decoration decoration

When you want to know more...
For layout only
Site Map
About Groklaw
Legal Research
ApplevSamsung p.2
Cast: Lawyers
Comes v. MS
Gordon v MS
IV v. Google
Legal Docs
MS Litigations
News Picks
Novell v. MS
Novell-MS Deal
OOXML Appeals
Quote Database
Red Hat v SCO
Salus Book
SCEA v Hotz
SCO Appeals
SCO Bankruptcy
SCO Financials
SCO Overview
SCO v Novell
Sean Daly
Software Patents
Switch to Linux
Unix Books


Groklaw Gear

Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

You won't find me on Facebook


Donate Paypal

No Legal Advice

The information on Groklaw is not intended to constitute legal advice. While Mark is a lawyer and he has asked other lawyers and law students to contribute articles, all of these articles are offered to help educate, not to provide specific legal advice. They are not your lawyers.

Here's Groklaw's comments policy.

What's New

No new stories

COMMENTS last 48 hrs
No new comments


hosted by ibiblio

On servers donated to ibiblio by AMD.

The Non-Revocable GPL
Saturday, January 26 2008 @ 04:51 PM EST

I know by now you've seen the notice by the guy claiming to "revoke" the GPL license on his code, because I'm getting email about it.

Here's the answer to your question:

No. One can't retroactively revoke licenses previously granted, unless the license terms allow you to do so.
The most you can do is stop granting new licenses.

Yes, I verified this with an attorney. Here's the GPL v2. See any terms allowing you to revoke? Me neither. You can find a lot of resources to help you understand the GPL on Groklaw's permanent GPL resources page. I'm doing my part, and I hope the guy does his by studying it.

If you change your mind and don't want to use the GPL any more, you can stop and use something else on new code going forward, and you can dual license your own code, but you can't redo the past and pull back GPL'd code. That's one of the beauties of the GPL, actually, that even if some individual gets a bug up his nose, or dies and his copyright is inherited by his wife who doesn't care about the GPL and wants to take it proprietary, or just to imagine for a moment, a Megacorp were to buy off a GPL programmer and get him to pretend to revoke the GPL with threats, and even if it were to initiate a SCO-like bogo-lawsuit (based perhaps on a theory under Copyright Law § 203, termination of rights -- lordy do we have to endure a living demo in some courtroom somewhere of every antiGPL theory found on every message board before they give up?), it doesn't matter ultimately, I don't think, as to what you can and can't do with the GPL. The GPL is what it is. Please don't use it if you don't like the terms.

By the way, it just got a little harder to change a license in a standards context, if there is public harm.

I don't know if you read Andy Updegrove's explanation about the FTC decision in the N-Data case, but I recommend you do. The majority decision is here [PDF] and two dissents are linked in the article. It was in a standards context, regarding ethernet, where a promise to license at a certain rate was revoked by a later patent purchaser, who wanted more, one you and I would probably call a patent troll. The FTC, noting the ubiquity of the standard said it wouldn't be fair to let that happen, and it expressed concern about the harm that could arise from what it called "opportunistic lawsuits or threats arising from the incorporation of patented technologies into a standard after a commitment by the patent holder":

As a result, firms may be less likely to rely on standards, even standards that already exist. In the creation of new standards, standard-setting organizations may seek to avoid intellectual property entirely, potentially reducing the technical merit of those standards as well as their ultimate value to consumers.

It's a major step, in my view, in the right direction, because the FTC took action not because of any law-breaking but based on the harm to the public. It's been my worry about patent promises and licenses that down the road, the patents could be sold to someone new, and the new owner would take the position that it hadn't made any promises to anyone. If the promise is personal, from the corporate entity to you personally, as Microsoft's is regarding MSOOXML, would it continue to be enforceable after a sale of the patents which are covered by the patent promise? I still don't know for sure, and that is just one of the things that worries me about it. Unfortunately, nothing about that will be discussed or resolved by ECMA or at the upcoming meeting in February. It's off the table. So if that concerns a national body, all it can do is vote no. Alex Brown, who is in charge of the meeting, says the SRC would like National Bodies to write and specify what they consider the most important issues they'd like to discuss.

