Open source shareware?

Ken Brown kenbrown at
Fri Nov 9 13:04:27 UTC 2001

Open source licenses may be diffuse, but property ownership law is very
clear.  The law demands a "distinction" in the terms of any exchange in
property.  Specifically ownership is described in terms of a lease, loan,
rent, etc. but it has to be very specific.  Otherwise, regardless of Chris'
assertion; property ownership is not vague and amorphous.  If you give me
something, I either own it or I don't.


-----Original Message-----
From: Chris D. Sloan [mailto:cds at]
Sent: Friday, November 09, 2001 12:51 AM
To: Chris Gehlker
Cc: Open Source
Subject: Re: Open source shareware?

As I understand it, John was not saying that the person who buys a CD
with a copy of Linux (or whatever) now owns a copyright or anything
like that, but that they own the copy of the data itself.

Similarly, I own many books.  Some of them I bought, some were given
to me, it doesn't really matter how I got them.  My ownership of the
book does not in anyway invalidate the rights of the copyright holder
under the copyright law, nor does it grant me additional rights over
those I received under copyright law.

Chris, if you are claiming that I don't own my copy of Linux on a CD
that I bought, who do you believe does?  What distinction are you
trying to draw?

I can understand that some companies try to "sell" you software
without you actually ending up owning anything in the process (except
possibly certain rights), but I don't think that most open source
licenses work that way.


On Thu, Nov 08, 2001 at 07:32:12PM -0700, Chris Gehlker wrote:
> On 11/8/01 3:50 PM, "John Cowan" <jcowan at> wrote:
> > 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.
> As someone with some code on Open Source disks I'm afraid I can't agree.
> They may own the media. They may own the very generous rights that I
> them in the license. They certainly own any improvements that they may
> made to the original program. But the original program is still mine.
> I never sold software and I never agreed that purchasers of a CD would get
> any rights beyond what were explicitly stated in the license.
> Now for the two programs that I released under the BSD or MIT license that
> may be a distinction that doesn't make a difference, but for all the rest
> there is a real difference. I'm the only one who can take the project
> private.
> --
> C++: The power, elegance and simplicity of a hand grenade.
> --
> license-discuss archive is at

Chris Sloan
cds at
license-discuss archive is at

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