"Derivative Work" for Software Defined

Lawrence E. Rosen lrosen at rosenlaw.com
Fri Jan 17 04:07:49 UTC 2003

> OK, so I thought the GPL distinguished between the two - that 
> having a GPL program (I'm not thinking of the kernel here or 
> other things reasonably determined to be part of an 
> "operating system", an allowance the GPL
> makes) on the same CD as non-GPL bits, in a situation such as 
> a Red Hat Linux CD, was OK because it was "mere aggregation", 
> which the GPL explicitly allows, and not a "collective work", 
> which the GPL states
> *would* be under the GPL.  Maybe "mere aggregation" has no 
> meaning w/r/t copyright law, but am I mistaken in thinking 
> the GPL makes the distinction?

I don't understand these subtle distinctions people are reading into the

Section 2 of the GPL grants permission to "modify your copy or copies of
the Program or any portion of it."  In that context, I have never
understood the reference within that section to "the right to control
the distribution of ... collective works based on the Program."  A
collective work is defined clearly in copyright law and is different
from a modified (or derivative) work.  One does not modify a work in the
course of creating a collective work. 

If one merely copies the original work unchanged, that falls under
section 1 of the GPL, not section 2.  

Those words in section 2 dealing with "mere aggregation" seem out of
place.  I'm even more confused about the words "work based on the
Program," but I've addressed that before and won't repeat it now.


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