How To Break The GPL - Copyright versus Contract

Dennis E. Hamilton infonuovo at
Thu Mar 9 23:44:33 UTC 2000

My apologies for not being clear.  That is all I meant by speaking of EULAs.
They are for purposes other than what is (thought to be) dealt with solely
by copyright.

However, my sense of the GPL is that the Free Software Foundation is relying
only on Copyright for the GPL, and that there is nothing but a conditional
(non-exclusive and royalty free) license of copyright conveyed in the GPL
(apart from the "no warranty" aspects).  It is, after all, touted as the
"copyleft" agreement.

I guess here it is a matter of asking the FSF whether they see themselves as
having accomplished anything else, since when we employ the GPL we appear to
be assigning copyright to the FSF.

How do you see state contract law(s) applying to the GPL?  How do you see it
working outside of U.S. jurisdiction?  Hmm, as I recall, the GPL doesn't
even state an applicable jurisdiction, unlike many EULAs and all contracts I
have ever entered into.

-- Dennis

-----Original Message-----
From: Rod Dixon, J.D., LL.M. [mailto:rod at]
Sent: Sunday, March 05, 2000 09:56
To: infonuovo at; Ken Arromdee; license-discuss at
Subject: RE: How To Break The GPL - Direct Functionality versus
Copyrighted Expression

This is not entirely correct. EULAs cover interests other than copyright
interests because the copyright owner desires to set out other limits that
copyright law does NOT  provide. Copyright law sets out the default rules
and unless you want to assign your copyright, licenses are not required.
Copyright holders use licenses to change the default rules or add to them,
but not to set them; copyright law does that. Is this clear? In other words,
our discussions about the GPL entail at least two bodies of law: 1)federal
copyright law and 2) state  contract law(s).

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

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