Subject: Re: How To Break The GPL
From: Ian Lance Taylor <>
Date: 3 Mar 2000 15:55:23 -0500

   Date: Fri, 03 Mar 2000 15:39:23 -0500
   From: John Cowan <>

   Ian Lance Taylor wrote:

   > The law considers intent, and ignores technical detail.  If a person's
   > actions are clearly intended to make a copyright ineffective, and if
   > the copyright does in fact become ineffective, then the person has
   > violated the copyright.

   Well, sometimes.  The creators of clean-room BIOSes intended to make
   the IBM BIOS copyright ineffective.  They were able to do so by
   attending to technical detail: making sure that none of the developers
   had ever seen the details of the IBM BIOS, while being aware of the
   interface conventions.  Now you can buy a cheap BIOS from any of
   several vendors.

True, copyright law only applies if some actual copying takes place.
In your original example, it does.  In the BIOS case, it does not.

The clean-room stuff was to be able to prove in court that no actual
copying occurred; a potentially important point in something as simple
as a BIOS, in which there was probably a noticeable amount of code
which was identical between the two implementations.