Subject: Re: Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Encyclopedia
From: Erik Naggum <>
Date: Mon, 05 Nov 2001 09:47:24 GMT
Newsgroups: comp.lang.lisp
Message-ID: <>

* Kaz Kylheku
| If the gizmo is that much better than the original work, then why did
| you need the original to start with?  Should you be able to usurp
| any rights over the original code, just because of your enhancement?

  I think you need to look at how patent law works.

| It was you who not long ago here explained so clearly the difference
| between *ideas* and their *expression*.

  So assume I get it, damnit.

| You also have to be careful to distinguish between GPLed program and GNU
| program.  The Free Software Foundation asks for copyright transfers and
| employer waivers when you contribute to their software.  This is not
| required by the GNU license; it's a separate activity the FSF engages in.
| It actually makes a lot of good sense, because without the copyright
| transfers and waivers, a program, especially one with many authors, is at
| risk of future infringement claims.  It's not intended to wrestle the
| software away from programmers.  They go through this hassle voluntarily,
| as I have.

  Well, the important issue here is whether the authors of the changes are
  the legal owners of the source they contribute.  This tends to be quite
  hard to ascertain.  The copyright transfer is the only viable way to deal
  with that issue.

| It's true that when you sign such a copyright transfer, you do lose your
| rights over the code.  But that has nothing to do with the GNU license;
| it's a contribution prerequisite imposed by the maintainers of a
| particular stream of the program.

  I disagree strongly.  A GPL'ed program without a clean copyright trail is
  a very dangerous thing, legally speaking.

| If I'm maintaining a free program, and I ask you to play the fiddle while
| standing on your head before I accept a patch, then by golly, you will
| do that, or I won't accept the patch into my stream. :)

  Well, there is this notion in contract law of unenforceable requirements.

  Norway is now run by a priest from the fundamentalist Christian People's
  Party, the fifth largest party representing one eighth of the electorate.
  Carrying a Swiss Army pocket knife in Oslo, Norway, is a criminal offense.