But I view this FTC ruling as a step in the right direction of confirming the reliability of IBM's, Nokia's, Sun's, and others' patent licenses and promises not to sue -- even in any alternate universe where some entity suddenly went bad and wanted to reverse course. But, here's the big question: would the FTC see the importance of FOSS in the same way it now sees the importance of open standards? I hope so, but that is the unknown factor in this analysis.

But seriously, can you imagine if it were possible to just change a license like the GPL any time you wanted to, without any warning that such a thing could happen? Think of the disruption to the marketplace if no one could ever rely upon a license's terms with confidence. How do you build your business on sand like that? What judge would fail to consider that level of harm to the public? There might be one somewhere. Maybe if the guy can get the Blackberry judge, but otherwise, I can't see any hope for him. If it were me, though, I'd dump his code so fast it would make a hissing noise, and I'd prefer never to use any code from him ever again, since he's not, to me, reliable as to his decisions. Who wants to be the test case, though? And besides, I prefer to use GPL code. Ask your lawyer for anything that matters.

Speaking of MSOOXML, you will greatly enjoy Rob Weir's latest, What every engineer knows. He writes about building a bridge. It's an analogy:

Along comes MegaCorp, who wants to build a bigger bridge, a much bigger bridge than any attempted previously, a MegaBridge.... Of course, the fact that MegaBridge is right down the street from the new bridge that just opened last week is a bit odd. But MegaCorp tells us that is OK. We're not required to use their bridge if we don't want to.

Further suppose MegaCorp also wants to construct this MegaBridge in record time, faster than others have constructed bridges even a fraction of their size....

But MegaCorp wants the MegaBridge to open on time. They force the inspection to continue, even though the inspectors claim there is not enough time. In order to "help" the inspection and despite the obvious conflict of interest, MegaCorp instructs a large number of its own employees, qualified or unqualified, to volunteer as bridge inspectors. They further recruit employees from subsidiaries and suppliers to become inspectors as well. In at least one case, MegaCorp tells a supplier, newly-minted as an inspector, "Don't worry if you know nothing about bridges. We'll tell you what to say. All you need to do is say that the bridge is safe. You'll be rewarded later for helping us here."...

The inspectors are polled to see whether the bridge can be certified. The vote is close, but the answer is no, the MegaBridge cannot be certified in its current condition. The inspectors, mainly the older, more experienced ones, record a report of 3,522 specific defects in the MegaBridge, far more defects than have ever been found in any other bridge.

MegaCorp is irate.... "We must open the bridge on time!" they yell. The MegaCorp engineers work day and night, over weekends, over the holidays even, in order to develop written proposals to address each of the reported flaws in the bridge. The inspectors are given the proposals and asked whether they believe the proposals are sufficient to allow the MegaBridge to be certified. Although the newly-minted inspectors are quick to affirm the adequacy of the proposal, the old-timers just shake their heads in disbelief, with one stating to the press:

"You could fix every last defect in that report and the MegaBridge would still not be sound. Since we never inspected all of the critical welds in the first place, fixing only the defects we reported is insufficient. It is not enough for us to merely retest the ones we reported as defective. We need to test all of them.

"Also, the fact that you are making pervasive changes to the road surface, the suspension materials and the pillar diameters, far-reaching design changes which were clearly rushed and have not gone through normal review procedures, I'm afraid that all of our previous tests are now invalidated as well.

"Additionally, many of your proposals either avoid addressing the flaws, paper around the flaws, or even introduce new flaws. We need to re-certify the new design before we can even think about retesting the bridge.

"However considering the huge number of defects reported, the even larger number of defects undetected because of lack of inspection time, the questionable competency of the newly-minted inspectors, and overt corruption of the process by MegaCorp, my recommendation would be to tear this thing down before it falls over and hurts someone."

