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Wired: In Defense of Copyleft

Feb 07, 2001, 18:36 (13 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Karlin Lillington)

"Software that is placed under "copyleft" -- as opposed to copyright -- may be in a legal limbo and is still reliant on the concept of copyright, an Irish legal expert says. But during a legal seminar Tuesday in Dublin on "Copyleft and Open Source Software: History, Applications and Legal Issues," Free Software Foundation founder and principle GNU developer Richard Stallman argued that the concept of copyright is inappropriate to the digital age and restricts freedom and innovation."

"However, Paul Lambert, a lawyer with LK Shields Solicitors in Dublin, argued that even with copyleft "as a fundamental concept, copyright remains, because copyleft can't work without copyright." ... Therefore, copyleft is not "the end of copyright as we know it," as some critics have argued, he said. Software developers can thus not disclaim copyright, but may either license or assign the work to others."

"Copyleft, free software and open source software all pose major challenges to the concept of copyright and could threaten the established software houses such as Microsoft, Lambert said. For example, he said, "Linux is now a viable alternative." ...GPL and copyleft will remain philosophical rather than practical issues until they are tried in court. "The issue for GPL is whether or not it works, whether or not it's enforceable. But it hasn't been tested in a court of law," said Lambert."

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