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GNU is Not Unix

GPL's Strength 323

Morty writes "So, why hasn't the GPL been successfully challenged yet? In this article, Eben Moglen, General Counsel to the FSF, explains that the GPL is in a stronger legal position than most licenses. Most licenses restrict the user from doing what would otherwise be legal. Because the GPL (and presumably, other free/open software licenses) let the user do things that are otherwise illegal (copy and redistribute software), the GPL is in a stronger position to dictate terms. If the user doesn't accept the terms of the GPL, the default is for copying and redistribution to be forbidden under copyright law. I had never looked at it that way before. . ."
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GPL's Strength

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  • by hazyshadeofwinter ( 529262 ) <arto@NOSPAM.telusplanet.net> on Monday April 22, 2002 @07:04AM (#3386618) Homepage
    > Almost everyone who uses GPL'd software from day to day needs no license, and accepts none. The GPL only obliges you if you distribute software made from GPL'd code, and only needs to be accepted when redistribution occurs.

    Oh no! The BSA is gonna discover all this *unlicensed* GPL-ware! I'd better get a-patchin' and a-redistributin', the Kopyright Kops are komin'...

    • by JordanH ( 75307 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @08:21AM (#3386888) Homepage Journal
      • Oh no! The BSA is gonna discover all this *unlicensed* GPL-ware! I'd better get a-patchin' and a-redistributin', the Kopyright Kops are komin'...

      Heh. I wonder if the FSF could become a member of the BSA?

      Not that they'd ever participate in such an thing, but wouldn't it be funny if the BSA raided MS to make sure they weren't abusing the GPL?

      Hmmm... Unlike the MS EULAs the GPL probably doesn't allow for intrusive audits. Oh well.

      • What I think is funny is that you're not honoring your own blackout.

        I guess the lure of getting one more word in is just too much to bear...
      • Actually, the FSF becoming a member of the BSA would be a good move. There is nothing so informative as having a foothold inside the enemy camp. And it wouldn't matter if the GPL doesn't allow for intrusive audits -- all that matters is whether someone else's EULA does, and whether that lets you in their door to DO an audit. Legal on all your other software, but violated the GPL? Oh dear, gonna have to fine you, and call the NYT. :)

    • "There are only two things that have come out of Berkeley; LSD and Unix. And that's NOT a coincidence!"

      LSD did not come out of Berkeley. It was invented at the Sandoz corporation while looking for drugs to induce a pregnant woman to give birth.

  • by Florian Weimer ( 88405 ) <fw@deneb.enyo.de> on Monday April 22, 2002 @07:04AM (#3386621) Homepage
    This [columbia.edu] is Moglen's follow-up article referenced in the first one.
    • Great quote from Moglen's article - further to the point that the GPL hasn't been tested in court yet not because it's weak, but because nobody has had the balls to challenge it...

      ``Look,'' I say, ``at how many people all over the world are pressuring me to enforce the GPL in court, just to prove I can. I really need to make an example of someone. Would you like to volunteer?''

      Heh heh heh...

      • Re:Great Quote.... (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Ooblek ( 544753 )
        ...nobody has had the balls to challenge it

        Either that or nobody wants to spend the money it will take to challenge it. My guess is that what is going to happen is that someone will not back down to the demands of the FSF when they are found out of compliance with the GPL. At that point, it will be up to the FSF to prove it is valid rather than someone actually challenging it.

        But, really, is there any reason this guy wouldn't say that it is strong? It amazes me that proponents of a certain issue always publish these "epiphanies" of how their issue is strong, sound, and the good cause. In any other forum, the conclusions published as such would be viewed with a lot of skepticism.

        • Re:Great Quote.... (Score:4, Insightful)

          by seeken ( 10107 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @08:02AM (#3386825) Journal
          How could it be anything but strong? You have no legal rights to GPL software other than those gained by agreeing to the license. The epiphany you're refering to is in the GPL.

          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.
  • by Jacer ( 574383 )
    I'm waiting for the day M$ includes a clause in the EULA that says anything written with it's office suite is the sole property of M$, to license, redistribute, and charge a lot more than it's worth!
    • I'm waiting for the day M$ includes a clause in the EULA that says anything written with it's office suite is the sole property of M$

      Microsoft was beaten to the punch on this. Apple's first shared-source license, which accompanied the release of the first OS X, had a provision (I'm not sure if it still has it) that dictated that any changes made to the source for Darwin became the property of Apple. In order to get the source for Darwin, you were made to agree to that particular license. Also, when Apple came out with virtual "I-Disk" for the Imac, which was basically a storage space on Apple's servers for stuff you had on your Imac, anything that a user would place there would automatically fall into the realm of Apple's intellectual property. They could use stuff you created and stored on that disk for anything they wanted without having to compensate you. I'm pretty sure this is no longer the case either.

