GPL compliance

Gary W. Swearingen garys at
Thu Jun 29 16:48:51 UTC 2006

Daniel Carrera <daniel.carrera at> writes:

> On Wed, 2006-28-06 at 09:46 -0700, Gary W. Swearingen wrote:
>> Seems like you still have to worry about finding the magic statements
>> from the owners of all of the IP on the CD that is derived from other
>> GPL'd IP, not just the Ubuntu people?
> Why would I need that? I only need the statement from the distributor
> who gave the software to me, and that is Canonical.

You'd better spend a few hours reading and thinking about copyright
law.  (There are plenty of intros on the Internet.)  You're supposed
to have licenses from of _ALL_ owners of IP on the CD, not just the
owner of the most recent derivative, and there are thousands of them.
Canonical shares ownership of the IP on the CD with many and one owner
can't speak for the many.  The hope is that all of these other owners
have previously licensed the software to everyone with some kind of
general public license, be it FSF GPL, BSD, MIT, X11, etc.  But if
they're nasty licenses with magic statement clauses, then you should
(?) worry about your magic statements for all.

To repeat for clarity: That license that covers the CD is only between
you and Canonical and only applies to the IP owned by Canonical.  If
open-source licenses are to have much usefulness, there has to be
implied acceptance of the terms of the licenses of each of the other
owners (contracts with each owner), whether you're aware of them or

So if your worry is ensuring that you've complied with the GPL, you're
going to end up worrying, or more likely you'll make some token effort
that will make you feel good enough to forget about the issues.  Of
course, if your only worry is keeping Canonical happy, then you've got
a good plan there, though I doubt if they care.  Most fugidaboudit.

>> And I'm doubtful that the Ubuntu CD even qualifies for 3(c), based on
>> the home web site having a "Commercial" link to paid support, etc.
> No, the non-commercial bit refers to my distribution, not Canonical's.
> It doesn't matter if Canonical is commercial. What matters is that my
> distribution not be commercial.

Oh, sorry, I forgot the obvious fact that commercial publishers can
(by 3b) use a statement too.  But we both seem to have missed 3(a),
which some publishers seem to interpret to be satisfied by keeping the
source on line, without a statement (a "written offer", whatever that
might mean).  I wouldn't be a bit suprised if you can't find such a
statement by any owner of IP on the CD.  I can't say I remember ever
seeing one, and I often pay attention to these sorts of things.  And
I've probably not seen an unwritten offer, either.  :)

These legal niceties are worse than a can of worms and you can never
be sure how licensors and/or courts would deal with them until you put
them to the test, and it seems impossible to avoid taking risks by
ignoring stuff.  Of course, you're advised to get legal advice (i.e.,
advice from a hired lawyer) before doing anything.

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