Update: I just saw the press release about the cease and desist letter. I think folks need to read the magistrate judge's Report and Recommendations itself to properly analyze the matter. It's not on PACER yet, and the law firm putting out the press release doesn't provide the original, only an edited text version, but even if we accept the accuracy of the version, which I don't until I can compare it with the original, here's what the magistrate judge found:

Under the DMCA, the copyright holder need only plead a prima facie case of copyright infringement. In re: Verizon Internet Servs., Inc., 257 F. Supp. 2d 244, 263 (D.D.C. 2003). A certificate of registration of a copyright constitutes prima facie evidence of the validity of the copyright and facts stated in the certificate. 17 U.S.C. Section 410(c). Melaleuca has registered the Sheppard Letter with the Copyright Office. See Supplemental Filing Re: Copyright Registration Certificate for Sheppard Letter, Ex. 1 (Docket No. 18-2). This is prima facie evidence that the Sheppard Letter is copyrighted and satisfies the first prong of demonstrating a prima facie case of copyright infringement. 43SB has valid arguments and enforcing this subpoena pre-litigation may have far-reaching consequences, therefore some preliminary examination of the potential claim is necessary. However, the Court will not go into an in-depth analysis of the merits of a copyright infringement claim in determining whether to quash this subpoena. It is sufficient in this instance that Melaleuca has registered the Sheppard Letter with the Copyright Office.

The party seeking a subpoena must also make a prima facie showing of copying of constituent elements of the work that are original. See In re: Verizon Servs., Inc., 257 F. Supp. 2d 244, 263 (D.D.C. 2003). The entire Sheppard Letter was posted on the Website by user "d2." This suffices to show a copying of constituent elements of the work that are original by user "d2." Therefore, the Court finds that all the elements necessary for a subpoena to issue under 17 U.S.C. Section 512(h), including the notification requirements of section 512(c)(3)(A) and the prima facie case, have been satisfied for user "d2." The Court recommends that the motion to quash with respect to "d2" be denied.

Written objections to this Report and Recommendation must be filed within ten (10) days pursuant to 28 U.S.C. Section 636(b)(1) and Local Rule 72.1, or as a result of failing to do so, that party may waive the right to raise factual and/or legal objections to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

In short, it's about a subpoena, whether a letter registered with the US Copyright Office, is sufficient to permit the issuing of a subpoena under the DMCA. It specifically does *not* rule on the copyrightability of the letter itself and says that has to happen in a more in-depth analysis. That will have to be figured out later. And even this report is appealable immediately or if preferred objections can be filed in Idaho. In short, I think the press release went a bit over the top in its analysis of what it means, but read it for yourself and you can form your own opinion.


The Non-Revocable GPL | 232 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
The Corrections Thread
Authored by: Aladdin Sane on Saturday, January 26 2008 @ 04:55 PM EST
Please place corrections to the article, or other Groklaw elements, under this post.

Please put the nature of the correction in the comment title.

Form follows function

[ Reply to This | # ]

[NP] Discuss Groklaw News Picks
Authored by: Aladdin Sane on Saturday, January 26 2008 @ 04:59 PM EST
Scope: Comments concerning the Groklaw News Picks found in the right hand column of Groklaw's home page.

Format: Insure the News Pick title is referenced in your post, so we know which article you are commenting on.

Form follows function

[ Reply to This | # ]

[OT] Off Topic stuff
Authored by: Aladdin Sane on Saturday, January 26 2008 @ 05:01 PM EST
Scope: Stuff.

Format: The best you can.

Form follows function

[ Reply to This | # ]

Found on Brian Jones' blog
Authored by: PolR on Saturday, January 26 2008 @ 05:23 PM EST
Microsoft' Brian Jones has something to say on Rob Weir's article:
Is this Rob's subtle way of telling us that the ODF committee is disappointed that they didn't receive as thorough of a review when they went through ISO as the detailed review Open XML is now benefitting from and that for the sake of good engineering they would like to resubmit the 1.1 version of the spec to SC34 for a full review?
Is it just me, or does this sounds like a threat? It looks like getting more document standards adopted in ISO is going to get ugly for a while.

