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Re: Restrictive Patent Usage

From: Federico Heinz <fheinz@vialibre.org.ar>
Date: 28 Nov 2002 16:57:45 -0300
To: Dan Kegel <dank@kegel.com>
Cc: www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org
Message-Id: <1038513466.3429.675.camel@michelle>
On Thu, 2002-11-28 at 16:11, Dan Kegel wrote:
> > 6. Since I cannot anticipate the fields of use in which users of my
> > server may want to reuse my code, I can't grant them blanket permission
> > to do it, as required by the GPL
> I'm with you right up until this last bit.  Can you specify exactly
> which part of the GPL requires this?  Then let's look at that section
> more closely.  (And feel free to have a cup of coffee first :-)

The GPL is a weird beast, written in legalese as these things tend to
be, and IANALNBF (I Am Not A Lawywer, Not By Far). But let's try anyway.

Article 2 says:

"2.  You may modify your copy or copies of the Program or any portion of
it, thus forming a work based on the Program, and copy and distribute
such modifications or work under the terms of Section 1 above, provided
that you also meet all of these conditions:

    * a) [stuff irrelevant to this discussion -- FH]

    * b) You must cause any work that you distribute or publish, that in
whole or in part contains or is derived from the Program or any part
thereof, to be licensed as a whole at no charge to all third parties
under the terms of this License. [Note the recursion here! -- FH]"

So I can use the code to create derivative works, as long as they are
distributed, if at all, under the GPL. This means that if I distribute
the code, I must grant the recipient the right to use *any part of my
code* in derivative works distributed, if at all, under GPL.

The problem is that I can license my program under GPL all I want, but
it would be void, since I don't have the right to grant you the ability
to "modify your copy or copies of the Program or any portion of it, thus
forming a work based on the Program, and copy and distribute such
modifications or work under the terms of Section 1 above,". I cannot
even grant the user permission to use parts of my program for in-house
applications if they fall outside the field of use!

That, at least, as far as I can read this kind of language without
getting too dizzy, so maybe I'm mistaken in my interpretation. But I'm
pretty confident that the GPL does not allow for this kind of thing,
because it's exactly the sort of loopholes it tries to close. If it
didn't prevent this patent hanky-panky, it would be quite easy for me to
"kidnap" free software projects: I'd just have my buddy apply for some
moronic patent, build it into the program, and have him license it only
to me.

	Fede


Received on Thursday, 28 November 2002 14:56:15 GMT

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