Humphreys, Noel nhumphreys at
Thu Oct 24 17:37:44 UTC 2002

The GPL is designed to facilitate access, not to discourage "ownership."  Someone owns the "property," and that someone is not the person who downloads the source code.  GPL-subject software permits wide access and retransmission, because the GPL permits it, not because the "property" lacks an owner.  If the downloading person turns out to be the owner, then the downloading person is at liberty to impose conditions on access to his retransmission.  The GPL works only because some upstream
copyrightholder continues to "own" the copyrighted work that is distributed under the license.  Put differently, the downloading person remains subject to the limitations imposed by the GPL because there is a person with superior copyright ownership rights who, presumably, has the legal power to enforce the GPL's terms if the downloader tries to deal with that software in an unauthorized way.  

Noel D. Humphreys
noelhumphreys at

-----Original Message-----
From: Ken Brown [mailto:kenbrown at] 
Sent: Thursday, October 24, 2002 12:42 PM
To: John Cowan; Sujita Purushothaman
Cc: license-discuss at
Subject: RE: Copyright

This answer is duplicitous.  I think Sujita has a point.  One of the central purposes of the GPL is to discourage sending the property back into the realm of the General Public.  To quote RS, to make the property "valueless commercially ...consequently free."  A copyright/ownership/credit model are functions of proprietary models. Specifically, all Linux development belongs to the community, thus it cannot be owned.

I guess I also disagree with the morality point.  If the ethic of general public ownership is fairness and freedom for all, then why should some people insist on ownership while others have give it up?  In sum, if Sujita would like to take any code or program from the General Public and do anything with it, the terms of the license dictate that as long as he understands that it remains the "property" of the  General Public, is has 100% freedom to do so...with our without credit to any
commercial or private entity.


-----Original Message-----
From: John Cowan [mailto:jcowan at]
Sent: Thursday, October 24, 2002 10:37 AM
To: Sujita Purushothaman
Cc: license-discuss at
Subject: Re: Copyright

Sujita Purushothaman scripsit:

>     I'd like to ask, when A writes a program and distributes it under 
> the GPL, and B modifies it : 1. Is B allowed to remove all traces of 
> A's name? Is B supposed to retain A's name somewhere?

It is customary for the copyright notice to include the author's name (though it does not have to) and GPL forbids tampering with the copyright notice.

> For example if I were to take RedHat Linux, make some modifications, 
> and distribute my own version, can I remove all instances
> "RedHat" ?

This is a different question -- you not only can but you must.  "Red Hat" is a trademark of Red Hat, and you have no right to use it.

A mosquito cried out in his pain,               John Cowan
"A chemist has poisoned my brain!"    
        The cause of his sorrow       
        Was para-dichloro-                      jcowan at
Diphenyltrichloroethane.                                (aka DDT)
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