[ Reply to This | # ]

The Non-Revocable GPL
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, January 26 2008 @ 05:29 PM EST
Mr. Gates, tear down that bridge!

[ Reply to This | # ]

Darth Vader on Licensing
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, January 26 2008 @ 05:30 PM EST
Calrissian: "That wasn't the deal!"
Vader: "I have altered the deal. Pray I do not alter it further."

Gosh, that sounds familiar... :)

Zox, a man of no account

[ Reply to This | # ]

The Non-Revocable GPL
Authored by: fredex on Saturday, January 26 2008 @ 05:42 PM EST
But seriously, can you imagine if it were possible to just change a license like the GPL any time you wanted to, without any warning that such a thing could happen?
Unfortunately, very much the same thing happens in business all the time: imagine your large national ISP has a "terms of service" or other document defining what they will provide and what you can or cannot do with it. Such corporations routinely change those terms at their own whim without even feeling the need to notify all customers, never mind getting the buy-in of those same customers.

Fortunately, RMS saw the need to explicitly guard against that in the GPL.

[ Reply to This | # ]

But what if...
Authored by: Crocodile_Dundee on Saturday, January 26 2008 @ 06:08 PM EST
I've not been following the GPL Revocation thing too closely (other than seeing
the article on /.).

I do recall someone making the argument that if someone releases code under the
GPL to which they don't have the rights, it is actually fair and reasonable that
people are notified that this code is no longer available under the GPL.

In this hypothetical case I think it is probably fair to say that the code never
really was available under the GPL.

I'm not sure if these are the facts in the current instance, but I welcome any

That's not a law suit. *THIS* is a law suit!

[ Reply to This | # ]

C&D and New Law
Authored by: Shadow Wrought on Saturday, January 26 2008 @ 06:26 PM EST
Judges are bound by the rules just as much, if not more, than attorneys are. In
this case it wasn't even a full District Court Judge who ruled but a Magistrate.
IANAL, but I've had it described to me that they are more of the gatekeepers
than the higher District Judges. They review things like Search Warrants,
oversee arraignments, and handle discovery matters so the District Court Judges
can focus their attentions more on trials and other matters.

In other words, the Magistrate only looked as to whether the originating law
firm had followed the rules. Whether or not they shey were OK doing it is an
entirely different matter. What's interesting to me, being a paralegal type for
a number of years, and also technically oriented, is how similar the Law and
coding can be. The way to solve difficult problems in coding is to break each
step out into manageable chunks. Same with the Law.

This was simply a first step confirming that the i's had been dotted and the t's
had been crossed. If not, then it gets kicked back and no further analysis is
needed. Same as if in a program you don't want to tie up the processor on
something that doesn't pass the first If-Then test. The telling ruling will
come down from the District Court Judge later as to whether or not it is

IMHO, its actually a good thing that it made it this far. The higher up these
oddball interpretations go, the higher a court there will be to strike it down
and set precedence on a larger scale. Again, IMH(IANAL)O;-)

"It's a summons." "What's a summons?" "It means summon's in trouble." -- Rocky
and Bullwink

[ Reply to This | # ]

The Revocable GPL in the U.S.
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, January 26 2008 @ 06:33 PM EST

There's nothing in the GPL that allows it, but there is in U.S. copyright law.

In the case of any work other than a work made for hire, the exclusive or nonexclusive grant of a transfer or license of copyright or of any right under a copyright, executed by the author on or after January 1, 1978, otherwise than by will, is subject to termination under the following conditions:

In particular, take note of this:

Termination of the grant may be effected notwithstanding any agreement to the contrary, including an agreement to make a will or to make any future grant.

So, in countries other than the U.S. this may not be allowable, but sadly in the U.S. it seems as though it is.