      I think the "assimilation" part of the shared-source license had been changed, because I do remember Apple getting significant flack for this. I believe now you just have to make any changes you make to Darwin "public" (whatever that is supposed to mean).

    • This sort of thing seems to have happened already.

      Back in the 80's and early 90's, I worked for a couple of companies whose lawyers advised against building products on Sys/V unix, on the grounds that
      their reading of the ATT license implied that any program compiled with the ATT compiler and linked to the Sys/V libraries (yes, including libc.a) would become the property of ATT.

      This seems to have been the way a lot of lawyers interpreted the Sys/V licence, and it is widely believed to be one of the things that killed off Sys/V.

      Considering that linux is in effect a reimplementation of Sys/V (i.e., POSIX), this seems quite believable. This shows that it wasn't Sys/V itself that developers found objectionable.

      This could well be a real case of a company shooting its own product in the foot by trying to sneak in an "everything you develop on our system belongs to us" license.

      Maybe Microsoft will kill its own systems off the same way. I know a number of developers of quality sound software who don't want to sell in the Microsoft market. Their argument is that if they sell directly to customers, Real Player kills their product and users have to keep reinstalling it. The only way to get off Real Player's hit list is to sign a Microsoft license, and that essentially hands over the rights to your software to Microsoft.

      A couple years ago I worked for a company that built firewall and other security software. While I was there, they pulled the NT version of their software, and announced that future releases would only be on unix/linux systems. Their management gave numerous reasons. Primary was the inherent unreliability of a system with hidden "black box" internals whose behaviour they couldn't know or promise. And part of their reason was the very real danger that Microsoft would require integration with NT as the price for getting access to internals, giving Microsoft effective ownership of the code.

      With enough of this sort of thing, Microsoft may wake up one day and find that nobody is willing to develop any more software on their systems.

      Wasn't there a report along this line just last week?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 22, 2002 @07:14AM (#3386662)
    Your standard EULA might not be enforcable because there is a 'lack of consideration' in the contract. Basically, you don't read your average EULA until you bought the box it came in, and they're trying to get you to give up something in exchange for nothing (you already purchased the software).


    On the other hand, the GPL gives you something (the right to copy, change, etc.) in exchange for something (play by their rules)... so even if it comes in a box you purchased you're still being given something.


    Although, if you decide you won't use any of the additional rights the GPL grants, are you still bound by it if you, say, bought a RedHat package full of GNU software? You're paying to use it, right?


    The above is a synopsis of an excellent discussion in Brown Eye Journal [216.239.39.101]... be forewarned, it's a painful read.

    • Is there any authority for this at all?

      It seems to be established ground that user agreements like EULA is legitimate in contractual terms. The whole idea is that if you don't accept the user agreement, you're supposde to return the software back to the shop (ha).

      So, the consideration is clearly the purchase price, and the agreement (ie licence) the quid pro quo for your purchase price.

      Sounds like a really dodgy argument to me.
      • If I purchase a copy of MS Office at CompUSA or Best Buy, then decide the license agreement is unacceptable, these stores will not accept your opened MS Office box for return.
      • So, the consideration is clearly the purchase price, and the agreement (ie licence) the quid pro quo for your purchase price.

        Did you pay Microsoft for your copy of Windows, or did you pay someone else? If you paid Microsoft, maybe you can use this argument, but if you paid someone else, then any "contract" is between you and them. Microsoft has no right to sue you for breaching a contract between the two of you.

        Of course this is one particular problem with GPLed software. If someone makes GPLed software, and a company then takes that GPLed software and makes modifications, then a third party modifies that software, the company could still sue the third party for copyright infringement, and there's nothing the third party can do about it, without help from the original author.

        It makes for an interesting case for places like slashdot. This web page you're reading is clearly a derivitive work of slashcode, and slashcode is clearly GPLed, but could slashdot sue someone for copying it? It's unclear. But now I've digressed into my GPL rant...

