Legal analysis of G4L / G4U copyright infringement issues

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From rick Fri Jan 14 14:23:24 2005
Date: Fri, 14 Jan 2005 14:23:24 -0800
Subject: Condolences and support (if belated)
User-Agent: Mutt/1.5.6+20040722i

Dear Hubert:

I wanted to offer my sympathies for the actions of "nme" ("Andreas"), and offer financial and other support if you ever decide to pursue him legally or otherwise.

I realise you'd rather code than litigate, and I respect that. ;-> But I thought you might appreciate the gesture.

The incident was recently mentioned on OSI's license-discuss list, which reminded me of the matter: As a member of the open source community, I feel such deeds are immoral (not just unlawful) and must not be tolerated. At minimum, I've taken the step of listing G4L and "nme" on my knowledgebase's Licensing and Law category[1] as a case study in copyright infringement — and successor "Frank Stephen" as possibly doing likewise.[2] With luck, this will increase public recognition of the wrong committed.

You alone are entitled to file a DMCA complaint with I'd be glad to draft it, if you'd like to send one.

In case you care, here is my analysis regarding the nme codebase. (However, I am not an attorney, so this is not professional legal advice.) Clearly, nme stripping your author credit is unlawful per statute in all Berne Convention countries (and presumably others). Some have claimed that his correcting that omission would have been enough. That is untrue on two counts:

1. Because you specified the old BSD licence, otherwise-lawful inclusion of your code in a GPL codebase creates license conflict. The resulting derivative work is lawful to create but cannot lawfully be redistributed, as doing so violates the copyrights of the GPLed code's author. (By contrast, a derivative work using your code with third party under GPL + a licence exception permitting the old-BSD advertising clause would not be encumbered by licence conflict.)

2. "nme", in addition to unlawfully and immorally stripping your author credit, purported to change your terms covering your code to GPLv2, which is per-se copyright violation in itself (because you alone are entitled to state licence terms for your creation). On the other hand, any derivative work that clearly identified the old-BSD-licensed portion would not suffer that problem.

Last, my apologies on behalf of the Linux-using community. Regardless of whether one personally likes or dislikes copyleft licensing, the matter is plainly for each code author to decide, and not respecting those authors' terms of use is just plain wrong.

[2] I am withholding comment on "Frank Stephen's" newer version, though it seems suspect.

Best Regards,
Rick M.