--- Swashbuckler

[ Reply to This | # ]

Not Revocable in theory; practice may be different.
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, January 26 2008 @ 06:55 PM EST

The license is probably not revocable in theory (INAL so I can't tell you the details of US copyright law). However, there seems to be one case where it can be revoked in practice. That is if the author is the only person who has a copy of the source code. The author is not bound by the license and so doesn't have to give out the source code. Other people are bound by the license so aren't able to distribute unless they have the source.

In this particular case; this seems to have come very close. We managed to find some sources for the file but there weren't any left in normal google search and sourceforge had completely disappeared.

This is very troubling for the credibility of our current storage of source. It seems nobody keeps a systematic backup of sourceforge, so something important could just disappear and it might be that nobody has a copy of the source. I guess the lesson to learn is that we need to systematically mirror services like sourceforge somewhere else. To do this legally given that many of these sites don't permit automatic mirroring might need a large number of volunteers each mirroring only one package.

[ Reply to This | # ]

The Non-Revocable GPL
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, January 26 2008 @ 06:55 PM EST
If you change your mind and don't want to use the GPL any more, you can stop and use something else on new code going forward, and you can dual license your own code, but you can't redo the past and pull back GPL'd code.
IANAL etc, but wouldn't it be more accurate to say that you can stop and use another license on anything which is your own code however if you've released it under the GPL you cannot prevent others from continuing to distribute it under that license? Maybe I'm nitpicking, or maybe I've misunderstood the above, but my understanding was that you'd still be reliant on somebody who had received the code under the GPL being interested in distributing it. Of course if the GPL-released code is of any use to the public and it had been widely distributed it's extremely likely that this will happen, but not a given.

[ Reply to This | # ]

The Non-Revocable GPL
Authored by: pdp on Saturday, January 26 2008 @ 06:57 PM EST
You rights as a licensee are revoked by default (law) if you do not adhere by
the rules stated by the licensor, wich gave you the rights to do anything with
the licensors stuff.

(defvar MyComputer '((OS ."GNU/Emacs") (IPL ."GNU/Linux")))
I am not a number, I am a individual with a unique number

[ Reply to This | # ]

Possible GPL violation by ATSCAP author??
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, January 26 2008 @ 07:14 PM EST
An interesting thing about the ATSC license revocation is that , as I've already mentioned in a slashdot posting, the following is included in the xtscut.c file in the distribution:
The MPEG2 Intra frame parse is, more or less, sample2.c from libmpeg2. It needed a few changes, but not a whole lot, so the authors deserve credit for making it flexible and explanatory enough to get the job done. It would have taken longer w/o libmpeg2. Thank you libmpeg2 developers!

This suggest to me that atscap is a derivitive of MPEG2 and so the author of atscap has GPL responsibilities for any binaries he distributed.

  • does anyone have a binary which was distributed without source?
  • are there any more bits which are derived from elsewhere?

[ Reply to This | # ]

Intellectual Property and Dead Souls
Authored by: zcat on Saturday, January 26 2008 @ 09:05 PM EST
Dead Souls is a MUD that used to be free under the GPL. Then one day the author
has a disagreement with some other server operator and decided that he didn't
want it to be GPL any more, so now it isn't. Now it's under a 'do what you like
until I decide to change my mind' license he obviously wrote himself. (too lazy to do html)

" In theory, Linus Torvalds could wake up tomorrow, insist that the Linux
kernel license is now null, and a lot of people would have to then go use some
other operating system. "

And if that's true, Microsoft could probably do the same thing with their EULA

[ Reply to This | # ]

Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, January 26 2008 @ 09:45 PM EST
[...] the patents could be sold to someone new, and the new owner would take the position that it hadn't made any promises to anyone.
You mean, like, ex-Microsoft managers buying up patents?

Hey, come to think of it, it could be the new thing, now stock-options are no longer the hot thing they were in the go-go days:
Take the lower pay, and when you retire, you get one of our patents...

[ Reply to This | # ]

Stop using?
Authored by: mattflaschen on Saturday, January 26 2008 @ 10:17 PM EST
I wouldn't stop using the GPL code, just because he thinks he has the ability to
revoke it. You should get legal advice first, but if they say you are you are
able to keep using it (which I believe they would), why stop?

