Richard Stallman rms at
Fri Oct 25 10:02:35 UTC 2002

    It's called the GPL because it assigns certain rights to everyone, not because
    it makes everyone (or some abstract entity called "the general public")
    the owner.

Legally, a GPL-covered work is copyrighted and has certain copyright
holders.  For certain purposes, it makes a difference who they are.
For instance, they alone have legal standing to enforce the GPL (in US
law, at least).  Since copyright holders are also called "owers",
these persons are legally the owners of the work.

However, in the GNU Project we see ourselves ethically not as owners
of something we can use at our pleasure, but as custodians of the work
on behalf of the public.  In spirit, the public should be the owner,
but since copyright law doesn't work that way, the public is not
legally the owner.

Credit is a different matter--we're all in favor of giving credit
to people who advance knowledge.

license-discuss archive is at

More information about the License-discuss mailing list