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Re: [DotGNU]Licences.

From: David Sugar
Subject: Re: [DotGNU]Licences.
Date: Wed, 26 Jun 2002 13:30:46 -0400 (EDT)

On Thu, 20 Jun 2002, Daniel Carrera wrote:

> Hello,
> I have a question about law.  I need some help understanding licenses.
> Understanding this will help me know when licenses are being broken.
> I have two questions:
> 1)  How can I project change license after its started?
> A project might start using the X11 license and then switch to the LGPL.
> How can that be?
> How can you add or take aways restrictions afterwards?

The copyright owner(s) can choose to release software under any terms they 
wish, and change those terms later.  This simply means that a license 
"fork" has occured, where older releases are under the original license, 
and newer releases are under the new one.  

Some software is distributed with so called EULA's rather than thru
application of copyright law.  EULA's attempt to create licensing thru
basic contract law, and some claim that new terms can be retroactivily
applied or that they can trump your rights to second sale.  I suppose one
can make and sign a contract that agrees to any terms in theory, but the
courts generally will not uphold clearly unreasonable terms.  For example,
a contract signing yourself into slavery would not be upheld, regardless
of if legally "signed" by two "consenting" parties.  In fact, retroactive
EULA's are, I think, an instrument of fraud, and I wish they were
prosecuted in that manner.

> 2) If I hold the copyright to a pice of software.  Say it's GPL.
> Do I have the right to give that software to someone under a different
> license?
> If so, that is a potential hamper on freedom.

As the copyright owner, you can choose to do as you wish in this regard
under existing law.  Yes, you could potentially give the software to one
person under the GPL and to another under different terms.  Sometimes this
is done openly, such as thru a disjunctive license, but it need not be.  
It would seem less a hamper on freedom than a futile exercise, however, 
since the person can simply receive the same code from someone else who 
can distribute it under the GPL.

There may be other reasons why some may choose to make software available
under the GPL to some people and not directly so to others.  The GPL for
example disclaims warrenty.  Perhaps, as a vendor, one might choose to
supply warrenties or other support, and do so to a set of customers that
do not receive the code you are supporting under the GPL, where at the
same time also making it available as free software.  I am not going to
comment on the full ethical considerations involved, but I think there are
some examples of this being done...

I recall your original question was indirectly related to Lindows.  I will
answer your question here in this context.  Lindows obviously does not
hold copyright on most of the code they would choose to redistribute in
their release, and only has legal permission to redistribute much of that
code in any form due soley to a single legal instrument, the GPL.  
Assuming they do distribute a release, they must do so under the terms
outlined by the GPL at least for those parts of their distribution so

> Daniel.
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