OSD modification regarding what license can require of user

Bruce Perens bruce at perens.com
Wed Mar 13 23:04:21 UTC 2002

From: John Cowan <jcowan at reutershealth.com>
> I don't see how that could happen, unless bandwidth (including the last
> mile) becomes "too cheap to meter".

Think about think clients and "internet appliances". If a lot of people go
to thin clients because they want to oursource their system administration,
then the paradigm changes.

> It's not at all clear to me that when I send you bits, you massage them
> on your own computer, and you send me different bits back, that this
> constitutes a public performance of anything.

You would not doubt that it was a public performance if those bits were
a television broadcast.

> Suppose A publishes a GPLed book describing some arcane subject, and B
> obtains a copy of it. C now mails questions to B along with payment, and
> B answers the questions out of the book and mails back the replies. In
> principle, C could read the book himself, but may not have the time or
> desire.)  Surely A's rights are not impinged on here?

If B cut and pasted the answers _directly_ from the book, and did so to
an extent greater than the simple occassional quoting within a larger
work allowed as fair use, B would indeed be conveying a copyrighted work
to C, and the license would apply. If B, on the other hand, conveyed the
_knowledge_ rather than its representation as created by A, there would not
be any conveyance of A's copyrighted work.

But that's not really what we're talking about here. B is not answering
C based on mere knowledge of the output of A's program. B is providing C
with a means of accessing A's program as if C was the party to whom the
work had been licensed. Although C can't see the source or binary code of
the copyrighted work, it is executed upon his behalf, at his command, and
he gains the benefit of its execution.

> Are things different if B adds his own marginal notes to the book?

There is a boundary to fair use, I don't think marginalia would fit one
within it.

> Is B really required by (the spirit of) the GPL to make those notes
> available to C?

I submit that this is the case. But the implementation of copyright law and
the current text of the GPL both leave a lot to be desired when this sort of
question comes up.


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