Groklaw's Believe It Or Not

Tuesday, October 14 2003 @ 08:42 PM EDT

Contributed by: PJ

Somebody submit this to Ripley's Believe it or Not right away: Forbes has come out with an article attacking intellectual property rights!

Mr. Daniel Lyons of Forbes Magazine notoriety, has attacked the Free Software Foundation for enforcing its copyrights and the GPL license.

Why it's positively unAmerican!

Yup. It's true, Mr. Lyons. If you choose to use GPL code in your business, you must do so in accord with the license terms. If you don't like the terms, you should not use the code.

Nobody will force you to use our code. You are free to write your own software instead.

If you steal the code, because it's free and so handy, and/or violate the license terms in other ways, the copyright owners will contact you and try to work things out, giving you the choice of either ceasing to use the code and replacing it with code you develop yourself, or releasing your code under the same terms as the code you stole. It's your choice.

But let's be clear: if you steal someone else's copyrighted code, you are guilty of copyright infringement.

Should you fail to comply, you will be sued for copyright violation. The reason for this is that copyright law is the law of the land and you must respect it. The GPL is based on copyright law, and we should all respect the law and the rights of others, I'm sure you would agree. Even corporations must comply with the law, or there are consequences. Pleading that you can make tons more money by stealing other peoples' hard work isn't a legal defense, even if it makes moral good sense to Forbes writers.

"But...sputter...but...they won't just take my money instead and let me keep using the code I stole and let me continue violating the license if I grease their palm with silver?

Correct. They will not.

You see, that isn't how copyright infringement is solved. The infringement itself must cease.

Go figure.

And to your amazement and evident dismay, the GPL does work. Courts will uphold it and companies will have to comply with it one way or another, if they choose to use GPL code rather than spending the money and the time to develop their own code. The way to avoid the terms of the GPL is not to steal it and hide it; it's to write your own code. We realize that no company, not even Microsoft, can afford to hire the numbers of programmers who write GPL code today, so their code won't be as good as GPL code and it's not free either. It's a trade off and each company will have to make its own decision.

Companies that violate the GPL do get caught and have to pay for their misdeeds. You may feel outrage that corporations aren't the only entities that have enforceable copyrights, but that is the way it is. You will have to get used to it.

It's the American way.