Subject: RE: Automatic GPL termination
From: "Philippe Verdy" <>
Date: Wed, 12 Sep 2007 17:29:16 +0200

 Wed, 12 Sep 2007 17:29:16 +0200

> De : dlw []
> After a GPL derivative work is released over the internet to thousands
> of servers how does a plaintiff  return all the initial copyright
> permissions that were exchanged prior to terminating the license?
> Sometimes it's impossible to put the cat back in the bag.

Wrong: when one redistribute a GPL-covered package, even illegally, he does
not directly sublicence it, even if it is illegal. Instead the GPL states
that the licence is ganted by the original authors, not by the distributor.
The distributor must then terminate its licence, but others are not
affected. This means that each time you download a GPL-covered software from
any source, you don't get the licence from that source but from the original
authors, and you must agree with the terms given by the original author.

There's no sub-licencing scheme in the GPL, the relations are always
directly between the licensee (user of the covered work) and the original
authors, and each licensee need to conform to the terms defined by the
original authors, independently of the other terms that may have been
imposed (or suppressed) illegitimately by the distributor.

This also means that the other licensees that discover that the GPL software
they use has been illegally distributed, must ensure that their licence is
valid according to what the original authors are saying, and they can't
trust the distributor, unless they have paid the distributor to get a
guarantee that the copy of the software licence they obtained from them is

Independantly of the termination of the licence of the distributor, the
distributor will have to manage itself all issues with its past users to
which it has provided illegal licences. The authors need not contact each
individual user; but it will continue to be up to the distributor to assume
its legal responsibility for its illegal action face to other users
complains. So the good question for users is to keep a provable track of the
distributor (they can't complain directly to the authors, if the distributor
has abused its rights and hidden the true authors).

The termination of the licence of a distributor does not leave it completely
out of its legal obligations face to the other licensees: it's up to him to
manage these issues (but nothing forbids the licensees to seek assistance
with the originalauthors to initiate a group action against the distributor
whose licence was terminated for abuse). Immediately the termination means
that the distributor must stop conveying the covered work, and looses all
its rights to redistributing it, even when respecting the initial mandatary
conditions that he has violated (if he does continue, despite his licence
has been namely terminated, this is a criminal offense which will be
considered in a group legal action against him by its users).

If the distributor has granted licences under his own name instead of the
author, this is a falsification of identity, and he remains fully liable of
the damages made to his users, and this is even worse if he charged them by
giving licences himself to them. A distributor CANNOT grant himself GPL
licences to users to whom he conveys the program.

With the GPL, the distribution right is transferable, but NOT the right to
grant licences (distributors are acting as mandated proxies for the original