How To Break The GPL

Ian Lance Taylor ian at
Fri Mar 3 20:33:45 UTC 2000

   Date: Fri, 03 Mar 2000 10:45:47 -0500
   From: John Cowan <jcowan at>

   I would very much like to hear that there is a flaw in this logic.  If so,
   where is it?

The flaw is in treating the law as though it were a computer program.

The law considers intent, and ignores technical detail.  If a person's
actions are clearly intended to make a copyright ineffective, and if
the copyright does in fact become ineffective, then the person has
violated the copyright.

I don't know if a court would hold up the GPL.  But if they did, I
believe they would reject your case.  The law is a matter of judgement
and interpretation.

A simpler and more reliable way to violate the spirit of the GPL is to
modify the GPLed program, never distribute it, but instead provide a
CORBA or HTTP based interface which permits paying clients to run the
modified version.


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