The Copyright Act preempts the GPL

Tony Stanco Tony at
Sat Feb 7 13:07:14 UTC 2004


my understanding is the same as Larry's. Copyright provides exclusive
plenary rights to the owner. Patents provide the owner only with the right
to exclude others. I think the distinction was grounded in the fact that it
would be hard to conflict with someone else's copyright in an original work
(which usually stood alone), while complex, interrelated processes/machines
could easily involve multiple and conflicting patents. As a result, patents
are only negative rights and a person's exploitation of a particular patent
in subject to the non existence of conflicting patent(s).

Best regards,

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Lawrence E. Rosen" <lrosen at>
To: "'Peterson, Scott K (HP Legal)'" <scott.k.peterson at>; "'John
Cowan'" <cowan at>
Cc: <license-discuss at>
Sent: Friday, February 06, 2004 8:39 PM
Subject: RE: The Copyright Act preempts the GPL

> Scott Peterson wrote:
> > The rights provided under US copyright law are negative
> > rights (the right to exclude others), not positive rights
> > (the right to do something yourself).
> I don't think so, Scott. At least that's not how the copyright act reads:
>     "...The owner of copyright under this title has the
>     exclusive rights to do and to authorize any of the
>     following...."
> The patent law is exactly the opposite.
>    "...Every patent shall contain ... a grant to the patentee ...
>    to exclude others from using or selling...."
> /Larry Rosen
> --
> license-discuss archive is at

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