Open source shareware?

John Cowan jcowan at
Thu Nov 8 22:50:36 UTC 2001

Forrest J. Cavalier III wrote:

> But back to the shareware question.  From that ruling there is
> a footnote that confuses me.
>    5. Since MAI licensed its software, the Peak customers do
>       not qualify as "owners" of the software and are not
>       eligible for protection under 117.
> What does that mean?  (I can understand it if the wording
> was "Peak does not qualify as owner."  But this says that
> Peak's customers, who had a valid license from MAI, were
> STILL not owners.)  Is this a typographical error?  Or
> does it really mean that when you have a licensed copy of
> software, you do not have a copy that you own.

Most EULA-type closed source licenses, including MAI's,
tell you that you don't own the software and have only licensed the
right to use it. Without the UCITA, this may or may not be binding: the
courts have disagreed.  But assuming that MAI's license was valid,
neither Peak nor Peak's customers owned anything at all;
the customers had a bare right-to-use, and Peak had squat.

Under open-source licenses, you do own your copy.  For those
of you who seek novel experiences, go and buy a CD-ROM of a
Linux or BSD distro; you will have, for perhaps the first
time, bought software.

>    You agree that we own all copies, and you may not copy,
>    modify, sublicense, or distribute the Program except
>    as expressly provided under this License.  You are not
>    required to accept this License, since you have not signed
>    it.  However, nothing else grants you permission to modify or
>    distribute the Program or its derivative works.

Who knows what effect that would have?


Not to perambulate             || John Cowan <jcowan at>
    the corridors               ||
during the hours of repose     ||
    in the boots of ascension.  \\ Sign in Austrian ski-resort hotel

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