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Re: Question about GNU GPL and copyright

From: Bernd Jendrissek
Subject: Re: Question about GNU GPL and copyright
Date: Wed, 20 Nov 2002 20:57:55 +0200

In article <x5iszh9nk7.fsf@lola.goethe.zz> David Kastrup 
<> wrote:
>"Henrik S. Hansen" <> writes:
>> Thanks for your answers. Cleared things up a bit. My personal opinion
>> is that in a world without copyright, programs would probably still be
>> distributed with the source code - the costumers would demand
>> it. Companies distributing binary-only would go out of business or be
>> forced to comply with the demand of their clients.
>> Just a thought, maybe I'm way off.
>You are way off.  If customers were inclined in that manner, they
>would be demanding source _now_ already, and proprietary software
>would be much less prevalent than it is now.

Correct.  Not the whole story though.

Let's name names here: If MS distributed Windows 3800 Server without source,
I would be able to (legally) redistribute it for any price I like, no?  If
only the "viral" part of copyright were gone, I'd just have to make it a
*derived* work then.  Okay, I'll add a hacked DEBUG.EXE from DOS 6.xy then.

So there'd be no (real) difference between the MS Windows 3800 Server and
the Bernd's Windows 3800 Server distributions.  So while MS has spent
billions on developing their product, I'd have spent nothing.  Big advantage
to me.  I can spend those billions on marketing.

What can MS do?  They can do what nobody else can: give customers the source
too.  And support that's better than anyone else can offer.  IOW make theirs
the more valuable (to the customer) product.  And restraint of trade clauses
in employment contracts do not fall under copyright, so there's not much I
could do against which MS couldn't protect themselves.

But now it gets interesting - now I can distribute the source too.  Now the
whole circus becomes one of marketing.  The bit-for-bit identical MS version
could be touted as "better" because, say, it's a month newer than mine.  Or
customers can get it 2 weeks sooner from MS.  How could they possibly exist
in such an environment?  <gasp>  Maybe they'd have to work for their money,
reading bugtraq and fixing bugs same-day.  Not two-years-from-now.


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