      • It seems to be established ground that user agreements like EULA is legitimate in contractual terms. The whole idea is that if you don't accept the user agreement, you're supposde to return the software back to the shop (ha).

        This isn't relevent anyway, since the GPL is not an EULA.
        It is a copyright licence.
      • I believe that part of the legal trouble comes from differentiation between products and services. This determines whether the EULA is a contract or a license. Further complicating this, I believe, is that we're talking about State law, and not Federal law -- so things can change from place to place.

        The general idea is something like this: it is possible to impose "licensing" terms on services, and EULAs are likely to be enforceable in these cases. Contracts, on the other hand, have to be agreed before money exchanges hands; this means the EULAs are not valid contracts. The question, then, is whether software accompanied by a EULA is a service or a product.

        In a recent California case, certain software was declared to be a product. Had the software been "rented" instead of sold, it *might* have been considered a service. This meant that the terms of the EULA were not enforceable. In particular, I think they were not enforced on a company that had never agreed to the EULA anyway, and was simply redistributing the product in a manner different than Adobe corporation wanted them to.

        -Paul Komarek
    • Although, if you decide

      It has nothing to do with paying to use it. You cannot distribute copies of a copyrighted work.

      So if you're challenged in court as to what made you think you could copy and redistribute the software, how do you defend yourself?

      Either you say "The author permitted me to do so by granting me license under the terms of the GPL", or you say "I am a criminal"

      So either all these people using these extra rights provided for under the GPL are criminals, or they've protected themselves under the terms of the GPL. They don't need to sign anything, the author has signed the agreement.

    • I suspect you could "fall back" to a standard purchase contract if you bought a boxed copy of Redhat without agreeing to the GPL - ie, you have a single copy for use within fair use right limitations, including first purchase (so you could sell the complete package or functionally separate parts of the package on for any amount you like, provided you don't retain a copy) but only acceptance of the GPL will allow you to sell or give away a copy, or distribute derived works (altered copies)
    • 1) The purchase price is payable to the retailer not the publisher so the publisher wouldn't be considered a party to the contract at that level.

      2) The publisher tries to insert themselves into the contract with the EULA at the time you install the software. They tell you that if you don't agree with the EULA to return the product to the place you bought it for a refund. This is lame as most stores flat refuse to take back opened software - evebn if you point out that they're legally required to (because you couldn't inspect the goods in store).

      3) What is the publisher giving you in exchange for accepting the EULA - nothing apparently as you already bought the software from the retailer. Granting you a right to use something you already bought the right to use is giving you nothing. Not to mention the manufacturers disclaimer of warranties makes it clear the software isnt intended to do anything anyway.
  • Interesting point (Score:3, Informative)

    by lunenburg ( 37393 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @07:20AM (#3386687) Homepage
    That's an interesting point. Because if a company used GPL'd software, and declined to release the source, they'd have two options:

    1) Challenge the GPL in court. If it failed, the best they could hope for is that the code would revert to existing copyright law, which means they can't use it at all, and thus would have to pull that code out of their product.

    2) Bow to pressure and conform to the terms of the GPL, which is what the FSF, et al, wanted all along.

    A very interesting observation, and one that gets to the heart of the "If you don't like the conditions we attach to our code, write your own" argument. Other people would not normally be able to use GPL'd code at all, under standard copyright law, but for some reason, the GPL seems to lead to more "I should be able to do whatever I want with your code" responses.
    • Because if a company used GPL'd software, and declined to release the source, they'd have two options:

      I take it you mean use and redistribute outside of the company. Nothing in the GPL says you have to offer up source code if you modify but don't redistribute....A company could easily pickup GPL code and modify it for use inside the company and never have to offer up the changes for distribution.
      • You only have to make the sources available to people you give the binaries to (if you make the binaries available).

        You don't, AFAICT, have to distribute your modificatioins _at all_.

        If I have a limited private beta of a software package that's GPL'd, I have to give out the source with the binaries, but I don't have to do so for others.

        However, the kicker is that I can't prevent those private beta people from redistributing the software themselves ... nor can the company prevent employees from copying it and putting it on their PCs at home or offering it for download, but the person who does the distributing is the one responsible to make the sources available.
    • I just have to nitpick here, because there is always someone who misunderstands this no matter how many posts that state otherwise:

      • You do not have to release source, or bother with the GPL-license if all you do is USE the software.

