Copyright in contracts/licenses (was: Re: [Approval request] CMGPL licence)

Karsten M. Self kmself at
Thu Nov 8 02:31:43 UTC 2001

on Wed, Nov 07, 2001 at 03:08:08PM -0500, Russell Nelson (nelson at wrote:
> Marcel van der Boom writes:
>  > 2. Existing license relation
>  > ============================
>  > The CMGPL is an slight adaptation of the GPL to suit it better to our 
>  > business needs.
> For better or worse, the GPL is a document copyrighted by the Free
> Software Foundation and they have not granted permission to make
> derivative works.  

I have my own doubts regarding this statment.

Legal contracts are, in one analysis, functional documents, and as such,
the language that exists, if it's functional, or if the functional
characteristics cannot be divorced from the expressive mode, would
likely not be covered by copyright.

I've raised this question in the past in various contexts, without much
in the way of a satisfactory response.  I am not convinced by the
arguments of either side of the debate.

My sense is that there is a widespread practice of copying functional
language from contracts.  And that there is an implicit understanding
that this is sound practice.

Any of the lawyers care to pitch in on this one?


Karsten M. Self <kmself at>
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