loophole in the GPL?

Justin Wells jread at semiotek.com
Thu Mar 30 19:00:15 UTC 2000

I'm sure it's not, but someone please explain to me why not. 

If the GPL is just a grant under copyright law, and not a contract, then
why can't I do the following:

  -- I get a copy of a GPL'd work called "SSP" (some software program)

  -- I am legally entitled to make private derivative copies of such a 
     work, and I am the owner of those copies. So I make some changes to
     the work, and then I compile it, producing a binary.

  -- The binary is a copy which I am legally entitled to own, and I have
     the implicit right, under copyright law, to sell any copy of a work 
     I own to someone else--nobody can take this right from me.

  -- I sell you the binary copy, without giving you the source code. The
     GPL is not allowed to prevent me from selling to you the copy of the
     binary which I legally own. 

  -- I make lots of these copies and sell them to lots of people, never
     giving anyone the source.

The GPL says that if I "distribute" copies then I must provide source. I,
however, maintain that I am doing no such thing--I am *selling* copies,
transfering my ownership of that copy to someone else, not distributing 

This wouldn't work if the GPL forbade me from making my own private 
derivations and privately copying them. But I don't think it forbids 
this: it lets me privately do whatever I like. And once I've privately 
made a derivative, I don't see why I shouldn't be able to sell it, since
copyright law insists that i have the right to sell any copy in my 


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