Subject: Re: license nits on "adzap"
To: Robert Elz <kre@munnari.OZ.AU>
From: Greg A. Woods <>
List: tech-pkg
Date: 05/23/2000 15:58:49
[ On Tuesday, May 23, 2000 at 19:29:08 (+1000), Robert Elz wrote: ]
> Subject: Re: license nits on "adzap" 
> The software author evidently doesn't like this legislation, and is attempting
> to prevent ISPs from using his software to implement the legislation.

Ah, well, I got it backwards.  In any case he would be out to lunch if
he tried to use copyright law either way.

>   | Copyright law (in general)
>   | cannot protect shareware that's available for anonymous FTP,
> That's nonsense - anon ftp is no different than a public library.

No, it's not.  The difference between "anonymous FTP" and a public
library is like black and white, day and night.  Libraries don't
(generally) make copies of their books (i.e. they don't publish
anything) and they certainly don't make such copies available free of
charge or under any burdening agreements.  Anonymous FTP is like a
bookstore without walls or cash registers and all of the stock is
automatically replenished free of charge (perhaps with some delay if
it's on a low-bandwidth link ;-); and the security guard only prevents
you from taking the selves or maybe from putting your own books on the

>  If
> something is protected by copyright (which most stuff created is these days)
> then it is protected, wherever it is put.   The very point of copyright
> is to allow works to be distributed, while retaining the rights of the
> author.

Yes, but when the author makes figuratively infinite number of copies of
his or her work available via an anonymous FTP server then that work is
considered to be "freely available".  Anyone who obtains a copy has a
legally obtained legitimate copy of their own.  It's like buying the
book from the bookstore, not lending it from the library.  You never
have to give your copy back, ever.  It may not be freely copyable or
re-distributable, but there's not a word of the copyright law that can
be used to dictate what use the owner of a copy can make of it (eg. in
the case of a book you can burn your copy (in private) should you
please; and in the case of software you can execute it on your computer
and make a million dollars through the function it provides, or take
down governments, or whatever).

>   | nor can it
>   | tell anyone what they can or cannot do "privately" with a legally
>   | obtained copy of something,
> That's true, as far as it goes, but the "legally obtained" part is what
> counts.  If in order to "legally obtain" a copy of whatever it is you want,
> you have to enter into an agreement to pay $N to the author, then clearly
> you have to pay.  That's what happens when you buy a book...   Alternatively
> if you have to enter into an agreement not to use software for commercial
> purposes, then that's what you have to do (or come to some other arrangement
> with the author).   It isn't the copyright law that stops you doing what you
> want with the copy you have legally obtained, but the contract you entered
> into that allowed you to legally obtain the copy.

Exactly, but with freely and anonymously available software there's no
contractual agreement to protect the author or control the owner of a
legal copy -- just copyright law to prevent such a person from further
distributing it (either verbatim or as a derivative work) or from
using it to slander the author or otherwise claiming it to be their own,
etc.  No restriction can be made on what's done "privately" with a legal
copy (for example running sshd on a server is not covered by copyright

>   | > Assuming we want pkgsrc to respect the wishes of the author,
>   | 
>   | (don't you mean "the wishes of the Australian Government"? -- the author
>   | seems to indicate a dislike for this state of affairs!)
> No, the original was correct.   The Aust Govt would be delighted to have
> such software widely available and used - especially by ISPs.

Ah, OK, then that's different!  ;-)

and unless that author puts some form of contractual licensing in place
and restricts the distribution of his program then it is presumably
freely available and could be widely used if people wanted it.

							Greg A. Woods

+1 416 218-0098      VE3TCP      <>      <robohack!woods>
Planix, Inc. <>; Secrets of the Weird <>