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osOpinion: Misconceptions About UCITA and Open Source Software

Feb 28, 2000, 07:45 (13 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Vance Kochenderfer)

[ Thanks to Kelly McNeill for this link. ]

"The truth is that UCITA will have no effect whatsoever on software released under the GPL and other well-written open source licenses. The reason for this is the distinction between copyright law and contract law. Copyright law is created by the United States Congress, and grants authors certain rights to control the copying, distribution, and modification (preparation of "derivative works") of their creations. This is the law which the GPL relies on. If you obtain a GPLed program, you can use it all the live long day without being subject to the conditions of the GPL as long as you don't give a copy to someone else or make a derivative work based on the program. If you do want to make copies or modifications, you must do so under the terms of the GPL unless the copyright has expired (currently, copyrights can last for the life of the author plus 70 years, so you may have a long wait)."

"Contract law is something completely different. Contracts are governed in the United States by laws passed by the legislatures of each individual state. Obviously, having 50 different laws can cause a great deal of confusion, so every state has adopted (sometimes with variations) the Uniform Commercial Code, or UCC. The UCC covers various areas of commerce, including contracts. One basic rule is that a contract can only be formed when the two parties exchange something of value. By definition, open source authors give their work away free of charge, so even though I use Samba, I don't have a contract with Andrew Tridgell, one of its authors...."

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