      • You only have to agree to the license if you actually distribute software externally based on that GPL-software.


  • by Anonymous Coward
    First, to clarify a point. It is said that Free Software advocates are against proprietary software and against commercial software. Nothing can be further from the truth. In fact, Free Software is against neither of these things, but only against the commercial distribution of proprietary software because of the damage it does to the rights of those that receive such software.

    It is certainly true that most propriatary licenses take away rights and privileges one might otherwise expect in a commercial transaction. The point that the GPL grants rights forbidden in copyright law is interesting and important in this context.

    If I buy a proprietary piece of software for my business, it might come with a EULA that says I have surrendered my right to second sale, or even my very basic and real rights to own property and use it as I see fit for my OWN use. The EULA might claim that I can only use software "X" in very specific ways, it may restrict me from doing things with the software such as modifying it even for my own use, let alone being able to take my modifications and benefit from the intellectual investment I made in software "X". And perhaps I may be making myself open to expensive audits. Proprietary commercial licenses can devalue my intellectual rights as a consumer, and the very integrety of my business.

    Interestingly enough, while EULA's tend to interfere with what happens in privately owned software in many ways, Free Software in general, and even the GPL specifically, imposes no restrictions whatsoever with what I do with it in my own proprietary use, whether in my own home or my business.

    If I wish to create or modify software for use in my own proprietary business, unlike with commercial proprietary software, I am absolutely free to do so with freely licensed software in any manner I choose. I am secure in both my first ammendment rights to talk about the software I am using and what I am doing if I wish (yes, some commercial proprietary software comes with licenses that claim to strip away such basic 1st ammendment protections) and my very basic 4th ammendment rights to be secure in my own property. In that there is no issue of software freedom in what I do with software personally, there are no terms in licenses like the GPL that either come in effect or hinder me in any way in this regard.

    When the GPL does come into play is when I choose to distribute software to others, and particularly commercially. The GPL grants specific rights that permit you as a commercial entity to actually profit from the software you have invested in and then modified. The GPL only says that you must give others the same oppertunity and rights you were given.

    Many commercial licenses do not permit you to profit from the software you have purchased in any manner whatsoever. They restrict what you can do with the software in other ways. They reduce the value the investment made in the software. The GPL increases the value of the investment. Prorpiatary licenses, especially when combined with software patents, can interfere with the basic right to own property and be secure in your own possessions or the ability to choose. By restricting what you do with your own property and your ability to purchase from multipe vendors commercial proprietary software is very anti-
    capitolistic.
  • 2001??? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hdparm ( 575302 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @07:34AM (#3386741) Homepage
    Why, for cryin' out loud, do we have to waste time on articles published in September and October 2001?

    To make things even worse, people are trying to discuss something that's been chewed, re-chewed and over-chewed who knows how many times already. Once and for all - GPL is good, it protects people's work and creativity and prevents bustards from steeling ideas.

    Couple of hours installing Linux on a friend's PC and/or promoting virtues of GNU/Linux/GPL/Free/Good... would be time spent in a much better way.

    This was not meant as a flame or such but feel free to mod to the ground, who cares...
    • "Why, for cryin' out loud, do we have to waste time on articles published in September and October 2001?"

      The second paper was published on 9/10/2001.

      Did you forget about the week the world stopped turning? First thing in the morning the day(night?) right after this was published? Did you notice this guy works in Columbia which is located in NYC?

      Perhaps we all had better things to do than to submit the two article set that day. That makes it no less valid.

      I agree reposting sucks, but this I believe was an exception.

    • by runswithd6s ( 65165 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @09:01AM (#3387051) Homepage
      Knowledge does not have an expiration date. I, for one, am pleased that this article was published as a /. item. I hadn't read this document, because I didn't know it existed. I wasn't actively looking for this information, but now that I have read it, I'm happy I did. This article has given me motivation to dig further, and such an active response is always a Good Thing(tm).
    • Ok, this merits praise...

      Couple of hours installing Linux on a friend's PC and/or promoting virtues of GNU/Linux/GPL/Free/Good... would be time spent in a much better way.

      OMG.. Words of Wisdom from the slashdotians! I have been preaching this for years and sadly most linux/OSS users are too lazy or have too many phycological problems interacting with other humans to be able to do this. I have to date converted 12 people from Win*** to Linux (RH to be exact.) and HELD THEIR HAND through the first 3 months. (actualy hand holding time is less than 5 weeks but being close to help keeps the fears at bay) There are 3 important lessons these people learn during their foray away from Microsoft....

