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Re: Big legal win for free licenses
From: David Farber <dave () farber net>
Date: Wed, 13 Aug 2008 21:12:13 -0400
Begin forwarded message:
From: Karl Auerbach <karl () cavebear com>
Date: August 13, 2008 8:37:50 PM EDT
To: dave () farber net
Cc: ip <ip () v2 listbox com>
Subject: Re: [IP] Big legal win for free licenses
David Farber wrote:
*From: *Joichi Ito <jito () neoteny com <mailto:jito () neoteny com>>
In non-technical terms, the Court has held that free licenses
such as the CC licenses set conditions (rather than covenants) on
the use of copyrighted work. When you violate the condition, the
license disappears, meaning you're simply a copyright infringer.
This is the theory of the GPL and all CC licenses. Put precisely,
whether or not they are also contracts, they are copyright licenses
which expire if you fail to abide by the terms of the license.
But then the fun begins:
Suppose I were an evil open source despoiler and I choose to disregard
the license provisions and become a putative infringer.
Who has the right to bring a legal action to enforce "the copyright"
that I am presumably violating?
I ask this because of two things:
1. The requirement of registration as a pre-condition to legal
action for infringement in the US>
2. The fact that in many open source/GPL works there many authors of
many separate pieces of many separate dates. These are, as a
practical matter, never registered nor subject to a transfer agreement.
So, as I see it, I could sit back and when somebody comes along and
says "you evil infringer" I could say "have you registered your work?
And, by the way, what part of the whole are you claiming as your work?"
(Personally, I try to abide by the various licenses, but I'm curious
about whether the sword shaking is something to be feared or can be
It seems to me that the IP industry, which is undeniably strong, could
cause the GPL to wither by getting Congress to require as a condition
of copyright enforcement that a) registration of each piece be
required by each author and b) that the plaintiff be able to
demonstrate that he/she is either the author of the substantial body
of the work or has assignments from a nearly all, perhaps even all, of
I know that I'm speaking about the evil side here, but it is good to
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