[linux-elitists] Bizarre press release of the day

Adam Kessel adam@bostoncoop.net
Fri Nov 21 09:38:44 PST 2003

On Fri, Nov 21, 2003 at 09:39:02AM -0700, Jonathan Corbet wrote:
> Anybody ever heard of Wolf Greenfield & Sacks?  They've just seen fit to
> send out a press release trashing the GPL:

It's not so bizarre. It's still an open question how far private parties
can legally contract around default copyright law.  If the GPL proved to
be unenforceable, many other shrinkwrap licenses would be vulnerable to
attack, e.g., licenses that purport to limit the end user's fair use or
reverse engineering rights. If copyright law provides a ceiling for IP
protection rather than a floor, then agreements which try to "raise the
ceiling" may be without effect.

I generally agree that attacks along these lines (viral GPL will destroy
commercial value) are FUD, it is worth putting yourself in the
proprietary software company's shoes for a moment. I know someone at a
fairly large software company that discovered that a key library
statically linked in their product was licensed under the GPL a few days
before the product was to be released. They had to scramble to replace
the library with a public domain equivalent. I doubt the software would
have lost "all commercial value" had it been released accidentally with
the GPL library, but it certainly could have been a headache for the

In a sense, it's good for Wolf, Greenfield to put out these kinds of
press releases. Monitoring for GPL violations in all proprietary
applications and enforcing them is more work than the FSF can possibly
do, and if their lawyers scare them into self-monitoring, it does some of
our work for us.
Adam Kessel
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