[lug] Google Chrome Linux "distribution"

Zan Lynx zlynx at acm.org
Thu Jul 9 18:21:33 MDT 2009

Davide Del Vento wrote:
>>> On the other hand, if I don't give you my executable, but leave
>>> it running on my machine(s), and give you an account, so that you
>>> can login there and "remotely use" my program, that's NOT
>>> distribution according to GPL, but it is according to Affero.
>> But it isn't legally.
>> AFAIK there is no such legal thing as "remote execution". You send
>> a request to the server, it runs the program and sends back output.
>> The output isn't copyrighted. The owner of the server hasn't done
>> anything requiring a copyright license, so how does Affero matter?
>> The owner of the server never has to agree to Affero in order to
>> possess, modify, execute the code or to distribute its output.
> I don't see your point.

The point is that, unlike in your music listening example below, when a
program is executed on a remote server, none of the copyrighted work of
the program is being copied and distributed to other people.

> Suppose that a guy modified, re-compiled and give you an executable, 
> based on a GPL-licensed code. He gives you ONLY the executable, no 
> source code. What is legally requiring him to give you the source 
> code? ONLY the terms of license. There isn't any other "legal
> things", to use your words, in giving you an executable. There isn't
> any law. In fact, many other software are given only as executables.

No. By *giving* you the executable he is distributing a copyrighted
derivative work. That is covered under legal codes, and it is not legal
unless there is an explicit or implied license. In the case of the GPL,
the only thing that makes giving away a GPL covered work legal is
agreeing to the GPL.

> Now suppose that the same guy is the owner of a server, and he 
> modified, re-compiled and executed an Affero-licensed code, making 
> also the set-up in the server to make it responds to users requests. 
> Why he shouldn't follow the license now, if the license says that he 
> must give the source code to the end user?

Because he hasn't made any copies that are covered by copyright law. He
*has* created copies and derivative works by modifying and compiling the
code, but those undistributed copies are (I am pretty sure) covered by
fair use. The copies in RAM are covered by being necessary to the use of
the work.

> This owner of a server is clearly "using" someone else code, which is
>  copyrighted under the Affero license, so this guy must follow what
> the copyright owner says.

No. Only the guy making copies that would otherwise be illegal under
copyright law has to have a copyright license.

> I could write a program under my own Open Source license saying that
> you can only read it, but not compile it.

If you hand me the code, you made the copy and you distributed it to me.
In that case I am bound only by agreements I made with you *before* you
gave me the code. I am not allowed to make more copies of your program
for other people, but I have many legal exceptions to the "no copies"
rule as long as I don't distribute the copies. If I didn't agree with
you not to the compile the code *before* you gave it to me, then I can
compile it, execute it, read it.

> Now, the fact the GPL was "good" in that it allowed you to privately 
> do whatever you wanted, is not a law fact, it's a license fact. 
> Indeed, other copyright owners, do not allow you to privately (or "on
>  the web") do whatever you want: think music. Can I make copies of 
> songs that I legally purchased, without distributing them?

Yes you can.

> If DMCA applies, no.

Only if the music is encrypted.

> Can I let users loggin on my website and let them listen the songs I
> legally purchased? Neither, because the stuff is copyrighted.

No you cannot let them listen, because doing that would be creating a
copy and distributing it.

Zan Lynx
zlynx at acm.org

"Knowledge is Power.  Power Corrupts.  Study Hard.  Be Evil."

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