Subject: Re: JBoss aquired by Red Hat
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <turnbull@sk.tsukuba.ac.jp>
Date: Sun, 30 Apr 2006 01:27:54 +0900

>>>>> "Bernard" == Bernard Lang <Bernard.Lang@inria.fr> writes:

    Bernard> so what  ?

I'm not sure what makes Larry scream (he writes in his book that the
GPL was intended by its authors to be a bare license), but in U.S. law
contracts have several advantages over bare licenses.  From the point
of view of free software, an important one is non-copyright-holders
can enforce them.  This can be important for collective or derivative
works where the upstream owners are unwilling or unavailable to
participate in the lawsuit.

Another is that a bare license cannot compel performance of its terms;
it can only be revoked/forfeited, and you can sue for damages and
ill-gotten profits.  Actual damages in the case of publicly free
software are generally going to be zero; there are statutory damages,
but these are intended to proxy for actual damages and are at the
discretion of the court.  It might be very small.

Consider a case where somebody adapts a copylefted program, and
distributes only binaries for free.  In the case of a contract, I
believe you can enforce distribution of the derivative source---the
violator promised to do so, so that's only fair.  In the case of a
bare license, though, I would guess that the violator can simply
desist from distribution, and pay damages if any, since they have made
no promises (the GPL's language of "acceptance of the license"
notwithstanding, there is no promise made by the licensee in a bare
license).

-- 
Graduate School of Systems and Information Engineering   University of Tsukuba
http://turnbull.sk.tsukuba.ac.jp/        Tennodai 1-1-1 Tsukuba 305-8573 JAPAN
        Economics of Information Communication and Computation Systems
          Experimental Economics, Microeconomic Theory, Game Theory