How To Break The GPL

Rod Dixon, J.D., LL.M. rod at
Fri Mar 3 21:22:53 UTC 2000

Copyright is a matter of strict liability. On the merits, intent is not
relevant. For example, if a user makes a copy without permission to do so,
he has violated someone's copyright even if he did not intend to do so.
(There are defenses to infringement, but the point is intent is not relevant
in the first instance).

Rod Dixon, J.D., LL.M.
rod at

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Ian Lance Taylor [mailto:ian at]
> Sent: Friday, March 03, 2000 3:34 PM
> To: jcowan at
> Cc: license-discuss at
> Subject: Re: How To Break The GPL
>    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.
> Ian

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