license <-> copyright

John Cowan jcowan at
Fri Mar 2 17:48:12 UTC 2001

Toon Knapen wrote:

> unless, I assume, one gives the copyright to the
> other person from the moment the 'work' is created.
> Since in this case the copyright is never owned by
> the person who created the 'work'(is that 
> legal/possible), there is never a
> transfer and thus no administration is necessary

No, it's still necessary unless the creator is your
employee and the work is done in the scope of his

>> That is a matter of opinion.  Only the copyright holder
>> can sue for infringement, so centralizing it in one place
>> can be useful in case of a lawsuit.  The FSF holds
>> the copyright on GNU works for that reason.
> Do you mean that, if you release your work under
> the GPL license that the FSF becomes automatically
> the copyright owner ?

No, no, a thousand times no!

I said "GNU works", not "works released under the GNU GPL".
The former are works that make up the GNU operating system
as published by the FSF.  Anyone can release work under the
GNU GPL, but that does not make the work part of the GNU
operating system.

> This would be the inverse of my first question asking/
> saying that the copyright holder can define the license.
> Does thus the GPL license define the copyright holder ?

No.  National law and international treaties define the
copyright holder as either the creator, or someone holding
by a transfer from the creator, or the heir of the creator.
There are technical differences in some countries: in
France, e.g. (IANAFL), the copyright as such cannot be
transferred, but the *droit d'exploitation* may be,
which has the same effect.
There is / one art             || John Cowan <jcowan at>
no more / no less              ||
to do / all things             ||
with art- / lessness           \\ -- Piet Hein

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