Wired Article on the GPL

W. Yip weng at yours.com
Fri Mar 31 19:37:08 UTC 2000

On Thu, 30 Mar 2000 17:09:35 -0500, John Cowan <jcowan at reutershealth.com>
>"Matthew C. Weigel" wrote:
>> Ummm... yes, you can accept or reject the GPL, if I understand it correctly.
>> You either accept the terms of the license -- the restrictions placed on
>> distribution, for instance -- or you don't, and if you don't, you have no
>> legal recourse for distribution.
>You can "accept" the GPL by exercising your rights under the GPL in accordance
>with its terms, or you can "reject" the GPL by not exercising your rights.
>But this is not acceptance as understood in discussing contracts.  That
>would be like saying you "reject" your constitutional right of free speech
>by remaining silent.  You still have your rights, you just aren't exercising
>them.  And if what you want is to shout "Fire!" in a crowded theatre (when
>there is no fire), your free speech rights will not help you.

The GPL is crystal clear on what indicates acceptance.

s.5 GPL states,'Therefore, by *modifying* or *distributing* the program (or
any work based on the Program, you indicate your acceptance of this license
to do so, and all its terms and conditions ... {blah...blah...blah...}'

I noticed that 'copying' is not indicative of acceptance? Is this
significant in some way?

>> If you choose to not accept the license, then you can't use the software.
>Definitely not true of GPLed software.  You may not copy, distribute, or
>create derivative works except under the terms of the GPL.  But you can use
>the software on one machine or many; you can study the software to determine
>how it does what it does, etc. etc.
>In this way the GPL is unlike proprietary licenses, where indeed you cannot
>use the software unless you have accepted the license (but under UCITA,
>using counts as accepting).

[Why does GPL have section *zero* ?]

s. 0 GPL, 'Activities other than copying, distribution and modification are
not covered by this License; they are outside its scope...The act of
running the Program is not restricted...{blah...blah...blah}' 

Upon this is superimposed the fair use doctrine.

If you are saying you can use GPL software even if you do not accept the
GPL terms under which it is released, I must say I have my doubts.

	'...they are outside its scope'.

The above is ambiguous. Outside its scope of *permission* or *restriction*?

	'The act of running the Program is not restricted.'

This is not very helpful either. It is 'not restricted'. Does that mean 
(i) it is permitted, or does it mean 
(ii) the ordinary copyright rules (ie. fair use + exclusivity) apply?

>> > If the copyright owner revokes the permissions, you are probably out of
>> > luck.
>> Can a copyright owner revoke a license which has no 'revocation' clause?  It
>> seems that other licenses, such as the APSL, were scrupulous in including
>> such a clause so as to be able to revoke the license.
>Sure.  If I grant you bare permission to do something, with no reciprocal
>promise on your part, I can change my mind whenever I like, thus:
>"Here, use my car....no, I lied.  You can't."
>The previous license will not help you now.

Courts (at least UK) are not in favour of dishonesty, as in your example
involving lying, and there are remedies under the law of equity such as
injunctions and specific performance which can go against your revocation.
Depending on facts, a licensee can also establish 'detrimental reliance'
under the doctrine of estoppel.
Revocation clauses are of the same ilk as disclaimers in that they are
often very harsh on the consumer. In most cases, it would depend on the way
the clause is phrased.

The law on license revocation has a long history in UK. Unfortunately, most
of these pertain to the context of land and other tangibles. 

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