Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Licentious behavior

A common misconception is that copyright law somehow mandates that software be "licensed, not sold." In a recent discussion on my website, a reader pointed out that is simply not the case. "Copyright laws around the world specifically allows you to make copies needed to use software you have bought, that includes installing it on your computer," the reader wrote, pointing to Section 117 of the U.S. Copyright Act as an example. "There is NO need for any license at all for such a thing. The fact that someone writes a document calling it a license does not change this fact and does not make it illegal to do so without such a license."

The same reader argues that by definition one doesn't license product but a right to do something. "Typically a license is a permission to do something, something you are not allowed to otherwise," the reader wrote. "For example, one can get a license to reproduce and sell copies of a work protected under copyright, since that is forbidden otherwise under copyright law. But how does that apply to someone 'purchasing' or otherwise acquiring software, music, or whatever? Yes, I am aware that the ones producing software, music and such like to use 'licensing' and 'license' but that does not magically turn it into something true ... It is like claiming you suddenly need a license to sit on a chair you bought, and if you don't get that license, it is illegal to sit on the chair."

If I ever wrote anything good, I'd probably GPL it. But first I'd have to write something good, which is the more difficult part.

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