Re: Monta Vista software license terms

From: David Schwartz (
Date: Tue Feb 11 2003 - 17:11:36 EST

On Tue, 11 Feb 2003 21:42:29 +0100, Horst von Brand wrote:
>David Schwartz <> said:
>>On Tue, 11 Feb 2003 08:42:26 +0100, Horst von Brand wrote:

>>>The GPL gives me the right to distribute modified versions _only
>>>if >I
>>>comply with the GPL_. And GPL forbids further restrictions when

>>I realize that. But that has nothing to do with what I said,
>>analyzes only those rights you have without agreeing to the GPL by
>>virtue of the fact that you possess the work and were not subject
>>any restrictions in the process of acquiring and using it.

>I just don't get it. If I get sources to foo under the GPL, I can
>and mutilate them to my heart's content at home. But as soon as I do
>distribute it, the GPL is in force. There is no "not bound by the
>because I'm not doing ..." and then distributing "and I wasn't bound
>GPL, so..."

        But you don't need to distribute the rights to the Linux kernel
because already already has the rights to the Linux kernel. And when
you say you "get sources .. under the GPL", you're implying that you
have to assent to the GPL to get sources, but you don't. The GPL is
not a shrink-wrap agreement and you don't have to assent to it just
to receive or use sources. There is no distribution issue because
everyone already has the right to possess and use every GPL'd work,
so there are no rights to distribute.

        I'm puzzled whether you're actually reading and thinking about what
I'm saying, because your responses seem to indicate that either
you're not taking the time to understand me or I'm not being clear

>>>If your bizarre interpretation was right, no software licence at
>>>would have any validity. In particular, I'd be more than very
>>>if the GPL was so sloppily written. It was written with the input
>>>eminent lawyers, after all.

>> Your generalization doesn't apply because of several major
>>differences between most software licenses and the GPL:
>> 1) Most software licenses do not grant everyone the right to
>>work covered.

>> 3) Most software licenses require your assent before you can
>>covered work, in fact, most require your assent before you have the
>>right to possess the covered work.

>Don't see the relevance here. Besides, you never "possess" anything,
>you are just given permision to use.

        I'll explain it again, repeating myself more slowly.

        Nobody signs the GPL. So the only way you can determine whether or
not someone is bound by the GPL is if they did something that they
could not have obtained the right to do other than by the GPL.

        You don't need to assent to the GPL to receive GPL'd works. You
don't need to assent to the GPL to distribute rights to use a GPL'd
work (because everyone is already given that right).

        So what did you do that you couldn't do without the GPL? The answer
is that you distributed a derived work to people who already had the
right to possess the original work. I am saying that that is not an
*additional* right to the *original* work. It's the simple sum of
other rights. So you don't need to assent to the GPL to get it.

        The difference with other software licenses is that you *do* need to
assent to them to get the rights you already have without the GPL.
For example, with Microsoft's EULA, you don't have the right to use
the work without assenting to the EUAL, so mere use of the work can
be used as proof of assent.

        As an example, suppose you and I both have some greeting card
program. I produce a greeting card that includes some graphics
included with the greeting card program. That greeting card is a
derived work. I can't distribute it to anyone I want because it
contains embedded graphics and I would be distributing those graphics
to people who had no right to them.

        On the other hand, if I distributed it only to people who also owned
the greeting card program, there would be no rights question. Every
recipient of my derived work already has the rights to use and
possess the work from which it is derived. The only additional right
they need is the right to my modifications, which I can give them.

        Again, the right to possess and use a derivative work when you
already have the right to possess and use the original work and the
right to make the derivative work is not an *additional* right to the
*original* work. I can't say it any clearer than that, and I welcome
any citations to law or court precedent to the contrary.

David Schwartz

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