Ken Brown kenbrown at
Thu Oct 24 18:04:09 UTC 2002


Thanks for your reply.  Let me be clear.  There is a big difference between
saying that I have a copyright, which is  intellectual property ...with
legal enforceable rights, and saying that I have a copyright but I choose
not to enforce it vs. I have a copyright, but I choose to put my material
into a pool whose members have every right to retangle, untangle, rework and
modify my work.

This is particularly precarious when the GPL itself says that there is
unmitigated circulation of the work which is completely opposite of the
basic definition of copyright.  If you cannot control distribution or
modification, you do not have "copyrights."   Noel, I put my code in the
general public pool because I don't to make any money from it.  So I get
credit...big deal.  Credit is entirely different from enforceable

Ex:  I own a piece of property...but at anytime, anybody in the General
Public can use it, dig it up, change it, etc.  How can you say I have
ownership of the property?


-----Original Message-----
From: Humphreys, Noel [mailto:nhumphreys at]
Sent: Thursday, October 24, 2002 1:38 PM
To: 'Ken Brown'; John Cowan; Sujita Purushothaman
Cc: license-discuss at
Subject: RE: Copyright

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

> 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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