[linux-elitists] ultra 20 m2

Rick Moen rick@linuxmafia.com
Thu Jul 12 14:42:22 PDT 2007

Quoting Steven Critchfield (le@drunkenlogic.com):

> <sniped large and very informational examples>

Yr. welcome, sir.  I've been meaning to publish some account of that
illustrative incident at the unnamed Very Ancient Linux Systems firm,
specifically because this misconception is so widespread, so this was a
welcome opportunity.

> Okay, so the required wording is over the top. One would be required to
> release as GPL or GPL compatible license code that one still wishes to
> distribute. The alternative is to stop distribution and hope that the
> limited damage created isn't worth the original authors wishing to sue.

I suppose a third alternative might be to not care if the authors sue.
(See below.)  The main point is:  Remedies for infringement are limited
to ones traditional for torts (a term meaning failures of private duties
to other firms or companies, resulting in non-criminal wrongful acts),
and simply don't ever include court-mandated source release.

An infringed copyright owner can sue for:
o  Injunction against additional infringement.  Pointless if infringer
   has already stopped.
o  Actual damages.  Typically an open-source coder will not be able 
   to prove any.  

In the staggeringly unlikely event that the owner has _also_ filed a 
timely copyright registration with LoC, and paid his/her $35:
o  Statutory damages.  For reasons cited, we're talking $200, 
   in a typical case of an open source codebase and a colourable
   claim of accidental infringement.
o  Owner's attorney fees.  Close to nil if the infringer immediately 
   files a response with the court saying "Er, we did that but it
   was accidental, so we'd like to petition for judgement or
   settlement to that effect."

So, plaintiff's haul is likely to be laughably small, which underlines
his/her lack of motive for suing in the first place.

Cheers,           "I don't like country music, but I don't mean to denigrate
Rick Moen         those who do.  And, for the people who like country music,
rick@linuxmafia.com         denigrate means 'put down'."      -- Bob Newhart

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