"Derivative Work" for Software Defined

David Johnson david at usermode.org
Wed Jan 15 04:30:09 UTC 2003

On Tuesday 14 January 2003 01:56 pm, PETERSON,SCOTT K (HP-USA,ex1) wrote:
> Larry --
> You keep returning to contract obligations. But, I'm not relying on any
> contract obligations. Any distribution that includes copyrightable material
> from B needs the permission of B's copyright owner. The hypothetical that
> I've presented includes distribution of B. Thus, B's permission is needed.
> I'm trying to understand the conditions the copyright owner has attached to
> the copyright owner's offer of permission to distribute B (the conditions
> in the GPL). So, the conditions specified in the GPL are relevant to what
> someone needs to do in order to legally distribute A+B, without regard to
> whether A+B is has some special status as a protected copyrightable work
> (B's protectable status is enough).

Authors have the right to control the distribution of their own works. They do 
not have the right to control the distribution of other works. But can they 
control the distribution of other works that reside on the same media as 
their own? That's your question in a nutshell, I think.

I don't think they can without a contract. But it doesn't matter because 
copyright covers the case where A+B is a derivative work, and the GPL covers 
the case where A+B are separate works aggregated. What other cases are there 
that don't reside in obscure corners?

Side note:
The way I understand GPL section 2, is that the "whole" must be under the GPL, 
but the individual parts do not. An example of this would be kdebase, which 
includes BSD, Artistic, QPL and GPL applications tarballed together into a 
single GPL licensed file. Another would be the Linux kernel where a few 
source files are under the BSD license, but the kernel itself must still be 
under the GPL. In both cases you can extract the non-GPL pieces and 
distribute them separately under their original license.

David Johnson
pgp public key on website
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