Software licenses and releasing Python programs for review

max maxerickson at
Mon Jun 6 20:08:36 CEST 2005

Steven D'Aprano <steve at> wrote in
news:pan.2005. at 

> On Mon, 06 Jun 2005 16:12:18 +0000, max wrote:
>> This is one thing that bothers me about the gpl. It essentially
>> tries to create 'code as a legal entity'. That is, it gives
>> rights not to the creator of some code, but to the code itself. 
> Can you please show me where in the GPL it gives rights to the
> code itself? Because, frankly, I think you are mistaken.
> Of course, I might be wrong in this instance, and I always
> welcome corrections.
>> For me, the fact 
>> that corporations are considered people by the law is
>> ridiculous. 
> Ridiculous? I don't think so. Take, for example, Acme Inc. Acme
> purchases a new factory. Who owns the factory? The CEO? The
> Chairperson of the Board of Directors? Split in equal shares
> between all the directors? Split between all the thousands of
> shareholders? Society has to decide between these methods.
> (Of course, society can choose to hedge its bets by creating
> multiple entities that use different rules, such as partnerships,
> trusts, public corporations, limited corporations, etc.)
> None of these alternatives are *wrong*, but they all have various
> disadvantages. The legal fiction that corporations are legally
> persons is a work-around for these disadvantages, and it works
> quite well in many circumstances. To call it ridiculous is, well,
> ridiculous. Ownership is a legal fiction in any case, so it is no
> more ridiculous to say that a collective entity such as a
> corporation owns property than it is to say that an individual
> being owns property. 
> However, if you wanted to argue that giving corporations all the
> privileges of legal personhood with none of the responsibilities
> caused more harm than good, I would agree with you. I take it
> you've seen "The Corporation"?

I haven't seen "The Corporation", but yes, I was reaching for the 
priviledges/responsibilities balance.

>> Using a license that ends up doing the same thing with code
>> leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
> Of course you are free to use some other licence. But without
> evidence, I do not accept that the GPL attempts to give rights to
> code. 
Perhaps 'attempts' is too strong a word. Maybe 'ends up giving' would 
help my argument more. The best example I can come up with at the 
moment is programmer A releases a project under the gpl. Programmer B 
makes a substantial contribution to the project, which pA reads 
through and accepts. Later, pA decides that he would like to release 
the project under a more liberal license. To me, whether he legally 
can under the gpl is a very murky subject, as pB might not agree, and 
pA, having looked through/thought about pB's contribution might have 
some trouble proving that he implemented any matching functionality 
without referencing pB's earlier contribution, which if he did 
reference it(even by memory), would presumably require him to continue 
using the gpl.

I guess my argument is that with multiple contributors, the gpl, in 
comparison to say, a BSD style license, grants power to the code. If 3 
people work on a gpl project, they must agree to any changes. If 3 
people work on a BSD style project, they each can do whatever the hell 
they like with the code. So, in my opinion, the gpl ends up giving 
perhaps not rights, but certainly power, to the actual code base.

Based on the limited coherence of this answer I probably need to think 
about it somemore,

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