[clug] sec: unclassified - Samba Team, on SCO and sweet irony

Martin Pool mbp at sourcefrog.net
Mon Aug 25 15:02:33 EST 2003

On Mon, 25 Aug 2003 13:41:17 +1000 (EST)
"Edward C. Lang" <edlang at tsumakin.net> wrote:

Hi Ed!

> Basically, I'm wondering on what grounds, if at all, it is possible to
> revoke an assigned GPL.

The GPL can be terminated (perhaps not quite the same as "revoked")
under para 4:

|   4. You may not copy, modify, sublicense, or distribute the Program
| except as expressly provided under this License.  Any attempt
| otherwise to copy, modify, sublicense or distribute the Program is
| void, and will automatically terminate your rights under this License.
| However, parties who have received copies, or rights, from you under
| this License will not have their licenses terminated so long as such
| parties remain in full compliance.

This probably means that, when the dust settles, SCO will have lost
the right to distribute etc the Linux kernel.  They won't have lost
the right to distribute other bits of code such as Samba that happen
to be under the GPL, unless they also breach the licence on that code.

As it says, people who got the kernel from SCO are not in trouble.

Eben and Richard's legal design is really clever.

> The third paragraph of the GPLv2 Preamble
> states:
>   To protect your rights, we need to make restrictions that forbid
>   anyone to deny you these rights or to ask you to surrender the
>   rights. These restrictions translate to certain responsibilities
>   for you if you distribute copies of the software, or if you modify
>   it.

The preamble probably has no force.

> The only section - actually, sentence! - I could find that I believed
> imposed the freedom of not having one's licence revoked is Section 6.
>   [...] You may not impose any further restrictions on the
>   recipients' exercise of the rights granted herein. [...]
> Am I correct in stating this is the only part of the licence that
> relates to revokation? 

No, Para 4 is more important.

>  That is, one is not allowed to include an
> additional section (or modify an existing one) to the effect of
> defining situations and penalties for the termination of a licence.

Correct, because then you would not be redistributing under the GPL,
which is required.

I suppose the copyright holder could dual-licence under both the GPL
and a terminable licence; indeed for dual-licenced code this is
probably common.  If the other licence is terminated, people would
still have the option of using the GPL, assuming that suited their
requirements.  However that is not the case for the kernel.

> On the other hand, and I do not know the relevant sections of
> contract law, is it possible to impose restrictions on an assigned
> licence retroactively? I understand that legislation can be
> retroactive - what about contract law decisions?

It's not a contract.

I don't think the licensor can change it retroactively unless that was
allowed for originally.  (For example: "or, at your option, any later

However, it might be possible for a judge to declare that the licence
was terminated, if there were circumstances not explicitly handled.

> As an aside, I'm somewhat bemused by Section 8 of the GPLv2. I'm
> currently enrolled in an Introduction to International Relations unit
> at the ANU, of which one topic of discussion was the sovereignty and
> legitimacy of nation states. I wonder if one could, with sufficient
> external agreement, define a country for the purposes of a licence
> modified in accordance with Section 8 such that it legally
> discriminated against a particular entity or collection of persons.
> Additionally, the licence seems to be less than optimal in terms of
> what it classes as valid rules of exclusion: it talks of countries yet
> states only one "may add an explicit geographical distribution
> limitation" - does that mean one can write "North America" or the area
> bound by three or more GPS coordinates but not "The United States of
> America"?

Actually it says

  "may add an explicit geographical distribution limitation *excluding
  those countries*"

It seems fairly clear that the only acceptable granularity is
countries, and then only when particular conditions hold.  Although
countries may be fluid, it is hard to imagine a judge accepting you
making up new countries to suit yourself.

This does mean that if the program was restricted in say Tasmania,
somebody would be able to prevent its use anywhere in Australia.  But
it's probably moot because most countries manage patents and
copyrights on a national level.

-------------- next part --------------
A non-text attachment was scrubbed...
Name: not available
Type: application/pgp-signature
Size: 189 bytes
Desc: not available
Url : http://lists.samba.org/archive/linux/attachments/20030825/c473fa4b/attachment.bin

More information about the linux mailing list