Subject: Re: brands, trademarks, and the GPL
From: Crispin Cowan <>
Date: Wed, 29 Sep 1999 05:38:48 +0000

Brian Behlendorf wrote:

> NOTE: I have reduced cc's to  I ask everyone else
> following this to do the same, cc'ing two dozen people is madness.

Good plan :-)

> On Tue, 28 Sep 1999, Crispin Cowan wrote:
> > So is GPL 3 proposed to be applied to existing, large projects, i.e. the Linux
> > Kernel and the GNOME?  If so, it's problematic, because it requires that all of
> > the contributing authors accept the new license, which is difficult when the
> > identity and location of these authors is not precisely known.  I have
> > traditionally regarded this as a strength of the Linux GPL:  not even Linus could
> > take the Linux kernel proprietary, because he would have to get distributed
> > agreement from too many people.
> Even if Linus *did* own all of the IP in the Linux kernel, he could not
> "take it proprietary", as no matter what Linus did with the next release,
> the previous release would still be available under the GPL, and anyone
> could fork it.  *This* is the real strength, and is why open source works
> no matter who owns the IP.

All of this is true.  HOWEVER, because of the "2000 authors mutual agreement problem",
not only can Linus not take all copies proprietary, he cannot even fork a proprietary
version.   Contrast this with the AbiSoft situation, where AbiSoft could (concevably)
produce a proprietary fork of their GPL'd word processor, if they can precisely
identify all of the contributors to their code base.

For a practical example of this, consider the Roxen Challenge web server.  Roxen
released the code with a GPL license, but because they wrote all the code, they also
produced a proprietary fork.

 Crispin Cowan, Research Assistant Professor of Computer Science, OGI
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