[linux-elitists] The breadth of SCO's claims

Aaron Sherman ajs@ajs.com
Fri Jun 27 10:50:39 PDT 2003

On Fri, 2003-06-27 at 10:50, Karsten M. Self wrote:

About sending to you+list... sorry. That's what I always do because some
people sort mail differently based on who it was sent to, and I really
was responding to YOU. I'll try to remember your preference, though.

> > As far as I know, you cannot distribute a work under two licenses at the
> > same time without (as Perl does) allowing the recipient to choose
> > between them (either circumstantially or by preference). 
> This is grossly incorrect.
> As a trivial example, virtually all proprietary software is governed by
> a highly complex web of inter-relating licenses.  The recipient has no
> option to chose which terms s/he wishes to apply.

I think you mis-read my comment. I was not saying "if there's more than
one license you get to choose," I was saying that you cannot recieve a
copyrighted work under more than one license, UNLESS someone allows you
to determine which one is being applied. Let me explain that, since
there's some obvious ambiguity here:

There may be 200 licenses involved in a piece of software, but I'm only
a party to the license that I agree to in accepting the software, and
you either do or do not have the right (based on those 199 other
licenses) to grant me a new license (#200). You may be restricted in
terms of the limitations that you can apply to such a license (e.g. you
might not be allowed, based on licence number 198 to give out source
code), but if you craft a license which you have the right to craft, and
I agree to it, then THAT is the license under which the software is
distributed... who the parties to that license are is the next question.

In the case of the BSD license, you would have to take into account its
terms, and pass along those terms in your license (e.g. reproduction of
the copyright / licensing notice), and since you're required to
distribute it, I would consider it an adendum to your license. It's not
a separate license, so you can't use it to get around the terms of the
license on the overall work. That's a very important point, and one that
prorpietary software companies care deeply about!

However, on the flip-side, licensing is just a contract. If you separate
that contract from the concept of ownership, you will see that that guy
who wrote license #1 (say, the BSD license) and distributed his software
under it, is your "partner" in ownership, and nowhere in his contract
with you did he grant you the right to contract with others over
derivative works! That's absolutely key here... THE BSD LICENSE DOESN'T
re-distribution to mean that you can apply your own license (there might
even be a nifty legal short-cut that allows for that), but the fact that
the BSD license still applies in that case (that's the "must retain"
bit) tells us that even in that interpretation, #1 had an intention of,
and clearly stated in the license that he would remain involved in the
terms of sub-licensing (and that makes him a party to those
sub-licenses, even if his co-ownership of the derived work does not).

If #1 is not a party to the sub-licensing, then I don't see how you have
the right to write a license for me to use the software. The BSD license
is very vague about the terms the co-copyright other than in the area of
distribution, but it does make continued involvement (even in
sub-sub-licensing) a clear goal....

> The offer of "at your option" is *strictly* a convenience to the
> recipient of the work.


> > Thus, you must view the BSD and Windows licenses as a collective
> > license over the Windows code, no?
> No.
> I view these as a mess.  You'd need a lawyer untangle what specificly
> applies to which pieces of the work.

Hmm, interesting viewpoint, and perhaps a more realistic one than


Ditto, except for the YADA ;-)

Aaron Sherman <ajs@ajs.com>
Senior Systems Engineer and Toolsmith
"It's the sound of a satellite saying, 'get me down!'" -Shriekback

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