more than 13 years ago | (#240294)

of course, my remark was meant in jest, but still, calling a lawyer to discuss OSS is akin to calling the pope to write about rock music. You will get an interesting pov, but more likely than not, the subject maketh the expert nervous, doesn't it? :)

Re:How can we change perceptions? (3)

Sodium Attack (194559) | more than 13 years ago | (#240297)

Judges? Courts? Could you give an example of when a court has failed to uphold an open-source license?

GPL v3 (1)

7-Vodka (195504) | more than 13 years ago | (#240298)

What changes do you think will materialize in the next incarnation of the GPL? Do you think all the loopholes can be closed?

Have you yourself seen or heard from the FSF about it?

"just connect this to..."

free speech - free beer - free representation (1)

cbowland (205263) | more than 13 years ago | (#240301)

Given the limited resources of many open source coders, should an open source license lawsuit be handled on a pro bono basis?

Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day.

Re:Doesn't the GPL "infect" all derivitives? (1)

multriha (206019) | more than 13 years ago | (#240302)

Assuming you are the exclusive author of the code in question, you can do whatever you want with it.

The GPL is only granting rights to others, it does not sign away any rights of yours.

Once somebody else adds something to it, it becomes a join work.

Only those individuals who have some claim to the copyright on the source can sue over the GPL.

Images and Sounds (5)

K45 (207177) | more than 13 years ago | (#240303)

How does the GPL affect non-sourcecode files that are part of an application?

Specifically, I'm concerned about the images and sounds that are included with a game I'm working on [] .

Does the GPL "contaminate" these other files that are included? If so, how do "source" and "binary" distribution apply to images and sounds.


Variations on a theme... (5)

fleeb_fantastique (208912) | more than 13 years ago | (#240304)

We have several licensing schemes available for the Open Source enthusiast, all dependant upon one's definition of 'Open Source'. Would you care to comment on each of these licenses, and their various pro's and con's?

Off the top of my head: GPL, QT Open Source, Public Domain, BSD.. most likely others.

GPL and Jurisdiction (1)

An Elephant (209405) | more than 13 years ago | (#240305)

The GPL does not state any jurisdiction, or courts, to decide claims according to itself. This is not an accident, but a result of RMS's philosophy. In fact, as Pythonistas may know, the FSF claims that citing a local law for your license makes it GPL-incompatible. I, personally, have yet to see an agreement with no specified jurisdiction.

Are there no problems with the validity of such a license? Or is there a deep crevice between licenses and agreements?

Where does the interest come from? (4)

graveyhead (210996) | more than 13 years ago | (#240308)

As an open source programmer, my reasons for adopting the GPL in my programs are clear:
  • street cred
  • humanity
  • code review
  • inspiration
  • bug squashing
I was wondering what could inspire a lawyer to believe in these sentiments enough to become involved with open source software.

Well, your fingers weave quick minarets; Speak in secret alphabets;

Will Open Source be overpowered by cash? (5)

aussersterne (212916) | more than 13 years ago | (#240309)

Knowing the legal and political systems surrounding intellectual property as you do, what do you think the chances are that money (specifically, lobbying from organizations like Microsoft or the RIAA) will overpower Open Source by creating more and more insidious forms of copyright protection and law, possibly even to the point that Open Source becomes illegal because it "threatens" the closed-source business model?

This seems to be one of the current trends in intellectual property law. Do you think it will continue?

Don't need a lawyer for this one (2)

brlewis (214632) | more than 13 years ago | (#240310)

Sounds like you're asking specific advice rather than a general law question, so no lawyer is going to answer you over the internet. As a non-lawyer, I'll answer you: If you hold the copyright, you can license as many ways as you please. However, contributions people send back for the GPL version might have copyright owners other than you, so you might not automatically be able to include them in the crippled version.

That's what the FSF is for (2)

brlewis (214632) | more than 13 years ago | (#240311)

Sign the code over to the FSF, whom you can rely on to be more zealous about suing violators than any of your development team ever will be.

UCITA and liability (5)

brlewis (214632) | more than 13 years ago | (#240312)

The FSF's Why We Must Fight UCITA [] article seems to say that UCITA invalidates free-software disclaimers. Is this true? Why or why not?

Re:GPL Sturdiness (1)

Blind RMS Groupie (218389) | more than 13 years ago | (#240314)

Well, according to Paragraph 99 in the conclusion [] to his discussion [] on the matter, he states that:

The proper function of law is to facilitate economic advances that provide a net benefit to the public. The prevailing intellectual property, contract, and preemption laws are each designed to achieve this purpose. Since mass-market public software licenses conform to these laws and provide a net benefit to the public, their enforceability should be declared certain.

