Richard Kenner kenner@vlsi1.ultra.nyu.edu
Mon Jul 16 20:57:00 GMT 2007

> You look for copyright notices, ask the holders whether they own all
> of that, ask the distributor who owns any other bits.  If they don't
> know or won't tell, they're up for contributory infringement, 

No, they're not because you have no contractual relationship with them.
Back when NYU was distributing public versions of GNAT, if somebody was to
ask AdaCore "are the file in there that say they have your copyright really
yours", AdaCore would most certainly decline to answer and say "we have no
idea what NYU is distributing: yes, they got it from us originally, but we
have no idea if they modified it".  Why should they say more?  What's in it
for them?  Same thing if you went and asked FSU about the files that have
their copyright.

For that matter, I doubt the FSF would answer either.  If some large
defense contractor got a copy of GCC from a subcontractor and wanted
to verify with the FSF that this was really GCC, do you think the FSF
would take the time to do a comparison to answer the question?  I doubt it!

And since they have no obligation to do anything, they can't be held liable
for not doing it.  Indeed it would be unreasonable for them to take the time
to inspect the sources in question to verify that everything that's claimed
to be there's really is.

> When you receive a copy of Microsoft Windows from a reseller on a
> street corner, how do you know who else, if anybody, might have a
> copyright claim on it?

Why do you think that Microsoft goes to so much trouble to protect their
CD's with things like holograms?  Precisely to help provide an answer to
this question.  But even with that, if it's somebody on a street corner,
you really DON'T know that it isn't counterfeit and might infringe somebody
else's copyright.  If it's in a reputable store and it looks like undamaged
Microsoft packaging, you have much more reason to trust it.

> If the redistributor doesn't have any copyright claims on the file,
> you can ask for a contract, an agreement, a warranty promise, whatever
> you ask for and they agree to give you, but it's not going to be a
> copyright license.

I'm not sure what a "copyright license" means.  A "software license" is
a contract that states under what terms you can use copyrighted software.
That's exactly what you'd be getting from the redistributor.  If it were
pure GPL software, the license would just be a copy of the GPL along
with a statement that everything in it is subject to the GPL.

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