(OT) - Major Blow to Copyleft Theory

John Cowan cowan at ccil.org
Mon Aug 27 15:41:40 UTC 2007

Arnoud Engelfriet scripsit:

> It's the "if" bit that causes the trouble, in my view. Is it
> possible to add conditions onto the permission without straying
> into contract land? 
> "You can enter my home if you promise not to smoke inside."
> "You can enter my home but only until 5PM today."
> "You can enter my home if you pay me $25."
> "You can enter my home and stay for a month if you pay $300."

Your third and fourth are open and shut contracts.  The first is the kind
of thing that might stand or fall on technicalities about consideration.
It's the second that approaches the realm of bare license.

If my house is an architectural masterpiece and I let people wander
through the ground floor with a sign that says "SELF-GUIDED TOURS,
0900-1500 ONLY", is there really a civil-law contract with every member of
the public, and am I in breach when I shut down the house one day at noon?
I hope not, or I could be drowned in lawsuits and required (specific
performance) to keep my house open till 1500 every day no matter what.

> If it's not a contract, then usually it's something like an easement.

Well, there you go.  Does the above sign (absent prescription (adverse
possession, to common lawyers)) actually create either contract or
easement?  Or is it a mere waiver of property rights, revocable at will?

It's not uncommon in American cities, where a building has been built
on pillars tall enough that there is pavement at ground level, for the
outline of the building to be drawn on the ground with a sign that says
"Private property of So-and-so".  This is a bare license: members of
the public may cross the pavement at will, but no adverse possession/
prescription arises (that is, the pavement does not become a public
highway at common law), because the public is put on notice that private
property rights can be enforced.  (Sometimes, as in New York City,
the pavement is actually cordoned off once a year in order to make it
clear that no easement has been formed.)

John Cowan  cowan at ccil.org  http://ccil.org/~cowan
If he has seen farther than others,
        it is because he is standing on a stack of dwarves.
                --Mike Champion, describing Tim Berners-Lee (adapted)

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