Limits of Licenses

John Cowan jcowan at
Mon Mar 27 15:16:05 UTC 2000

Justin Wells wrote:

> Can a copyright license demand that I stop using a work that I have acquired
> lawfully if I later violate the license and infringe on the copyright? Can
> it demand that I destroy my copy?
> Many licenses include langaue insisting that you must cease all use of
> the software and/or destroy your copies of it if you violate the license
> terms. I'm wondering if you can do that in a copyright license.

Hmm, I doubt it.
> What reason is there to believe that free software licenses are valid at
> all? If they really are contracts of adhesion, isn't that going to get
> them struck down right there? I thought there was some precedent for
> throwing out a contract, even if it's reasonable, just on the grounds
> that it was a contract of adhesion--and if you have even one objectionable
> term, then you get into hot water.

Contracts of adhesion are interpreted strictly against the party drafting
them; he cannot be heard to say "I didn't mean what I said".  But they are
neither void nor voidable as such, and a good thing too, or we'd none of
us have to pay our rents or credit-card agreements.  :-)

> I'm not a lawyer so this is a sincere question--I don't know the answer
> and I don't know if what I'm saying makes any legal sense.



Schlingt dreifach einen Kreis um dies! || John Cowan <jcowan at>
Schliesst euer Aug vor heiliger Schau,  ||
Denn er genoss vom Honig-Tau,           ||
Und trank die Milch vom Paradies.            -- Coleridge (tr. Politzer)

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