GPLv2 'web-app loophole'

Blake Cretney bcretney at
Sun Aug 12 23:52:21 UTC 2001

On Wed, 8 Aug 2001 18:15:26 +0100
"SamBC" <sambc at> wrote:

> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: Rod Dixon, J.D., LL.M. [mailto:rod at]
> >
> > This sounds like "much ado about nothing." As is well-known,
> > software is not
> > an easy fit within copyright doctrine. I am unsure whether there
is a
> > relevant distinction between "use" and copy as far as software is
> > concerned.
> > Copyright interests are invoked when one "uses" software as long
as the
> > prevailing view is that a RAM copy is a *copy* as that terms is
> > defined and
> > understood by reference to the Copyright Act. Hence, I doubt
> > whether an ASP
> > or a "web-app" presents a case for a loophole in the GPL.
> My understanding was that copyright law allows that copying
'necessary for
> normal use' is not considered copying under copyright law.
> IANAL, but I'm sure I read this somewhere (in a legal document or
> SamBC

Here is the section of the US copyright act, seemingly dealing with
this issue.

Notwithstanding the provisions of section 106, it is not an
infringement for the owner of a copy of a computer program to make or
authorize the making of another copy or adaptation of that computer
program provided:

(1) that such a new copy or adaptation is created as an essential step
in the utilization of the computer program in conjunction with a
machine and that it is used in no other manner, or

I'm not a lawyer.  Judicial interpretation takes precedence over
legislated law, so this provision may no longer have any affect.  Note
that this section doesn't actually contradict the theory that a RAM
copy is a copy under the act.  It doesn't say that a RAM copy isn't a
copy under the act, it just seems to say that it is a legal copy, if
it is essential to the utilization of the program ...

Also, presumably, this doesn't apply if the software user doesn't own
the copy.  License agreements often claim this kind of thing.  The GPL
does not, though (seemingly).

Blake Cretney

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