      1. you do not NEED microsoft or microsoft compatable products... everything you need is available undr linux.
      2. you do not NEED to send DOC,XLS,or PPT files. sending then as RTF or even PDF (Yes I teach them how to distill to pdf) is better.
      3. you cant buy cheap crap for hardware. I have had 3 of them learn this at the 4 month mark. They bought a new modem, internal, el-cheapo. it wont work, they whined that Linux cant autodetect.... bla...bla... I told them to take it back and buy ONLY high quality parts... in fact I showed them how to get a list of what works. Voila... quality hardware=works with linux.

      12 people.. all of which no longer HOSE their windows machine monthly, are happy it runs faster, and now brag that they are VIRUS IMMUNE (I know they are factually wrong, but compared to microsoft they are.)
    • "Once and for all - GPL is good, it protects people's work and creativity and prevents bustards from steeling ideas."

      How do you steal an idea?

      I always thought that the GPL was meant to prevent people from locking away ideas from public use.
  • Maybe it's because nobody cares.

    I mean... the GPL basically does what it's intended to do, even if there are occasional transgressions. And the copyright holders don't have much financial incentive to go to court. And the offenders find it easier to comply or otherwise settle than to fight in court.

    All in all, this is a good thing.
  • Its Not Challenged Because Nobody Uses It for commercially viable products...that is where real money is involved.

    • Farmers up here use the 3 S's when dealing with wolves: Shoot, shovel, and shut up. It is illegal to kill a wolf (protect species), but if you hide the evidence there is little chance you will get into trouble for it.

      Likewise, I suspect there are a lot of companies that use GPL code but they don't tell anyone so nobody finds out. Accually I suspect the company has a policy of not using GPL code, but some programers are not up on legalities so they use it, remove the license, and don't tell anyone. If someone can prove it, the entire product is GPL, but it is very hard to prove. (And there is a reasonable chance the company can wiggle out by proving that it was against policy to do that, and the company made a good effort to not use gpl code. Maybe, you would have to ask a lawyer what would happen in this case.

      • I don't believe that is what usually happens if some GPLed stuff winds up in a larger work. There are other options:

        1. The GPLed portion can be replaced with non-infringing code.

        2. Other consideration can be given to the original copyright holders. ie. relicensing of the affected code in exchange for money.

        If by "wiggle out" you mean "get off scot-free and continue to distribute infringing code" then no that won't happen (at least not to FSF owned code.). At a minimum, they will have to put out a non-infringing mandatory upgrade since they didn't have the right to distribute the original code.

        Remember, the GPL doesn't get to dictate penalties for copyright violation (although it may suggest them REALLY strongly). Either a judge does that or an accomodation is reached with the copyright holders in arbitration. Moglen is saying arbitration is their usual approach.

      • And there is a reasonable chance the company can wiggle out by proving that it was against policy to do that, and the company made a good effort to not use gpl code.

        I think Teradyne set the standard on this, thanks, in part, to my efforts, while there: A "good effort", means paying RMS to come and lecture your developers on the GPL, taping the lecture, and using it as a tool for new hires who will work with GPL code.

        Now, that cuts both ways: the company may have an excuse if a clueless programmer messes up, but now has no excuse if the company tries to hide it.

      • If someone can prove it, the entire product is GPL,

        Not quite. If someone can prove it, then it is illegal for the company to distribute the software, especially if they licenced code from third parties who do not approve of applying the GPL to their software.

    • Because, gee, the world's most portable multi-frontend optimizing compiler is not a commericially viable application. Neither is the world's most popular Un*x like operating system. Heck, the proof is in the pudding; Cygnus and ACT are two commericially successful companies build around GCC.
  • Plus, it would be a big PR gaffe for anyone (even Microsoft) to try to "steal" free code and break the GPL.
  • ... then Microsoft would openly use GPL code and then challenge the GPL in court. Embrace, extend, crush resistance, lather, rinse, repeat....
    • Sure, that is a good idea, get MS in court, have them admit to violating copyright. Really good when lobbying for the impartance of IP.

      Of course they'd get off because even if the judiciary rules against MS, they don't have the means to enforce it.

