[LAU] VST and legal issues

Simon Wise simonzwise at gmail.com
Mon Nov 24 02:15:36 EST 2008

On 24 Nov 2008, at 2:36 PM, Justin Smith wrote:

>> for anyone to use it (and in the case of GPL modify and redistribute
>> it) if AND ONLY IF they accept and abide by the terms of that  
>> license.
> One nitpick: the GPL is not a license for use, it is a license for
> modification and distribution. They assume that no one needs a license
> to use software, and you can use GPL software that is legally
> acquired, even while refusing or ignoring the terms of the license,
> but distributing copies without following the terms of their license
> is a copyright violation ("piracy").
> I would say that calling GPL a EULA is a severe disservice to what the
> GPL represents. It does not constrain or restrict the actions of any
> user who does not distribute or modify the software, two things you
> cannot even do without a license or agreement giving you that right.

you have a good point here, and it is a very important difference

With the GPL you are prohibited from distributing (or rather  
'conveying' in the new GPLv3 terminology) the  software unless you  
accept and abide by the terms of the license, the license also  
explicitly allows the use of the software (without distributing it)  
in any manner you wish. With a typical EULA you are very restricted  
in the ways you can use the software, and often not allowed to  
distribute it at all.

My point is that with GPL software it is crucial to the legal  
effectiveness of the license that copyright is claimed and retained  
by the authors (or delegated to some trusted body) and that the  
license gives a very clear set of conditions under which the software  
can be used and distributed. This form of license is, in my opinion,  
a very powerful force in spreading free software. It is much more  
restrictive than some of the other free software licenses around, and  
by being restrictive it tries to ensure that the work done by the  
contributors remains open and accessible in the future.

I am sure many GPL supporters would rather see a different legal  
system, in which it was easier to keep these things free and open,  
but this license tries to provide a strong means of ensuring this  
freedom using existing copyright laws, and it has been very effective  
so far. Software patents remain a great threat to free and open  


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