Tugger the SLUGger!SLUG Mailing List Archives

Re: [chat] LGPL license w/o GPL infection


On Mon, 15 Oct 2001, Mary Gardiner wrote:

> > The big question is, where is the line between using your code and modifying
> > your code?  If you published the following line of code:
> > 
> > printf("Hello world!\n");
> > 
> > under your licence, I could possibly argue that
> > 
> > printf("Hello cruel world!\n");
> > 
> > is using your code, not modifying your code, because I used 'prinf("Hello '
> > and 'world!\n");' and also used my own code.
> 
> In the case of written works, I think this has been established
> adequately by precedent, check with your friendly local intellectual
> property expert. The examples you have above are too short to be
> copyrighted - you can't copyright a sentence. (This is why we have
> trademarks.)

Good point.  I wasn't expecting the above to be an actual example of licence
use, it was rather intended to illustrate the point, and I wasn't about to
write a couple of hundred lines of code to show the point.

Also, precedents won't necessarily be valid; if you're specifically allowing
integration, but forbidding modification, stretching a fair use precedent to
cover this eventuality would be hard.  The licence would have to (or rely on
the judgement of legal professionals - dangerous at best) specify the
boundaries of use vs modification fairly heavily.  As in my original
example, let's say you take one file that implements some functionality out
of your program and use it in mine.  I'm no longer using your program as a
whole, but I haven't really modified it.  Where is the distinction?  Do I
have to include the entirety of your code in my program, even if I use a
small portion of it?  Where is the boundary?

> I'm sure there are precedents on 'how much code does it take to have an
> original work?' but I've got no idea.

I believe even the holy writ (GPL) leaves it to legal judgement.  It merely
talks about a derivative work as defined by copyright law; I guess you could
use the same judgement in your licence, except that I doubt copyright law
makes a distinction between integration and modification in the way you
would want for this licence.

If anyone's interested, BTW, my stance on free software licencing is that I
basically want the source code to build the program on hardware and
software of *my* choosing, and to fix up the faffs that others make in their
coding from time to time.  Software isn't a religion, it's a tool.


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Matthew Palmer
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