Subject: Re: JBoss aquired by Red Hat
From: Seth Johnson <>
Date: Sun, 30 Apr 2006 13:48:25 -0400

Lawrence Rosen wrote:
> If I hear one more person say the GPL is a license not a contract I'm going
> to scream!

This is one of the best things about the GPL.  While it's nice to
leave it occulted the way it is outside the GPL-aware community,
I personally don't think it can be repeated enough.

>      This software is licensed under the GPL.
>      Click *HERE* to assent to the GPL and download the software.
> Now the GPL is a contract.

I quite often inform people who present the GPL this way that
it's not necessary.

> Even as just a license the GPL can say "under this license, 'distribute'
> includes XYZ."

That the GPL is not a contract means that one day, if it starts
getting subject to legal tests, that discourse won't be all about
contracts and EULAs and consent and how authors should be able to
stipulate x, y and z and the freedoms of recipients of their
works should be subject to such and such stipulations -- instead,
it will be about copyright, what copyright is in nature, a real
discussion of principle -- which would include how much you can
actually pack into the distribution right (or the derivative
works right).

So cool.  So totally well framed.


> /Larry
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: Ben Tilly []
> > Sent: Friday, April 28, 2006 11:03 AM
> > To:
> > Cc:
> > Subject: Re: JBoss aquired by Red Hat
> >
> > On 4/27/06, Lawrence Rosen <> wrote:
> > > > > How do you define "distributed"?
> > > >
> > > > I don't define it.
> > > >
> > > > I let lawyers do that.
> > >
> > > Better still, in some cases the license defines it. See sections 5 and
> > 14 of
> > > OSL 3.0 (
> >
> > That may confuse the issue more than it clarifies it.
> >
> > Suppose that the GPL defined distribution in such a way that putting
> > the software on an employee's machine was distribution.  Suppose that
> > an employer puts software on an employee's machine but is not willing
> > to give that employee the source to take home.  It would appear that
> > the employer was violating the GPL.  However that is not so, the GPL
> > is a copyright license, not a contract.  Therefore as long as the
> > employer is not doing something that requires permission under
> > copyright law, the employer has no need to pay any attention to the
> > GPL.  The end result is that the GPL doesn't actually mean what it
> > appears to say.
> >
> > I prefer the present situation where it is clear that you have to fall
> > back on the murky definitions in copyright law, rather than a
> > situation where it appears that you don't, but actually you do
> > anyways.
> >
> > Cheers,
> > Ben


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