First, ceasing to use the code would set a bad precedent. More importantly,
it's ultimately still free software that does something useful.

[ Reply to This | # ]

What are atscap and pchdtvr?
Authored by: mtew on Saturday, January 26 2008 @ 11:20 PM EST
From context they were Sourceforge projects, and by implication, codecs,
probably MPEG2 codecs. I did a search on Sourceforge and came up with nothing.
Please post a description of these and possibly an opinions on their quality...


[ Reply to This | # ]

The Non-Revocable GPL
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, January 26 2008 @ 11:52 PM EST

This is more complicated than you made it out to be. First, is the GPL a bare license or is it a contract? If the former, then it would be revocable. If the later, than it would not revocable, but the licensor could breach the contract, and sue the licensee for copyright violation. The licensee could counter-sue for breach of contract.

What happens then? I have no idea. Contract damage law is rather heavily slanted toward dealing with situations where damages can be quantified monetarily. This would be a quite alien situation for the court.

Also, continuing to consider the GPL from a contract point of view, let's say you make code available under GPL. Alice downloads it and starts exercising her GPL rights. Bob has never heard of the code, has no idea it exists, and never gets a copy. Now you claim to un-GPL the code. Alice can reasonably claim that she had a contract with you (we've got offer, acceptance, and detrimental reliance provides consideration). But what about Bob? He never accepted, nor was there consideration. No contract, therefore, between you and Bob. So, if Bob obtains the code, does he have a case for claiming GPL rights, like Alice arguably does?

Let's say Bob gets a copy from Alice. Note section 6 of the GPL. This says that Bob gets a license from the original licensor. That is, his license comes from you, not from Alice, so if you aren't giving out licenses any more, it looks like Bob might be out of luck. This would mean a GPL revocation would be effective against everyone who does not have a copy of the code at the time of the revocation.

But all hope is not yet lost for Bob! If you don't give Bob a license, might not Alice argue that you are breaching your contract with her? Would this lead to the odd situation that if Alice gives Bob a copy, and you sue Bob for copyright infringement, Alice can sue you for GPL violation for not giving a license to Bob?

My conclusion is that this is not as open and shut as you made it out to be. There are colorable arguments both ways--sufficient to get past a summary judgement motion for sure, so if this turns contentious, it could get quite interesting.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Misread "MegaBride" instead of "MegaBridge" ...
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, January 27 2008 @ 02:11 AM EST
... oh well, McBride is slowly creeping into my mind.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Here's the GPL v2. See any terms allowing you to revoke? Me neither.
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, January 27 2008 @ 04:59 AM EST
There goes IBM's copyright infringement claim based on the termination of SCOX's
GPL license out of the window.
Thank you, PJ.

[ Reply to This | # ]

The Non-Revocable GPL
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, January 27 2008 @ 06:39 AM EST

I live in England, UK and an IOU <some amount of money> note is not
regarded as enforceable in England because it doesn't have a date by which the
money must be repaid.

So what would concern me if the case went to court here is that the GPL does not
seem to have a duration. Nowhere does it state that the licence is for 5 days
or forever. I know that I have always assumed forever but would the courts see
it that way.

Given this, the argument suggested by another poster that section 6,

...the recipient automatically receives a license from the original licensor...

may be revocable seems possible.

Ian Smith

[ Reply to This | # ]

The Non-Revocable EULA from Microsoft
Authored by: clark_kent on Sunday, January 27 2008 @ 10:22 AM EST
Unless I haven't seen it, not even Bill Gates, the 2nd richest guy in the world,
can revoke, or re-implement his Microsoft license's at his will. Can you imagine
if Microsoft could, at any given time, implement new licensing terms on past
code on which agreements were already made? I believe only at a point of sale
can Microsoft change the licensing terms of the code it sells, not on code
already released and agreed upon. I think for this programmer, closed source,
draconian-style development is better suited for him.