So he's already answered the question: yes, he believes it's enforceable. Perhaps the question should be "have any new court precedent(s) or anything else changed your conclusions as expressed in Paragraph 99 since you wrote Facilitating Collaborative Software Development: The Enforceability of Mass-Market Public Software Licenses []

(And please don't answer with, "It depends" :-).)


Big ballpark hypothetical (5)

wrinkledshirt (228541) | more than 13 years ago | (#240316)

Okay, some unknown hacker creates his/her foo application and releases the source under GPL. Something occurs that leads him/her to suspect that the foo source has been incorporated into a commercial product that isn't following the terms of the GPL with regards to rereleasing the source. Furthermore, the things that lead him/her to suspect this aren't basic paranoia -- someone with a conscience and access to the suspect source has leaked information about it or whatnot. Or maybe something else -- point is, there is a case that could be made.

From a PRACTICAL standpoint, what sort of things would this unknown hacker have to do to make their case? Would it be possible from a practical point of view under (eg) the United States legal system for this unknown hacker to take the company to court? What sorts of costs would he/she incur? What sort of time-frame would it take to achieve resolution? What sorts of potential rewards or compensation could he/she expect? Are there any precedents that are analogous to this situation?

Rights retained after GPL (1)

cliffjumper222 (229876) | more than 13 years ago | (#240317)

If an author releases source code under the GPL, what copyright rights do they retain? I'm especially interested in how an author can control how some software is used, or by whom, which doesn't seem to be covered in the GPL, AFAIK.

Public Domain (5)

Isamu Noguchi (240354) | more than 13 years ago | (#240319)

I've considered releasing software in the public domain as perhaps the simplest alternative to some copyrighted-yet-free approach, but I'm not clear on all the implications. Here's what I think:

1) I have to explicitly state that the source is in the public domain, otherwise it is copyrighted by default,
2) anybody else adding to or modifying the source would have to state that their mods are in the public domain (for the same reason),
3) if a person adding to or modifying the source wants to copyright their mods, they'd have to specify the extent of their changes or their copyright might be invalid, unless they substantially changed the whole thing.

If one intends for a work to be freely editable, it seems as though the only thing you give up by putting it in the public domain is some legal basis to sue. For example if somebody takes my public domain work and slaps their name and copyright notice on it, I may not have a good way to stop them although their copyright is invalid.

Is this correct? Any comments?

Changes to the GPL? (5)

iomud (241310) | more than 13 years ago | (#240320)

What changes if any would you make to the GPL to help support it's goals?

Re:Rights retained after GPL (1)

Lonath (249354) | more than 13 years ago | (#240321)

I'm especially interested in how an author can control how some software is used, or by whom

I think you lose the right to specify who can use it, or how. The only thing you can specify is that if someone else takes your software and gives/sells it to someone else, they must provide the source code to that person.

You can't stop them from doing anything else, and you can't stop specific people from using the code.

On the other hand, if you are the only author of your code, and you don't have any issues with special libraries being used, you could release a GPL version, and then later on you could put your extended version into closed-source software, provided that you are the owner of all of the copyright associated with the source code.

Patents and GPL (3)

Lonath (249354) | more than 13 years ago | (#240323)

Since the US government allows software patents, is it possible to void the GPL by using patents?

1. You take a GPLed product, and extend it. You add some patented code into it.

2. You sell it to someone, and you give them the source code as the GPL requires.

3. However, since the GPL doesn't cover the execution of the code, you tell them that the only way they can get a license to execute the patented code is by never releasing the source or binaries to anyone else.

4. And anyone else who got the code downstream would have the right to have the source code, but not the right to execute it since that would be a patent violation.

Does this mean that a company can use patents to "close" GPLed code?

Open Source License (1)

Phredward (254393) | more than 13 years ago | (#240326)

Do you think there is something wrong with our legal system that in order to release software in a public manner that does not result in it being then used for coporate profit you need a licensing agreement (no is an ok answer)? If so, what specifically? Is it law based, or a 'litigation crazed' atmosphere in the US?

Re:Conversion of GPL'd Projects To Proprietary (1)

IanA (260196) | more than 13 years ago | (#240327)

(The usual attorney disclaimer applies, of course -- that Dan can only answer general law questions, and if you want specific legal advice you must directly engage an attorney yourself.)

When you use 'I' and 'my' 7 times, its probably specific legal advice.

How can IP Laws be Enforced In the Internet Age? (1)

MOBE2001 (263700) | more than 13 years ago | (#240328)

It seems to me that the internet and file sharing technologies are the beginning of the end for intellectual property laws. The global nature of the internet makes it impractical to police. The only way to truly enforces IP laws would be for several Big Brother-type governments to get together and agree to take draconian measures reminiscent of Orwell's 1984. Do you foresee a time when governments might be willing to take such measures? Do you think the world's citizens would go along with such Big Brother tactics? I, for one, would not.

