Permissions not granted by GPL

Rick Moen rick at
Wed Feb 16 05:29:57 UTC 2005

Quoting cody koeninger (codykoeninger at

> Apologies in advance if this question is inappropriate
> or has already been covered.  I have read the GPL faq.

Speaking for myself, I've been singularly unimpressed by the GPL FAQ;
reading the document itself and copyright caselaw and statutes strikes
me as a lot more useful and reliable.  (In passing, I'll note without
objection that clarifying the meaning of licences isn't the purpose of
this mailing list.  Your question and my answer are mildly off-topic, as
are many other threads, here.)

> A. From section 0 of the GPL- "Activities other than copying,
> distribution and modification are not covered by this License; they
> are outside its scope." This seems to mean that the GPL does not grant
> permissions regarding: public display and public performance under US
> copyright law;

17 USC 106(4) and (5) restrict reserved performance and display rights to 
"literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and
motion pictures and other audiovisual works" and "iterary, musical,
dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and pictorial, graphic,
or sculptural works", respectively.  While technically computer programs 
fall under the "literary" category within the meaning of 17 USC 102, I
very much doubt you'd be able to convince a judge that those two rights
are reserved as to code.  At least, nobody ever has.

Now, if you were to issue an instance of your immortal stage tragedy
"Death of a Fortran Man" under GPLv2, that would be a different matter,
of course.

> ...making, using, offering to sell, selling, and importing under US
> patent; and use of a mark in commerce under US trademark law.

Is your point that you can create a proprietary work that nonetheless,
technically, is issued under GPLv2?  Sure.  It falls into the broad
category of what might be termed Stupid Licensing Tricks.

> B.  The GPL doesn't say that it is an integrated agreement.  

Yep.  You can say "Here's something else in addition to GPLv2's bundle
of rights and conditions."  It's done frequently, e.g., Phil Hazel's 
"This copy of Exim is issued under GPLv2, with the additional permission 
to link it against OpenSSL" [paraphrased].

Cheers,                                      Hardware:  The part you kick.
Rick Moen                                    Software:  The part you boot.
rick at

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