Copyright law defines what constitutes "distribution"
Posted May 23, 2007 23:56 UTC (Wed) by xoddam
In reply to: Copyright law defines what constitutes "distribution"
Parent article: A day at the Open Source Business Conference
That's true, but copyright law (in some countries) covers things other
than distribution; for instance the right to prepare modified works or (as
a previous reply mentions) to perform the work to a public audience. The
point is that it is illegal (in those jurisdictions) to make "in house"
modifications except as allowed by the copyright licence (and by "fair
use", if such a right also exists in that country).
The GPL v2 gives blanket permission to modify the code as the licensee
pleases. The Affero Public Licence withholds that permission in specific
circumstances, namely it prohibits the removal of a prominent "download
the version of the code which provides this service" button from a public
The new notion of "propagation" in the most recent draft of the GPL v3
allows the extension of copyleft protection into areas not normally
considered by copyright law, by selectively withholding permission to do
things which *are* the provenance of copyright. This applies, in
particular, to the GPLv3's patent and anti-DRM provisions, and to the
It might apply equally effectively if "propagation" were defined also to
include providing a service to the public based on the covered work. The
current GPL v3 draft does not do this; a later version of the Affero
licence probably will.
If copyright gives holders the right to demand payment per copy or for a
licence to prepare derivative works, it certainly gives them the right to
impose conditions on the way in which those actions are permitted.
Nevertheless I don't think applying those terms to the GNU body of code
would be sufficient to force a company the size of Google to publish its
in-house code. I am certain they are very well aware of what code they
own and what they have licensed from elsewhere, and of the terms of each
and every license.
Such a move might be so counterproductive as to move Google from the "free
software is a good thing and I'm pleased to contribute even if not all my
products are free software" camp into the "FSF are communists who want me
to give away my golden goose" camp.
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