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SubjectRe: GPL V3 and Linux - Dead Copyright Holders


Alan Cox wrote:
> On Maw, 2006-01-31 at 09:57 -0800, Linus Torvalds wrote:
>
>> The fact that the COPYING file has a different copyright really doesn't
>> matter. It's still part of the release.
>>
>
> Law is about precision and exact wording as well as intent. The exact
> wording is "the Program" not "the release". And Program is capitalised
> to indicate the use of the definition made earlier. That is: "The
> "Program", below, refers to any such program or work, and a "work based
> on the Program" means either the Program or any derivative work under
> copyright law"
>
>

Actually the law is more precisely about the intent of the people making
the license/contract as opposed to the wording. Especially when there is
fast moving technology involved. If in 1991 Linus released his software
under GPL v2 and the wold changes in 15 years so that words mean things
differently than they did then, or newer licenses come out to deal with
new issues not contemplated back then, the meaning of the agreement is
interpreted on the basis of the intent and not on the exact wording of
the contract.
For example. I am a painter and I contract to paint your house white at
123 main street and I show up on the job and your house is really 125
main street and you change your mind and decide to have me paint it
yellow and I do that, and then you say you don't owe me because that
contract says you agreed to paint 123 main st white and you painted 125
main street yellow - you lose. The intent of the contract was that I
paint your house.

The meaning of the Linux license is what Linus intended it to be in 1991
and the way it is used in the following years. People who contribute to
the Kernel are presumed to understand the spirit of the project and if
their license says something else but they contributed it to the Kernel
then they are deamed to have waived their rights by contributing it to
the Kernel and accepting the Kernel's license.

I have way too much legal experience for someone who isn't a lawyer, but
if you don't believe me print this out and run it past a real lawyer and
see if they don't agree. The reality is that the Kernel license it what
Linus says it is and we all trust Linus as a condition for contributing
to the Kernel.

Having said that, lawyers can argue anything so if the wording and
reality were the same it makes it easier. So it is worth it to some
extent to clear up issues if we can.
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