Possible liabilities for end-users? (4)

nanojath (265940) | more than 13 years ago | (#240329)

I like the idea of open source but wonder how reliable the various open license models are. I'm concerned someone could release a program with an open license, then change their mind about its value, and start legally pursuing end users with the claim they never intended to release the program freely. Alternatively, an open license statement could get slapped on proprietary software in an attempt to avoid end-user liability for piracy. Are open source licenses legally robust enough to withstand these kinds of potential misuses?

Re:UCITA and liability (3)

anwyn (266338) | more than 13 years ago | (#240331)

Is GPL a contract or some kind of wierd unilateral grant of some rights? My untutored mind naively thought it was not a contract because there is no 2 way exchange ov value and no agreement. I have since heard legal people take both sides of this question. I think that UCITA will not apply directly to the GPL if it were not a contract, because UCITA seems to mostly regulate how contracts work. Thus I think that the above question turns on whether GPL is a contract. This is an important question to me because I have written and will write letters oppsoing UCITA to Texas state legislators. And I need to know whether to include Stallman's arguement. P.S. In a private comunication Stallman, the author of the GPL said he thought the GPL was not a contract, but agreed with the unilateral grant of some rights theory. But he is not a lawyer either.

Re:What's wrong with paying? (1)

simmonsays (304042) | more than 13 years ago | (#240334)

When I bought my new computer, I had Windows, Internet Explorer, and Office pre-installed (for free)
Don't be fooled that that was a free product. The OEM you bought it from undoubtedly paid M$ the licensing fee, and then passed it down to you in the form of a Bill G tax
I don't understand the reasons behind the company RedHat
Two words: Support Service

Re:No lawyer needed to answer this question: (1)

Rick the Red (307103) | more than 13 years ago | (#240335)

It is unlawful to run code that belongs to other people
without their permission. Usually companies give users a license (permission) to use their code, and it is totally legit for the *owner* of the code to discriminate (or place restrictions on it's use) when letting other people use it.

Yes, I agree. However, as I read the GPL, when the author of a program releases it under the GPL they freely limit their own rights by granting to all users the right to run and copy the application and see the source code. By doing so they give up the right to place further restrictions on its use. As I see it, once they've squeezed that toothpaste out of the tube they can't put it back. Once they've granted all users the right to the source code, and the right to redistribute the code as they see fit (provided they also release the source), then they've given up those rights themselves, except as granted to them (and anyone else) by the GPL. In other words, once I grant you the right to modify my code provided you release the source of your modifications, doesn't that also bind me to release the source to any of my modifications? If not, why not?

And I'd still like to hear a lawyer answer that, whether you think I need one or not.

Doesn't the GPL "infect" all derivitives? (5)

Rick the Red (307103) | more than 13 years ago | (#240336)

This question has come up before, and I've seen flavors of it in this discussion:

If I release code under the GPL, doesn't the GPL "virus" now infect my code and all derivitives? There are examples of GPL code that was simultaniously released under a different license, and examples of GPL code that was the basis for derivative works that were not released under the GPL. Please explain how this is legal, under the GPL.

Several Slashdotters have said things like "Naturally, the author is free to do this" but I don't see the "natural" connection. If I release version 1.0 under the GPL, my reading of the GPL is that the "virus" infects all versions of the code, and that if I tried to release version 2.0 under a proprietary license then someone else could sue me because my version 2.0 violated the GPL on version 1.0. Yes, I'm the author and I hold all the rights, but when I release my code under the GPL I give up some of my rights and transfer them to the software's users. Don't the people to whom I gave those rights in version 1.0 retain those rights to all subsequent versions? If not, why not? The only way I can see for anybody, even the original author, to modify GPL code and not release the new source is to not release the new binarys either.

Similarly, I don't understand how I, as author of the code, could possibly release it under the GPL and another license at the same time. Why doesn't the GPL trump the other license? If A can get the source under the GPL and do whatever they want with it, and I sell the same code under another license to B, what prevents B from using the GPL to give the code away to whomever B wants, even though B didn't buy it under the GPL?

The specific example is a company that releases their *NIX version under the GPL but releases a Windows version of the same code under a proprietary license with no source code. Why can't a user of the Windows version sue for the source code, citing the GPL on the *NIX version? Why doesn't the GPL on the *NIX version trump the proprietary license on the Windows version?

