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GPL v. Copyright

Charles Murray has written a good rundown of how the SCO case may result in challenges to the GPL and ultimately to open source itself.

Success for SCO could damage the open-source movement, which depends on the GPL. It could also raise serious legal questions for OEMs with Linux-based products. “If SCO is correct, it means that their alleged infringers could not rely on the GPL as a defense,” said Brian Ferguson, an intellectual-property (IP) attorney with McDermott, Will & Emery in Washington.

As fun as the SCO case is, I vow not to post lawsuit links gratuitiously. However, if something good comes out of this case, it is that the Court will have to rule whether copyright supersedes the GPL. Says IP Attorney James Boyle,

Boyle of Duke University argues that while federal copyright law prevents IP owners from protecting their property too much ? users can make a single copy of a software program, for example ? it makes no provisions regarding owners who want to protect their property less. “How can copyright law pre-empt a copyright holder who says, ‘I don’t want to limit people’s ability to reproduce?’ ” Boyle asked. “The GPL people are the people who own the code. They can do with it whatever they want.”

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