[linux-elitists] GPL references - 'unequivocally a license'

David Mohring heretic@ihug.co.nz
Thu Aug 14 12:23:12 PDT 2003

A quick collection of references for the upcoming battle

GNU General Public License homepage

Frequently Asked Questions about the GNU GPL

Findlaw copy of Caldera System Inc copy of GPL 
Findlaw copies of Caldera System Inc contract documents
Including Caldera's use of GPL with other parties
Findlaw copies of SCO Group contract documents

Enforcing the GNU GPL
By Eben Moglen ( http://moglen.law.columbia.edu/ ) 
    professor of law and legal history at Columbia University Law
    School. He serves without fee as General Counsel of the Free
    Software Foundation. 
    "Despite the FUD, as a copyright license the GPL is absolutely
    solid. That's why I've been able to enforce it dozens of times over
    nearly ten years, without ever going to court." 

From: Michael C. Berch (mcb@ncis.tis.llnl.gov)
Date: 1989-10-19 13:57:20 PST 
1. The Copyleft/GPL is unequivocally a license.  The concept of a
license for copyrighted material is very well developed in copyright
case law, and there is nothing about the Copyleft/GPL that would render
it anything other than a license.  There are many examples of public
licenses for copyrighted material; most of them simply add terms such
as requiring identification of the source of the material; forbidding
changes except for personal use (i.e., reserving from the license the
right to make derivate works); granting the right to copy for
noncommercial use only, etc.   There is nothing in copyright case law
to suggest that these (public) licenses are invalid.

2. Under copyright case law, there is no requirement that a license of 
copyright be supported by consideration (compensation).  This is because
it is not a contract but a grant of property rights.  Contracts
require consideration, but grants do not.  This is an elementary and
well-settled principle of property law.

3. In the United States, the Copyright Act of 1976 pre-empts all state
law that previously dealt with intellectual property rights in the
matter subject to the Act (as defined in Sections 102 of the Act).
This was the explicit intent of Congress and has been repeatedly
upheld by the courts.  Therefore, any pre-existing state law that 
purported to modify the nature or terms of a license of copyright
would be pre-empted, and any subsequent state law that did likewise
would be inoperative.  In either case, I doubt if the state law would
operate in any case to render the Copyleft/GPL unenforceable, because it
is a grant and not a contract.  

OSDL  position paper, written by Eben Moglen on the issue of SCO and
intellectual property.

Q&A document, written by Lawrence Rosen, noted technology legal expert,
designed to help Linux users better understand the implications of the
current SCO litigation. 

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