(OT) - Major Blow to Copyleft Theory

Chris Travers chris at metatrontech.com
Mon Aug 27 21:10:45 UTC 2007

IANAL, of course.

John Cowan wrote:
> Mahesh T. Pai scripsit:
>> A license is a unilateral grant of permissions; a contract is
>> bilateral acceptance and imposition of obligations.
> Amen.  Jurisprudence, short and sweet.
> I understand why most common lawyers don't grasp this: they are so
> used to seeing a license ("You can publish my book") embedded in
> a contract ("You can publish my book if you pay me $5000") that the
> distinction seems over-subtle.  Pointing to licenses to trespass
> on land sometimes helps make the mental leap.
Agreed.  This is why I think that this case should be reversed.  
Something like the Artistic License seems like a pretty unilateral 
grant.  Same with the BSDL.

However, something like the GPL (sort of: "I will let you see the house 
I built if you agree that any home improvement projects you take based 
on this tour will be the subject of a similar tour") seems much more 
bilateral.  Hence the whole argument over remedies.  If the license was 
truly unilateral, the only real injunctive relief possible would be to 
ask the offending party to stop doing what is violating the license (not 
an order to actually do something. such as release source code, which 
implies that the ).

Note also that in De Forest, a valid, bilateral contract existed as is 
not clearly the case here.

> I don't understand why civil lawyers have so much trouble.  Methods
> of contract formation aside, the unilateral/bilateral distinction
> should be exactly the same.  Copyright breach is a delict, but like
> lots of delicts, there can be a waiver either before or after the
> fact, and it can be conditional.  Where's the contract element?
I wonder the same thing.  However, as I understand it, there are a few 
exceptions (pledges and the like which may have contractual force even 
if they are unilateral).  None of these seem to apply here.

> I am not a lawyer; it was my father who taught jurisprudence.
Neither am I.

Best Wishes,
Chris Travers
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