[Fedora-legal-list] Forced copyright assignment

Matt McCutchen matt at mattmccutchen.net
Mon Jan 31 04:13:12 UTC 2011

On Sun, 2011-01-30 at 10:04 -0700, Tom Callaway wrote:
> On 01/29/2011 07:14 PM, Matt McCutchen wrote:
> > On Sat, 2011-01-29 at 21:08 -0500, David Nalley wrote:
> >> On Sat, Jan 29, 2011 at 5:39 PM, Matt McCutchen <matt at mattmccutchen.net> wrote:
> >>> With all due respect, I don't think so... Assuming the licensor is the
> >>> sole copyright holder as they say, they have the exclusive right of
> >>> distribution under copyright law.  They don't need a license to
> >>> distribute the work however they please.  They are not infringing anyone
> >>> else's rights, so no one would have any cause to sue them.
> >>
> >> They might have 'cause' but they likely wouldn't have standing, at
> >> least for a copyright case. One might make the case that's the license
> >> is truly a contract, and that by not living up to the terms of the
> >> contract they could be sued (e.g. a simple tort case)
> > 
> > Even so, there is nothing in the "contract" that obliges the licensor to
> > provide the source.  It is all about what the licensee must do if he/she
> > distributes or modifies the work.  One could argue that it is implied
> > that the licensor agrees to provide the source because otherwise the
> > licensee's right to distribute is impossible to exercise; I don't buy
> > that, but I may be wrong.
> I suspect that you are wrong, given that the GPL has repeatedly held up
> in various courts (although, not yet in the US).
> Also, the success rate for people getting source code from major
> corporations in GPL compliance situations is rather high, and if your
> interpretation was valid, I would suspect that they would not comply.

I suspect that in the cases you are talking about, there is a key
difference: the work the company is distributing is a derivative work of
a GPL work copyrighted by another party, so that party can sue the
company for copyright infringement.  But in the original case in this
thread, IguanaWorks is (we think) the sole copyright holder of the work
it is distributing.


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