How To Break The GPL

W. Yip weng at
Sat Mar 4 18:29:17 UTC 2000

On Fri, 3 Mar 2000 17:44:09 -0500, Justin Wells <jread at> wrote:
> I don't think a court would have a hard time 
>finding consideration. 

Yes. There is much judicial discretion regarding consideration. The concept
has come under considerable academic attack, mainly because its flexibility
undermines commercial certainty.

>Also, is the GPL a copyright *grant* or a copyright *license*? A grant
>assigns ownership rights to other people. A license simply gives 
>everyone some permission to use it. 

It seems to me that the GPL is a license, because

(i) It expressly names itself a 'license'
(ii) Copyright remains vested in the original author.

However, it also seems to me there is some leeway for arguing that it is a
de facto grant, because if you look carefully at the acts protected by
copyright (ie. copying, adapting, display etc [1]), the GPL's 'viral'
obligation serves to go against this directly. Therefore, the GPL goes
BEYOND mere permission, but falls short of a grant/assignment. 

Hence the suggestion that the GPL blurs the distinction between user and

>I think the GPL is a *license* and probably depends on there being
>some consideration.

No. A license can exist independently of contract [2]. Hence, consideration
is irrelevant, insofar as we deem the GPL to be non-contractual in nature.

[1] For scope of copyright protection see s.16 Copyright Designs and
Patents Act 1988 (UK)

[2] Lai, S. "The Copyright Protection of Computer Software in the United
Kingdom" (December 1999) Hart Pub; ISBN: 1841130877 

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