When can licenses be revoked? (was: License Proliferation)

Alex Bligh alex at alex.org.uk
Fri Sep 9 17:35:08 UTC 2005

--On 09 September 2005 10:13 -0700 Ben Tilly <btilly at gmail.com> wrote:

> Out of curiousity, what happens someone revokes a license and that
> revocation is OK in their jurisdiction, but not the jurisdiction that
> a user of their software happens to be living in?  As a US resident
> this would be particularly interesting for me if the US courts think
> that copyright licenses are always unrevokable.

It would depend solely on the governing law of the license, I would
have thought. Which is a different can of worms.

> Out of further curiousity, "the presence of consideration" is a term
> that I'd have trouble accurately interpreting.  For instance could
> there be consideration with the GPL because one has the potential of
> getting back improvements (even though there is obviously no
> guarantee)?

I would have thought the normal rules of consideration apply - there would
have to be an obligation upon the licensee. Any obligation on the licensee
is thus likely to count, including the acceptance of liability limitation.

> Anyways, if I understand this conversation correctly, an open source
> copyright license, once given, might be revokable.  However when it
> may be revoked is fairly unclear, and is likely to vary by
> jurisdiction.  It also doesn't seem to be a well discussed topic.  Is
> that impression accurate?

You are correct that it is unclear :-)


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