Don't put your software in the public domain

Paul Rudin paul.nospam at
Mon Jun 6 08:36:32 EDT 2016

Nobody <nobody at nowhere.invalid> writes:

> On Sat, 04 Jun 2016 12:28:33 +1000, Steven D'Aprano wrote:
>>> OTOH, a Free software licence is unilateral; the author grants the user
>>> certain rights, with the user providing nothing in return.
>> That's not the case with the GPL.
>> The GPL requires the user (not the end-user, who merely avails themselves
>> of their common law right to run the software, but the developer user, who
>> copies, distributes and modifies the code) to do certain things in return
>> for the right to copy, distribute and modify the code:
> The GPL places limitations on the granted licence. That isn't the same
> thing as requiring the distributor to do something "in return".

The distributor grants the licence.

> This is why the (relatively few) cases where GPL infringements have
> resulted in litigation, the legal basis of the litigation is copyright
> infringement, not breach of contract.

Right, but the defence is that the licence grants permission to use; so
that's where the law if contract comes into it. You have to figure out
whether the use in question falls within the licence terms.

So if someone brings an action for copyright infringement you can argue
at least some of:

1. Copyright doesn't subsist in the copied material.
2. You didn't copy it.
3. One of the legal defences (fair use etc.) applies.
4. You had the permission of the copyright owner (i.e. a licence to copy
in these circumstances).

In the last case we're essentially into contract law.

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