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Re: Fedora Freedom and linux-libre

On Jun 19, 2008, Les Mikesell <lesmikesell gmail com> wrote:

> How would you relate what you are saying to the recent ruling in the
> UK that selling modified ROMS to someone who already has the
> original does not violate copyright law?
> http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20080612/0055131385.shtml

The question was not for me, but I'll chime in anyway.

Seems like the above is an interesting case about fair use, about
limiting the power of copyright holders over their works, for the sake
of the public interest.  Excellent!

Now, would you have any reason to expect such a ruling to not have
been upheld should the software in the chips have been licensed under
the GPL without source code, a la Broadcom?

Do you think it would it make any difference if the software in the
chips had been distributed under the GPL with source code?

> No, I need the owner's permission to have my copy in the first place.

This claim is in conflict with the legislations of various
jurisdictions I'm relatively familiar with.  Where in the world do you
claim this to be true?

> I don't need his permission to use it

As in, reading the book or listening to the song or watching the movie
or running the program, yes, correct.

> or add my own changes to it.

No, in order to modify a work you need permission from the copyright
holder and, in some jurisdictions, also from the author (in case the
author is allowed by law to assign the copyright to other parties
while retaining moral rights, one of which is to object to
modifications; this may sound alien to US-centered folks, but it's in
the Berne convention and implemented in various legislations around
the world)

>> If said owner grants that permission only under the condition that
>> your modifications have to be distributed under GPL...

> Once I have my copy, said owner has no more to say about what I can do
> with it.  Copyright prevents subsequent redistribution without
> permission but it is not anyone else's business if I redistribute the
> work that I've added to my copy to someone else who also has a copy of
> the original work.

You should definitely discuss this matter with a lawyer to get this
straightened out.  You seem to have misunderstood what the "use the
work however you want" phrase you probably heard or read about
somewhere amounted to.  It's not use as in "create derived works based
on", it's use as in "enjoy".  That's not regulated by copyright (at
least it wasn't before 1996 or so, when provisions that ended up
implemented and exaggerated in the DMCA and various other anti-social
legislations around the world, were mandated by the WTO, rather than
adopted voluntarily by signatory countries at the WIPO.

> There are no conditions to receiving a copy a copy under the GPL.

That's correct (save for the dupe :-), and that's how copyright works.
Just imagine how you'd possibly be able to refrain from breaking the
law if someone could just put an illegal copy in your hands while you
were asleep, or at your table while you were distracted reading the
newspaper at a coffee shop, or some such.  It's that who gives you the
copy that breaks the law, in case distributing the copy is not
permitted by law.

The GPL merely restates what most copyright legislations take for
granted.  This makes leaves room in case some diverge, like GPLv3 does
to cover Brazilian software law, that requires a license to be even
entitled to run a program.

>> Using a library is one thing, taking its code and modifying it
>> something quite different; and distributing a copy of the original
>> or a modified version are yet again completely different. For each
>> of those activities you need separate permissions.

> Sometimes.  Some of those things are basic rights, recognized
> differently in different places.

That's correct, fair use exists as court law in some jurisdictions,
uses that don't infringe on copyright are explicitly mentioned in
copyright laws in others, and these are things you can do regardless
of whatever the GPL or any other pure license (i.e., pure grant of
permissions, rather than contract) might say.

For example, per fair use, you can take a small portion of a
pre-existing work and use it in another work that you can then
distribute under your own terms.  How much a small portion is varies.
For example, in Brazil, it was perfectly legal for me to create this:

In the US, it might not have been, because laws have upheld far
shorter limits on reuse of portions of movies.  But then, it's a
reinterpretation, which might again make it fair use as a parody.  It
sure is a grey area.  Unlike Brazilian law, in which copyright law
explicitly mentions some uses you can count on regardless of licenses,
fair use in US is a strict matter of jurisprudence, so it remains a
grey area until there's a court ruling on the matter.

It used to be the case that one could copy an entire work for personal
use in Brazil, up to 1998.  It no longer is, now you can only copy
small portions, and only for the personal use of the person performing
the copy.  So universities that want to promote culture rather than
sell out to the powerful copyright holders permit students to operate
photo-copying machines at libraries, as long as they only copy no more
than one or two chapters at a time.

But this doesn't mean students are entitled to take their copied
chapters, replace some passages, write a preface, bind it all and give
(or lend, or sell) it to their friends.  If you think you can do these
things, and count on their being fair use rights all over the place,
you're up for unfortunate surprises.  I hope not, and I wish it wasn't
so, but unfortunately corporate greed has accummulated so much power
that they can buy up legislation in detriment of everyone else, while
they can claim to not be above the law.  And some people still believe
their mind-washing BS about copyrights, patents and trademarks holding
any similarity, existing to protect their investment rather than the
public interest, and their violation bearing any resemblance to
stealing.  While they're stealing our rights from right under our
noses, while we nod along because they call it "property" and we
believe in respecting property (without quotes).

Alexandre Oliva         http://www.lsd.ic.unicamp.br/~oliva/
Free Software Evangelist  oliva {lsd ic unicamp br, gnu.org}
FSFLA Board Member       ¡Sé Libre! => http://www.fsfla.org/
Red Hat Compiler Engineer   aoliva {redhat com, gcc.gnu.org}

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