Wired Article on the GPL

W. Yip weng at yours.com
Wed Mar 29 23:11:20 UTC 2000

On Wed, 29 Mar 2000 10:12:50 -0800 (PST), Aaron Turner
<aturner at linuxkb.org> wrote:
>Wired has a rather interesting article on the GPL in relation to the suit
>by Mattel re: cphack. [snip]

Fellas, this seems to be the type of dispute we have been waiting for.

Microsystems Software and Mattel, inc v. Scandinavia Online, Islandnet.com,
E. Jannson and M. Skala

hmmm... J and S own the copyright to a program "cphack". J and S release
cphack under GPL. "cphack" is distributed to X, Y, Z under the GPL.

Subsequently, J and S, who are sole proprietors of the copyright, assign it
to M under a contract of transfer. M decides to assert its copyright
ownership, possibly by revocation of te GPL, for purposes of stopping
further re-distribution by parties X,Y, Z.

(Are these the right facts?)

IMHO, There are two primary issues:

A. Is revocation by M possible?

B. Are J + S in breach of contract? J + S sign contractual agreement with M
to transfer 'all rights, if any' to M. This means exclusive copyright. But
so long as the GPL perpetuates further redistribution, it is possible that
M has not obtained 'all rights, if any'.

C. Suppose M *succeeds* in revoking the GPL such that X, Y and Z are
stopped from redistribution (perhaps under a court injunction). Would X, Y,
Z be able to sue J + S for contractual breach, since the GPL would be a
contract (between J + S and X,Y,Z) following UCITA?

For my part, I do not understand how the question of assignment of rights
to FSF fits into the picture. ( as reported in the wired.com article)
Surely if J and S has assigned copyright to FSF, then it is impossible for
them to contract with M at all? I wonder if M would have sought to buy the
copyright from FSF in event there was such an assignment.

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