OSD modification regarding what license can require of user

John Cowan jcowan at reutershealth.com
Wed Mar 13 23:19:07 UTC 2002

Bruce Perens scripsit:

> > 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.

No, but that has to do with the copyright status *of the bits sent back*,
not at all with the copyright status of the program doing the massaging
(unless it is Bison-type and includes part of itself in the output).

> 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.

But that is the Bison case.  (Yes, I know that the Bison skeleton license
has been changed.)

To be concrete, suppose I provide a "fast grepping" service.  You send me
a regex and some URLs, and I use GNU grep to to send you specific parts
of the documents specified by the URLs.  We will neglect whether the
copyright of the document's author is breached by this.

If I make private modifications to GNU grep to improve it, I don't see
that the GPL (in letter or spirit) requires me to redistribute those
modifications.  I am *using* grep to provide a service.

By the same token, when I send a form to a Web site, the GPLed
program Perl may be executed on my behalf.  If Perl has some local hacks,
am I entitled to have those hacks (the copyright in which is owned by
the site's programmer) to be sent to me?  That sounds like forced
distribution to me.  (Again, let us neglect Perl's alternative licensing.)

John Cowan <jcowan at reutershealth.com>     http://www.reutershealth.com
I amar prestar aen, han mathon ne nen,    http://www.ccil.org/~cowan
han mathon ne chae, a han noston ne 'wilith.  --Galadriel, _LOTR:FOTR_
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