Not even Bill Gates is as powerful as Darth Vader. Then we would certainly have
a non-free-market, non-democratic or even a non-Plutocratic society at hand. It
would be effectively Communism.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, January 27 2008 @ 11:14 AM EST
Somebody just needs to find a tarball of the latest Free version, and mirror it.
The code can then be forked from this point, if anybody wants to develop it

The original author can continue to provide his own fork under a non-Free
license, and everybody is happy.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Revocable GPL Guy?
Authored by: rsteinmetz70112 on Sunday, January 27 2008 @ 12:57 PM EST
Does anyone know what this guy is really up to?

I looked around a little and haven't been able to find any reason given that
doesn't seem like speculation.

I'd have expected some kind of flame war on some list or an manifesto or
something. I've probably missed it. He just seems to have suddenly dropped this
bomb and pulled his hole in after him.

Rsteinmetz - IANAL therefore my opinions are illegal.

"I could be wrong now, but I don't think so."
Randy Newman - The Title Theme from Monk

[ Reply to This | # ]

atscap project already forked
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, January 27 2008 @ 02:35 PM EST
See which is a brand new fork from a
copy of the GPL atscap tarball lying around on the internet.

The atscap GPL tarball itself can be downloaded from here until the sourceforge
project owner puts a copy into sourceforge:

[ Reply to This | # ]

Easement, other encumberances?
Authored by: joef on Sunday, January 27 2008 @ 05:02 PM EST
Real property can be subject to easements and/or other encumberances. It would seem that for the code (at least, for the version released under the GPL) the GPL would constitute an encumberance. Many encumberances cannot be revoked by the owner of real property, such as the right of way held by the government or a utility, or the common law right of passage to a landlocked parcel of real property.

Courts seem to like analogies where statute doesn't preempt. Is this principle an additional defense, beyond the wording of the GPL, in the event someone were to become a defendant in an action on this matter? If Imaginary Property wants to be treated like Real Property, shouldn't in inherit some of those attributes?

[ Reply to This | # ]

How can anyone take the notice seriously?
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, January 27 2008 @ 05:09 PM EST

Why is anyone taking this seriously? The "notice" is anonymous; it doesn't even say who wrote it, let alone attempt to convince us that the author of the notice has anything to do with the code.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Licenses are revocable in property (real estate) law
Authored by: Steve on Sunday, January 27 2008 @ 06:10 PM EST

In the common law of property (aka real estate), throughout England, the United States, and common law nations around the globe, a license to use real estate is (theoretically) always terminable by the current landowner. Contrast this with covenants running with land, which often bind landowners generations after the original covenant was instituted.

Laws are often interpreted by analogy. Many people insist strongly that the GPL is a license, not a contract. Such an analysis runs the risk that the GPL for a particular set of software code is terminable by the copyright holder (the analogue of the landowner). On the other hand, pointing to the GPL itself for "promises" that the downstream licensees will be licensed forever seems very much like contract law analysis to me.

I'm just noodling; this is definitely not legal advice and I haven't researched the details of how licenses, termination and copyright intersect in the US.

Here's an article from a law school faculty member (Professor Lydia Pallas Loren) that covers some of these issues in the context of the Creative Commons movement (PDF):

Creative Commons: Licenses, Abandonments and a Semicommons of Creative Works


[ Reply to This | # ]

Queen of England repeals cease fire against the U.S. - U.S. now owned by the Queen.
Authored by: clark_kent on Monday, January 28 2008 @ 06:20 AM EST
Earlier today, the Queen of England repealed the cease-fire against the United States, formally known as the British Colonies and demands that the United States turn over all taxes, property, and past war victories, and territories acquired since then, over to the Throne immediately. She can't imagine what the British forces were thinking when General Lord Cornwallis surrendered to French and colony forces in 1781.

[ Reply to This | # ]

DMCAed letter
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, January 28 2008 @ 07:28 AM EST
IANAL. Is the license provided along with the letter? If license is provided, is
it possible to refuse licensing it? If a license is not provided, then it cannot
be read, isn't it?

