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Re:Today, the FSF is just brilliant

Posted by: Ciaran O'Riordan on April 28, 2003 09:01 AM
There is much confusion of terminology here.

> > The FSF does not "own" any software.

The FSF is the "copyright holder" for many pieces of software. Proprietary software companies would call the FSF the "owner", the FSF refers to itself as the "gaurdian, on behalf of the public". When a person assigns copyright to the FSF, the FSF also makes certain promises to the assignee (such as: this software will remain Free always).

> > Nobody "owns" GPL'd software, not even Linus

If I write a piece of software and GPL it, there is one difference between me and everyone else: I can change the license. Linus is the copyright holder for 6% or 7% of the kernel. Tomorrow he could annouce that he's re-licensing his code under a proprietary license. This wouldn't be a big deal, his previous code wouldn't have to be removed since his changes con't take retroactive effect.

The GPL is a software *license*. When you download Linux, you are granted certain rights under the GPL. Linus cannot revoke these rights. He can stop distributing his software under the GPL, but he cannot stop you from distributing a copy that you received under the GPL.

I hope I've clarified some things (I don't think I've done a great job explaining them, I hope I'm wrong;)
Ciaran O'Riordan


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