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Re: GPL and other licences


From: Stefaan A Eeckels
Subject: Re: GPL and other licences
Date: Sat, 11 Feb 2006 02:49:43 +0100

On Sat, 11 Feb 2006 02:11:23 +0100
"Alfred M\. Szmidt" <address@hidden> wrote:

> I'm having a hard time following your message, you speak of property
> and ownership of software, neither of which are applicable to
> software.  You cannot own software; since you cannot own software, it
> cannot be property.

Well, this is where you got it wrong - it's called IP (Intellectual
Property) because it is a form of property. Whenever you produce a work
of authorship (and software is considered a work of authorship like a
novel or a poem) you, the author, are the owner of that work. 

> The license is infact attached to the software (i.e. work), and not
> the actual physical entity that it resides on.

It is attached to the copy of the work that resides on the physical
medium. This is why the author can license the same work under two
different licenses, for example the GPL and a license that doesn't
require derivative works to be licensed under the GPL. 

>  Anything else would be
> absurd, since if you sell me your harddisk, and you for some odd
> reason forget to remove all data on it, then by your argument, I am
> now the lawful licensee (and even the copyright holder(?)) of all your
> files; no matter what the license is of each particular file is (it
> could for example be `ams is not allowed to look at this file')

No, you would be the owner of my disk, unless I had specifically ceded
the ownership of my copies of the software. The medium can exist
without the copy of the software, but the software cannot exist without
a medium. When you acquire a copy of a program, you are allowed to run
it, which implies copying it to the hard disk, and subsequently copying
it to the RAM, caches, processors etc as required by your computer. All
these operations are considered to be copies of the software, but they
are expressly allowed under the statutes. If I sell the hard disk to
you, the copies of the software I licensed are no longer lawful, and
hence you do not derive any rights from them. They were only lawful as
long as they served the purpose of running the program by the owner of
the copy. Now if I cede you the original copy, then you become the
lawful owner and can continue to use the copies on the hard disk.

I know that at first this can look weird, but that's how it works.

> It seems that you are mixing up two cases (once again), the CD
> (i.e. physical entity that the software resides on), in which you are
> eniterly correct, and I never disagreed there (and I'm getting a bit
> tired saying that).  And the cases of where you actually aquired
> (legally) a program (on what is not relevant!) which is licensed under
> the GPL from your employeer.  Obviously, unless the employer allows me
> to scratch the physical media which the software resides on, I'm not
> allowed to scratch it.  But the employeer is simply incapable to
> dictate what I can do with the program, other than by just refusing to
> give me the software (once again, the physical media is irrelevant);

You got it wrong. By giving you his property (the lawful copy of the
software) for the purposes of your job, you have not lawfully acquired
(become owner) of a copy, and hence you have no rights. The fact that
you have access to the copy (you hold the CD your employer handed you
for the purposes of installing it on one of their computers, which you
are allowed to use but do not own) does not mean that you are the owner
of that copy, and it is the ownership of that copy (on whatever medium)
that gives you certain rights. Now ownership, no rights. 

Do you believe that you enter into a license with Microsoft if you use
your employer's computer that has Windows installed on it? Of course
not, as you did not sign anything. Tomorrow you can be fired, and
someone else will take the place behind that computer, and continue to
use the equipment and software you used. There only is a license
between the employer and Microsoft. 

> at which point I'm not in possession of the software (physical media
> is irrelevant), and I have no rights to the software, since I don't
> have the software.

It's late, and sentences become garbled. 

When I first tried to understand copyright, I considered it totally
unintuitive. What you have to learn is that the law does not have to be
intuitive, or even make sense to you. What matters is what it says, and
how it is applied. And I again assure you that it is not applied like
you interpret it. 

Take care,

-- 
Stefaan
-- 
As complexity rises, precise statements lose meaning,
and meaningful statements lose precision. -- Lotfi Zadeh 


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