      A judge can make any judgement they want, however they lack the tools to really enforce it. A court order doesn't mean anything unless the government will stand behind it and make it happen.
  • Read the GPL (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anarchofascist ( 4820 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @08:43AM (#3386981) Homepage Journal
    "If the user doesn't accept the terms of the GPL, the default is for copying and redistribution to be forbidden under copyright law. I had never looked at it that way before. . ."

    You've never read the GPL then.

    I recommend that everyone who uses GPL software read the GPL. It's not hard. It is a legal document, but it is written in plain and simple language because the authors intended it to be understood (shock! horror!). The section in question is an absolute bloody work of genius. I quote:

    "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."

    It's so beautiful, I may just cry openly.
  • With an actual front-page article like this one, perhaps I can stop having to make this exact point [GPL gives rights, normal EULA takes away rights] every time someone demonstrates belief in the fallacy that the GPL is "just like an EULA", or the related fallacy that "GPL restricts actual use of a product".

    Oh wait. I guess that would require people to read the article, now, wouldn't it? <sigh>

  • I've always wondered why the Slashdot community (and GPL advocates in general) don't all get together and start a BSA-like (Business Software Alliance) organization to defend and promote the GPL?

    sell shares to raise funds. say, $10 a piece.

    offer a bounty for whistleblowers (licensees, contractors, coders with options underwater, etc) who can demonstrate uses of GPL'd code in shipping, closed-source products.

    conduct BSA-style raids on firms selling closed-source software.

    since a proven violation would likely open-source the product, terminate that firm's ability to sell it further, and result in heavy fines (triple damages, plus all the ill-gotten gains) there would be a strong incentive to settle out-of-court.

    the settlement funds are fed-back into the organization to offer more bounties, and pay dividends to the share holders, etc.

    I realize this would never work (the community would never support it; free software has never been about taking software from others unwilling to give it) but it's fun to dream about it.

    • free software has never been about taking software from others unwilling to give it

      Well you're not really taking any software. Going after GPL violations is simply taking control of what is rightfully yours if you happened to be the person who owned and/or wrote the GPL-ed code.

      I think your idea of a BSA-like organization is excellent. Such an organization could help the lone GPL coder(s) go after a huge company that is illegally using their code. Typically, most GPL work is done by individuals without the capacity to take on such companies in court and win. A BSA-like organization may be the only way for such coders to be able to enforce their rights by being able to hire the legal guns on the same par as lawyers on corporate retainer or payroll.

  • can be found here [columbia.edu]
  • Front page for an eight month old essay? Seems like we hashed this over, like, maybe, last August? What's next -- New stable fork, Linux 2.4 kernel? Or maybe perl 5.0 finally out? Maybe gcc 2.8?

    • Has the GPL changed since the article came out? Even though it's the internet, relevant articles may be more than three hours old. It's nice to see an article as soon as it comes out, but I'm willing to guess that most people on this site hadn't seen the article back when it was released.

      So you have two choices: Read it or don't read it. If you think that the eight months of sitting on a server virtually untouched has made it stale, then by all means don't read it. I, on the other hand, read the whole article before noticing the date, and I didn't see one word of the article that isn't as true today as it was way back when it was written.

      This article has survived through the ages, indeed.

  • by GauteL ( 29207 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @10:52AM (#3387628)
    .. is that they somehow imply that all organizations that USE GPL-based software should have to carefully examine the license in counsel with lawyers.

    This makes the GPL sound way more complicated than it is.

    If an organization does nothing but USE GPL-based software (installing Linux one corporate servers or desktops), they need not bother with the GPL-license at all. They can just rest assured that the GPL-license gives them some rights over most other software, if they should ever decide to modify it.

    Compared to Microsofts proprietary licenses. The GPL-license is nothing but added rights. There is no drawback whatsoever with the license itself. Though Microsoft might debate that free software can never be as good as non-free software (I would disagree), or that they might not get good enough support (I still disagree).

    Now. The BSD-license grants you even more rights. But that is another story.
  • OK everyone, next time you get ready to say something like "I hate lawyers" think of this guy. Sure some lawyers are scum, but there's a lot of them who do good things that help out good people.

  • If the user doesn't accept the terms of the GPL, the default is for copying and redistribution to be forbidden under copyright law.

    I understand your point, but IANAL, so are you sure that the "default" would apply? Does copyright law apply to a work published in that manner? (Maybe by using the word "publish", I've answered my own question!) I'm talking about technicalities such as not including the "Copyright" message, etc.?

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