cpaul on 15 Feb 2001 12:54:54 -0000

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<nettime> the viral copyleft software licence

" As Stallman began writing the components of his GNU operating system and
released them to the public, one of his primary concerns was to ensure that
the programs he and his fellow coders were creating would remain free and
open as they were passed on from user to user; simply putting them in the
public domain would not achieve this because someone could easily come along
and sell the GNU programs as proprietary products. Stallman needed to do
something new and radical, namely, to draw up a software license that did
not restrict the user's rights, as most did, but that protected them. ",1011,,00.html?0713995203_EXC

" He did this first with the GNU Emacs General Public License, in 1985. "I
worked with a lawyer to draw it up," he says; he had to make sure that the
freedoms he was trying to perpetuate were watertight legally. Under this new
"copyleft" - as opposed to copyright - users could copy the program, modify
it, and sell the original or the modified versions. They could not modify
the rights granted by the copyleft to any user, however; for example,
software based on the program they sold had also to be freely available.
Similarly, modifications they made to a copylefted program had to be
copylefted - and so freely available. Furthermore, if software released
under the GNU General Public License (GPL) were combined with proprietary
(nonfree) code, the resultant combination had to be released under the GPL.
In other words, the GNU GPL "converted" software it was used with to its own
license, an extraordinarily clever approach to propagating freedom. "

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