John Cowan cowan at locke.ccil.org
Sun Mar 26 01:50:29 UTC 2000

Rod Dixon, J.D., LL.M. scripsit:

> No. You may use the work under the terms of the GPL or not at all.

As list members know, I scream bloody murder any time anyone brings up
the word "use".  Neithert the GPL nor the Copyright Act purport to
limit use.  As long as the program is lawfully acquired (not, e.g.
by way of a stolen CD-ROM), there can be no doubt about your right
to "use" it in any way you like outside the limits imposed by the Act.

If I buy a book, I may use it to insulate a root cellar or check erosion
in a gully, if I like, and that independent of what the copyright
owner says.  His rights inhibit me only from copyight, distributing,
publicly performing or displaying, or creating derivative works from the book.
I may sell my copy; I may destroy it; I may read it silently or out
loud (but not in public), etc. etc.

Closed-source software, OTOH, may have restrictive licenses on use.  For
example, it may demand that you run it only on a single computer, or only
on a single computer at one time, or only in ways that do not compete
with the publisher, or whatever.  All of these are enforced by the
contract of adhesion usually called "shrink-wrap."  All are well
outside the bounds of the bundle of rights called copyright.

But the GPL talks only of "copying, distribution, and modification",
and does not limit any other actions, including "use".  The GPL
could also limit public performance or display, but does not speak of them.
Some other free software licenses do talk of use, but in my unprofessional
opinion they do so as mere _flatus vocis_.

> As you
> correctly note the copyright is an exclusive right of the copyright holder.
> This means you (i.e., the User) have NO rights UNLESS you comply with the
> terms  of the license.

You have no rights *of those included in the copyright bundle*.  That
is far from every possible right.

> Now, is it getting clearer why the license is a
> contract. (BTW, there is an exception to what I just said, but it is
> contained in the Copyright Act and applies to all copyrightable works
> regardless of whether a license is used to distribute the work).

I suppose you mean fair use.

John Cowan                                   cowan at ccil.org
       I am a member of a civilization. --David Brin

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