your gnupg patches

Marcus Brinkmann marcus.brinkmann at
Tue Mar 30 17:16:14 CEST 2004

At Tue, 30 Mar 2004 15:03:55 +0200,
Bernd Jendrissek wrote:
> > > Well I'd think that a public release would inherently fall under the
> > > GPL since the GPL mandates that.
> > 
> > Its not about the GPL, see
> GPL code can freely incorporate public domain code, AFAIK (but IANAL).
> The only reason to prefer GPL-assigned-to-FSF over public domain is that
> in the event of a GPL violation, the violator cannot be hauled over the
> coals for the public domain parts.

What is legally possible and what not depends often on the country
under which law you are acting.  The Bern convention provides a global
framework for copyright issues, but there are still sufficient
differences between the laws in different countries that make it hard
to judge these issues (this is one reason why fees for international
lawyers are very high).

You can get a glimpse of how complicated it is to judge if a work is
in the Public Domain or not by looking at the copyright page of the
Project Gutenberg:

This project is concerned with works of literature, which is different
from software.  However, the many rules at least give a good warning
not to under-estimate the issue.  In Europe, for example, you
apparently can not even fully assign your copyright to a third party -
you can only sublicense all associated rights.  This is why the FSFe
is working on the equivalent to the FSF's copyright assignments, but
for European law.  It is not at all apparent to me what legal effect a
statement by a European software author like "This file I wrote is
hereby in the Public Domain" would have - if any at all.  It might
very well be that a court would still uphold that authors copyright
under European law.  (I am not a lawyer, and I did not research
European copyright law very much, so I can not tell).

As I wrote in my other mail, the FSF (and thus the GNU projects) are
consulted by professional lawyers and professors of law.  We trust
their recommendations about how to ensure that the copyright situation
of our software is clear.  It is their (and other expert's) opinion
that matters most to us.  Legal requirements are often irrational and
silly.  This can be as trivial a matter as writing the copyright years
correctly ("2000, 2001, 2002" and not "2000-2002") and many other
rules.  We didn't make those rules (or they would be different), but
we have to follow them if we want you to be able to legally use our
software freely at all.


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