Get ready....

Gabe Wachob gwachob at
Thu Apr 15 03:38:08 UTC 1999

"Derek J. Balling" wrote:

> Actually, the license specifically forbids you from taking excerpts. It may
> be copied verbatim or not at all.
> At 08:16 PM 4/14/99 -0700, phred at wrote:
> >There are two things to say about the GPL:  it's a license, not code that
> >performs some function on a computer.  And its terms do not forbid you
> >from modifying it and making a different license.  In fact, that happens
> >fairly often.  What you can't then do is call it the GPL.

Well, under U.S. law, copyright only protects original works fixed in a
tangible medium of expression.

The important part there is "original" -- the license wording itself has to
rise above a threshold level of originality before it is protected by
copyright. I would daresay that most of the GNU license does not meet that
level of originality -- many licenses sound a lot like the GNU or other open
sourcish licenses even though they have radically different meanings, for

I would definitely not rely on copyright to protect the integrity of the
GNU license from companies who wish to play with the terms. Its a pretty
pointless excercise -- someone can change a few words and the sentence
structure and probably not be infringing. Ideally, its the *ideas* (that is,
the intent of the licensor -- the author of the software) in the open source
licenses which are important.

Its the likelihood of confusion or being tricked on the part of an end user
that we are really concerned about (we don't want a company using a gnuish
sounding license to get users to use their software only to find out that the
company has some evil clause that eviserates the open source nature of the
license), as well as mounting industry pressure to erode to open source
pillars in the distribution and publishing of software. The confusion is
protected against  through Trademark and related intellectual property
regimes. This is why the Open Source Certification mark is really important.
As for the erosion of the open source principles in the software world, well,
thats up to the people on the front line...


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