Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

SCO says GPL is illegal

The SCO Group claims that the GPL (general public license) is illegal. So far SCO has not elaborated this far-fetched claim except to say that "Article 1 Section 8 of the U.S. copyright law [it must mean, the U.S. Constitution] says that Congress can regulate copyrights, not the FSF [Free Software Foundation] or any other organization." Buf if that's all that SCO has, then it's confusing the regulation of copyright law with the waiver of rights under that law. (Of course it's also confusing the U.S. Constitution with the Copyright Act passed by Congress.) However, if it's right that copyright holders cannot waive any of the rights they receive under the statute, then open-source software and open-access literature would both suddenly close up. Moreover, if it is illegal to give permission to copy your intellectual property, then it's illegal to sell the same permission, undermining conventional licenses as well. You would have the right to refuse medical treatment and hasten your death, but not the right to let someone copy your latest article. (PS: I argued in an 8/28/03 posting that if SCO's theory is that federal copyright law preempts state contract law, including software and journal licensing agreements, and if a court agrees, then this could be very beneficial to libraries and scholarship.)