Don't put your software in the public domain

Steven D'Aprano steve at
Mon Jun 6 11:59:52 EDT 2016

On Mon, 6 Jun 2016 03:54 pm, Nobody wrote:

> 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".

Read the GPL. I already linked to it. The GPL explicitly and implicitly
requires that the distributor do certain things, and avoid doing others. It
implicitly requires that the distribute give up their right to keep the
code a trade secret. (It cannot be a trade secret if it is released under a
FOSS licence.) It explicitly requires the distributor to make the source
code available under the GPL. All these things are sufficient to make the
GPL a contract.

All this is covered in my previous post that links to a paper on the
enforceability of the GPL, written by an actual lawyer. If you haven't read
that, please don't argue until you do. Its all covered in the paper.

> 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.

That's factually incorrect. The only case (that I know of) where the GPL was
actually fought out in front of a judge was in Germany, and it was treated
as a breach of contract. The GPL is legally a contract, and if the
distributor fails to live up to their end of the contract (namely, the
requirement to publish their program under the GPL), then they have no
right to distribute, copy or modify the GPLed code. If they do, then they
are infringing copyright.

Again, this is all covered in the paper.


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