[ Reply to This | # ]

Suppose Inkling not deluded
Authored by: DrHow on Monday, January 28 2008 @ 12:11 PM EST
Everyone seems to be assuming that Inkling is very confused about the GPL.
Suppose this is not so, and then consider what might be going on. One possible
theory is that Inkling included some code which is not his own and for which
there is a legitimate copyright holder who has objected to Inkling's
distribution of it. If that were the case, then Inkling had no right to license
it under the GPL in the first place. I.e., any license you may have got from
Inkling is not valid. Saying that the license is "revoked" may be
Inkling's imprecise way of announcing that the license is invalid and that you
cannot legally use it for redistributing the software. His comment about
"your best interest" may well be something worth considering if the
code is already so 'poisoned'. Inkling's liability in such a situation may be
greater than yours; but it may well be a good idea to stay away from this code
until the underlying story has come out.

An argument against the above speculation is that Inkling wrote, "As sole
author of both the atscap and the pchdtvr codebases, the licenses under the GPL
were granted at my sole discretion and the licenses under the GPL are now hereby
revoked at my sole discretion." If you accept Inkling's sole authorship,
than another possible incumbrance which could invalidate the license might be
some patent infringement.

[ Reply to This | # ]

The Non-Revocable GPL
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, January 28 2008 @ 02:10 PM EST
Your car breaks down. You have planned a family vacation tomorrow. The car
dealer, out of the kindness of their hearts (ha ha) gives you a free loaner car.
You sign the agreement to keep the loaner until your car is fixed, pack up the
car with all of your luggage, and head off on the trip, stopping at a hotel
along the way. In the morning, you wake up, walk out to the hotel parking lot,
and find all of your luggage in a pile in a parking space - no car! On top of
the pile is a letter reading, "we're sorry, but we decided that we don't
want you to have this free loaner car anymore. We've taken it back. Have a nice

-Jason (

[ Reply to This | # ]

The Non-Revocable GPL
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, January 28 2008 @ 02:41 PM EST
Didn't Mattel allready try this? Yes that Mattel. Their is the obscure section 17 U.S.C. 205e, of the United States copyright law.
But what Mattel and folks when for was "CPhack was never GPL. I know it says 'released under the GPL' but I didn't mean it."

[ Reply to This | # ]

The Non-Revocable GPL
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, January 29 2008 @ 05:33 PM EST
Sorry if this is somehow duped, but I do have a pertinent question.

GPL is a license created not only to avoid future closed-source products, but
also to encourage open source development. But open source development implies
others than the original author to contribute to the code (and if they do
distribute it, they are bound to release it under the same license terms).

This is a pure theoretical case, I am myself a proud opensource developer, which
has its own applications on the "wild" and which also contributes to a
few other opensource applications.

So, assuming that you, as author, release something under GPL (or LGPL), and,
provided that at a certain point in time, no one else but you had modified the
code (according to the specific license rules), are you entitled to revoke the
GPL/LGPL license ? Or the license must remain valid even if no one has ever
changed it ?

Similarly, if you're a co-author (contributor) of a GPL application, can the
main author revoke the license without your explicit permission ?


[ Reply to This | # ]

See comments at LWN on revokable GPL
Authored by: JesseW on Saturday, February 02 2008 @ 02:28 AM EST
There is a quite active (100+) comment thread at LWN which many of you may be interested in joining.

IMO, the most interesting topic is a theory, brought up by one "ncm", that revoking the GPL can turn off Section 6 (as someone mentioned above). Back in 2003, ncm contacted Fred von Lohmann of the EFF who confirmed that this was an unresolved area of law, so we at least have one statement that the theory may be a problem.

I wonder what Mr. Lohmann would say now that GPLv3 is out -- does it deal with this issue?

(Contact me for comment licensing, e.g. GPL, CC, PD, etc.)

[ Reply to This | # ]

Groklaw © Copyright 2003-2013 Pamela Jones.
All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective owners.
Comments are owned by the individual posters.

PJ's articles are licensed under a Creative Commons License. ( Details )