GPL and ownership, was Schneider's interest in / LinuxPLC


Thread Starter

Ken Crater

> Secondly, the legal notice on our website is what happens
> when you tell a corporate attorney (yes, we have one) that you want to be
> able to post people's comments on a website/archive/maillist without
> getting sued.

> Hmm, maybe your attorney should read the GPL and modify the notice
> appropriately...

A careful reading (i.e., a legal reading) of the legal notice will show that we are not claiming any ownership of content submitted by others, only the nonexclusive right to distribute it in various forms, for example, on the website. (The specific language delineating this may be found on our website, and this should be referred to for any legal interpretation.)

This is not inconsistent with the GPL (in fact, it is a subset of the rights granted under GPL). However, the notice does specify ownership of the
various forms of content as "the property of or its content suppliers". Essentially, this means that the content you contribute, you own. This, too, is consistent with GPL. The GPL is not a transfer of
ownership to the public domain. Rather, the *author* retains ownership, but grants certain specified rights to the rest of the world.

There is a reason for this. At least under U.S. law, my understanding (and extensive commentary in various open source forums) is that putting code in the public domain loses *all* control over its subsequent use. GPL seeks to control subsequent use (e.g., no incorporation into closed proprietary software products), so ownership must be retained by the author so the
author can continue to assert the specified limitations on use.

Discussions on Slashdot and other forums show there is a real problem when non-attorneys start to draft language for copyright and legal notices, since unintended side effects lurk behind every clause. "Plain language" is not
legal language and, although it tends to keep the lawyers employed, the latter is as necessary in specifying rights as technical language is in
specifying a control system. We wrestled with the provisions of our current language for quite a while before adopting it, discussing various
ramifications along the way. I think we ended up with something that is both legally fair and still allows us to operate as a business.

Ken Crater Inc.
[email protected]
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