How can a company make use of GPL s/w acceptably (1)

Abdul2112 (308430) | more than 13 years ago | (#240338)

Suppose I work for a corporation that would like to include some GPL code as a component piece of a larger work. What steps should this company take to ensure that it is complying with the GPL (both legally and in spirit)while at the same time protecting its interests?

Re:free(speech) ! free(beer) (1)

mhamel (314503) | more than 13 years ago | (#240340)

No problem with releasing under two licenses. thought, there is no way that you can force somebody to pay for your GPL program. That would be against the point.

You can still offer to send your product with a cd-rom for a fee.. or still better, offer a some support for the product for a fee once again.

There are many others ways to make money from your program. If it become popular, you'll be at the best spot to charge for support.

good luck

... (1)

PicassoJones (315767) | more than 13 years ago | (#240341)

Many of the legal issues we see constantly are a big corporation going after a small, non-profit open source project. The open source project has not enough money and other resources to properly defend itself.

What would be the best way for people who can't afford a lawyer to defend themselves? What laws should they be most familiar with?

Re:Conversion of GPL'd Projects To Proprietary (2)

dhamsaic (410174) | more than 13 years ago | (#240344)

the author is, obviously, allowed to do whatever he wants to with the code. however, since that previous version was released under the gpl, so are you. as long as you use code from a release that was done under the gpl, you're allowed to do whatever you like with it, provided that it doesn't violate the gpl. so the short answer to your question is "yes, you can."

Worst business plan ever. (1)

Flying Headless Goku (411378) | more than 13 years ago | (#240345)

Hmm... I can just see the nag screen.

"This version of the software is crippled, restricted by license, and the source is unavailable. To get the freely redistributable full version, send $5."

I'm sure that single $5 sale will be very satisfying before nobody ever touches the crippled version again.

OTOH, depending on the type of game, you can GPL the engine and sell the data.

Not really relevant. (1)

Flying Headless Goku (411378) | more than 13 years ago | (#240346)

Just because they claim the document is GPL'd doesn't make this an open source legal issue.

Incidentally, I don't think the GPL (which is quite clearly a compiled computer program license) can apply to such a document.

Re:Public Domain (2)

Flying Headless Goku (411378) | more than 13 years ago | (#240347)

2) Nobody has to state anything, they can change one line of code, and claim copyright. If they want their own code in the public domain, then they can explicitly state it is in the pd, otherwise they retain copyright over the whole caboodle.

A single line modification is not effectively copyrightable. Any use of such a small change is fair use. Claiming copyright on it would be a fraud against the people who are thus restricted from using it.

OTOH, adding 20 lines which significantly change the function of a program (such as fixing a bug) would enable the modifier to claim copyright on his change.


Public Domain (4)

Flying Headless Goku (411378) | more than 13 years ago | (#240349)

A common justification for choosing an open source license, and putting up with all the license-compatibility issues, over simply releasing the code into the public domain is fear of litigation. Do you believe that the creator of public domain software (perfection disclaimed, use at own risk) is at any greater legal risk than the creator of open-source licensed software in the case of costly software failure? (I'm especially interested in any relevant precedent you are aware of)

embeded systems (2)

rodolfo.borges (415394) | more than 13 years ago | (#240351)

We made an MP3 jukebox to use in public places. The software I created uses a lot of GPL'ed code.
Does it need to be GPL?
Am I distributing the software when I put my machine for anyone to use on a public palce?
And what if I sell the jukebox?
Do I need to make my source code avaiable?

GPL and low level code (2)

monkeyiq (415791) | more than 13 years ago | (#240354)

Recently I was playing around with MMX/SSE assembly code. It struck me that at the level of MMX coding, there were only a few ways to write a bit of code to perform well. So, due to the limited number of ways that MMX code can be written, for example, lets say that there is only one really nice way to write a function in MMX/SSE, all the others are much slower because they induce wait states etc. Following the example along, if I write this MMX code and GPL it like a good little boy, then any company can take it and use it in their non GPL code and claim that they wrote the same code because there is only one way to write that function "correctly". So it would seem (to my logic) that code like this is immune to the GPL. Or that the GPL gives no protection to my work in this case.

Re:Multiple Licenses (1)

haruharaharu (443975) | more than 13 years ago | (#240359)

This has happened already. The linux kernel has incorporated bits of BSD code (I believe that the ip stack used to be BSD based). This is allowed because the BSD license allows it.

I have no idea how the new licensing works - you can certainly still grab the original work under a BSD license, and you can grab the derivative under GPL, so does it matter?

Re:Doesn't the GPL "infect" all derivitives? (1)

haruharaharu (443975) | more than 13 years ago | (#240360)

Wow. Imagine a Beowulf Cluster of morons.

I don't have to. I just turn on C-SPAN

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