GPLv2 'web-app loophole'
Rod Dixon, J.D., LL.M.
rod at cyberspaces.org
Tue Aug 7 04:08:35 UTC 2001
As Larry said, you are asking an incredibly complicated legal question. Two
points: register your work with the Copyright Office immediately
(http://www.loc.gov/copyright/) and hire an attorney. Consulting FSF may be
helpful, but you seem to be presenting a classic case of someone needing
legal assistance. I would discourage you from attempting to judge the merits
of your specific case based on Internet posts. A second reading of the
facts you presented seem to involve a great deal more than the so-called
web-app exploit of the GPL.
> > We (Dajoba, LLC) publish web-based software under the GPL. We recently
> > came across a company who has taken our GPL'd code, modified it and
> > actively resells access to (use of) the renamed application. They say
> > absolutely nothing of the GPL-origins of the software on their website
> > nor have they contributed anything back to the original GPL'd project.
> > They do not distribute the modified software in the
> > conventional sense of
> > software distribution, but if one can reasonably conclude that the web
> > pages generated by our software constitue derivative works,
> > we may have a
> > case.
> > We have spoken to Bradley Kuhn at the FSF regarding this
> > situation and are
> > eagerly awaiting a reply now that they're privy to the details of our
> > situation. We have yet to speak to the company who has taken
> > our code and
> > not followed the spirit of the GPL, besides calling them to
> > sign up for
> > the service they offer via our software. (We aim to ascertain as much
> > information about their use and redistribution of our copyrighted
> > work as possible before proceeding with formal accusations, if any.)
> > In leiu of the FSF's expert advice, does anyone here have a qualified
> > opinion about this 'web-app loophole' and possible remedies we should
> > entertain? Specifically -- what exactly consitutes a
> > derivative work of
> > software under US copyright law? Are there any existing legal
> > precedents
> > regarding the copyright status of HTML display code generated by
> > copyrighted software?
> > All of this obviously falls within the domain of intelectual property
> > lawyers and the FSF, so my apologies in advance for being a
> > bit off topic.
> > In raising the issue here, we simply want to feel out
> > people's attitudes
> > regarding this 'web-app loophole' and perhaps see what alternative
> > licensing solutions exist should the GPLv2 prove to be ineffective for
> > open sourcing web-based applications. (We know GPLv3 is supposed to
> > address these issues, but the timeline for it's release
> > doesn't fit our
> > immediate need very well at all.)
> > If anyone wants to take a look at the project/code in question, see
> > http://dajoba.com/projects/mysqltool.
> > Thanks!
> > - Abraham Ingersoll <abe at dajoba.com>
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