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Re: Advice Workplace that Forces Non-Free Software

From: Mike Gerwitz
Subject: Re: Advice Workplace that Forces Non-Free Software
Date: Tue, 08 Sep 2020 00:54:53 -0400
User-agent: Gnus/5.13 (Gnus v5.13) Emacs/28.0.50 (gnu/linux)


I don't have time now to respond to the entirety of your message before
I head off to bed, but I did want to provide a quick link:

On Mon, Sep 07, 2020 at 09:44:17 +0300, Jean Louis wrote:
> Dear Mike,
> * Mike Gerwitz <> [2020-08-30 08:53]:
>> > Employee working on software that cannot be improved, verified,
>> > distributed, is certainly deprived personally of many freedoms,
>> > employee cannot get the same software for himself, cannot study it,
>> > and cannot improve it for the company, cannot help other companies to
>> > use the same software. Right? So employee is denied personal
>> > freedoms to help others. We are back to same injustice and same
>> > sharing liberties.
>> Software freedom is different than entitlement.  Just because software
>> is free, doesn't mean that you have, or should have, access to it.  But
>> when you do have access to it, it ought to be free.
>> When a company distributes software internally to employees, that does
>> not count as distribution under the terms of the GPL, for example.  If
>> the employer distributes it outside of the company, then it is.
> I am sorry, please clarify it to me, I have been reading in that
> context some texts in past, yet I do not find it today.
> If software is on the computer that any person is using that in my
> opinion is not conveying of software. The GPL says:
> To “convey” a work means any kind of propagation that enables other
> parties to make or receive copies. Mere interaction with a user
> through a computer network, with no transfer of a copy, is not
> conveying.
> But if software is given to employee through network, as a copy of
> software, that is conveying by my opinion.
> You said when company distributes software, so that distribution is
> conveying of software. And the GPL license would apply, if such
> software is under GPL.
> So please clarify that opinion of yours, that I may find references to
> it, as how I read the GPL, at least this newest version, it is
> contrary to what you stated.
>> If an employer develops software internally, as another example: if that
>> software is kept internally, and not distributed to users outside of the
>> company, it makes no difference to users' freedoms (under the four
>> freedoms) if it's freely licensed or not.
> I do not see any word "employer" or "employee" in the GPL in the
> license text:
> So I cannot know how do you interpret the license, as it is irrelevant
> for the license who is employee and who is employer.
> So please clarify it, as you are interepreting the license now, and
> your interpretation is on the public mailing list, and I cannot find
> any references to that interpretation, and to me it looks contrary to
> GPL statements.
> It would not be nice that many people reading the public mailing list
> get confused about that, as we are all guarding the GPL and its
> principles. 

Internal distribution (to other employees) counts as the same
party.  v3 also states:

  To “propagate” a work means to do anything with it that, without
  permission, would make you directly or secondarily liable for
  infringement under applicable copyright law, except executing it on a
  computer or modifying a private copy.

Internal distribution within an organization is private.

Here's the GPL FAQ:

    The GPL does not require you to release your modified version, or any
    part of it. You are free to make modifications and use them privately,
    without ever releasing them. This applies to organizations (including
    companies), too; an organization can make a modified version and use
    it internally without ever releasing it outside the organization.

    No, in that case the organization is just making the copies for
    itself. As a consequence, a company or other organization can
    develop a modified version and install that version through its
    own facilities, without giving the staff permission to release
    that modified version to outsiders.

    However, when the organization transfers copies to other
    organizations or individuals, that is distribution. In particular,
    providing copies to contractors for use off-site is distribution.

So when the organization receives a copy of the software from a third
party, that organization is entitled to the source code.  But the
organization has no obligations with regards to internal distribution,
e.g. to employees.

Of course, an employee can attempt to acquire the source code for
software from the original distributor, which will usually (but not
necessarily always) be easy to do.

Whether or not that's good or just is a separate social issue, because
it's outside of the legal framework presented here.

I'll respond to the rest of the message tomorrow.

Mike Gerwitz

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