[sf-lug] Potential GPL violation, with the potential intent to victimize our Elderly loved ones

Jesse Zbikowski embeddedlinuxguy at gmail.com
Mon Nov 16 10:57:19 PST 2009

On Mon, Nov 16, 2009 at 7:20 AM, Rick Moen <rick at linuxmafia.com> wrote:
> Quoting Jesse Zbikowski (embeddedlinuxguy at gmail.com):
>> The second, which I mostly see Linus arguing for, is that the binary
>> module is presumptively a derived work because it is only meaningful
>> the context of the original work it is derived from.
> You're implicitly assuming that this assertion, if true, has some
> relevance to copyright law.  It does not.

Here is the relevance. Copyright allows me to control distribution of
my work, and derived works thereof. If I am interested to stop someone
from distributing a binary module referencing my work, then the
question of whether that module is derivative of my work is relevant
-- because if so I can get an injunction.

> Don't take my word for it.  Read the caselaw.  The court decisions,
> especially those of the US Supreme Court and District Courts, are
> surprisingly easy to read and understand.

Last I heard there has never been a ruling on whether binary modules
are derived works.

>> That is, it is not a complete expression of an idea, but a
>> modification (or elaboration) of the expressions found in the original
>> work. I'm not sure how legally solid this argument is.  It would seem
>> to imply that if I make a modification to a vacuum cleaner design, and
>> that original design is under copyright, I cannot sell my modification
>> without permission.
> It would get dismissed as irrelevant to the legal issue.

Sorry, I'm not sure I understand this sentence... are you saying the
case against me would be dismissed because copyright does not cover
selling modifications to a design?  Design often does involve
copyrighted elements, If You Really Want To Get Into That.

> And, by the way, you might have missed the point of the idea/expression
> dichotomy:
> o  An idea (for a useful inventions) can, if it meets some criteria,
>   be the basis of a _patent_ application with supporting documentation
>   and a patent fee.

Sorry if my example was unclear. I am interested in copyright
protection here, not patents. If you like, re-parse the example
substituting "blueprint for a vacuum cleaner" instead of "design for a
vacuum cleaner". I think you will find blueprints are covered by
copyright. At any rate the distinction I am trying to draw is between
an add-on and a modification, which, according to Torvalds and others,
has bearing on whether the work is derived -- and hence restricted in

Here is a better example using a more characteristic medium for
creative expression.  I make a movie called "Dr. Z Goes to OSCON".
Rick watches it and says "That was OK but it needs more shots of Linus
Torvalds in his Speedo." So he produces a "patch" or what we would
call a "programmed re-edit", which consists of a list of timecodes
pointing to various spots in the movie where nothing exciting is
happening, and a set of clips to insert (which he owns) showing Linus
in his Speedo. Again, the re-edit contains ONLY the timecodes and
Rick's footage, NONE of the original film. Now if Rick tries to
distribute his re-edit I can say "Hey, that's a derived work, you need
my permission!" And Rick can say "No, I am not distributing any
elements of your film, just a list of timecodes (which are not
expressive) and some other footage I own." And a judge might say
"Sorry Rick, what you have produced is not a standalone work; it's a
modification of Jesse's work, so he can stop you from distributing

Interestingly the REVERSE of this case, if Rick were to distribute a
programmed re-edit REMOVING all footage of Linus in his Speedo, is
perfectly legal under the Family Home Movie Act of 2005.

More information about the sf-lug mailing list