Re: Can a recipients rights under GNU GPL be revoked? - Yes if they are free(gratis) licensees.

From: vsnsdualce
Date: Sat May 04 2019 - 23:41:50 EST

Yes, if the licensee has not paid anything (no money, no service, etc) that you asked him for, for the license, it can be freely revoked. The "clarification" by the FSF is complete and utter bullshit (and was prompted by my writing on the issue).

For a licensee to prevent a revocation, he must be able to enforce some promise regarding revocation (when it can occur, etc) that the copyright holder made to him.

In order to have an enforceable promise he must have paid the owner something for that promise, otherwise it is an illusory promise and will not be enforced by the court.

"Promising" to fulfill a pre-existing duty is not sufficient payment (consideration) either. One pre-existing duty we all have is to follow laws. Promising to not violate someone's copyright is not valid consideration as it is a pre-existing duty.

Before the license grant the free-taker has the following "rights" to the work:

After the license grant he has the following permissions regarding the work:
(Whatever the license says).

And for that he has paid the copyright owner: nothing.

No valid consideration, no contract, any "promise" made in the license text is illusory: it cannot be relied upon (including the "irrevocable" clause in the GPLv3: that clause is _inoperative_ from the perspective of a free-licensee vs the owner).

(Additionally, consideration, to be valid, must be bargained for. Tendering unwanted "consideration" is no consideration at all, thus the "fame is payment enough" argument from the dicta of a 9th circuit case is of no value when the licensor did not specifically bargain for such in exchange. You cannot hand the owner something after the fact and declare it valid consideration)

You can revoke. You can do so for any reason or for no reason at all.

The FSF and SFLC swear that you can bite the hand that feeds you for free. They are incorrect and purposefully deceiving you in order to safeguard their movement against the men who actually did the work to create the corpus it rests upon.

Note: If you would like a nice expansive legal paper to read on this issue, Sapna Kumar's paper is good:
If that is too formal and you prefer a stream of consciousness message board fight on this issue, the LKML has you covered: (and it covers the 9th circuit Artifex case and 9th circuit Artistic License case which some people will try to make you think invalidates your proprietary rights)
If you want a book, to have and to hold, that recognizes this:
If a paper by some mere lawyers isn't good enough, a law professor's take on the subject might be more you style:

Yes, the GPL is revocable from free licensees. Yes they will fight you in court if you revoke from someone who cares, so when you are thinking of revocation: 1) properly register your copyrights ... 3) Then revoke from an entity domiciled in a property-friendly circuit that isn't going to simply invalidate the idea of contracts requiring actual valid consideration (IE: do not revoke from someone in the 9th circuit as your first course of action: revoke from an entity in another circuit)

(Also note: Do not send a cease-and-desist letter off the bat: the entity can then rush to the court house to seek a hearing regarding his rights to the work. You don't want to be in a race-to-the-courthouse situation and not even know it)

Part 0) and 2) are :Get [an] experienced copyright attorney(s) who is well familiar with the leanings of the various federal circuits so you can formulate a proper strategy. The 9th circuit loves "Big Tech" and doesn't much care for the formalities of law, and if requiring consideration to actually exist regarding copyright licenses for them to be mutually enforceable contracts gets in the way of California's Tech industry: guess how they're going to rule in a "new insightful groundbreaking finding".

On 2019-01-27 11:47, Ben Finney wrote:
Howdy all,

Recently in this forum, some concerns have been raised about works
covered by GNU GPL. In particular, whether a recipient of a work,
received under conditions of the GNU GPL, can have the freedoms of the
GNU GPL later withdrawn in that same work.

To reassure those who might worry whether they can reply on the freedom
granted in a work, it is worth reading the GNU FAQ document for the GNU
GPL at the Free Software Foundation:

[For any GNU GPL-licensed work,] the public already has the right to
use the program under the GPL, and this right cannot be withdrawn.


The same answer is in the FAQ specifically for the GNU GPL version 2.0

You can read more in the Software Freedom Conservancy's document
_Copyleft and the GNU General Public License: A Comprehensive Tutorial
and Guide_, specifically in Â7.4 âGPLv2 Irrevocabilityâ. That concludes:

Whether as a matter of a straightforward contractual obligation, or
as a matter of promissory estoppel, a contributorâs attempt to
revoke a copyright license grant and then enforce their copyright
against a user is highly unlikely to succeed.


In other words: Any copyright holder can *say* they wish to
retroactively revoke the GNU GPL to some party. However, unless that
party has violated the conditions of the GNU GPL grant they originally
received, there does not appear to be any enforcible threat of
revocation that would succeed.

I hope these, along with the many court cases world-wide that have
tested the GNU GPL and found it to be enforcible, can reassure those
considering whether a particular copyright holder's whim can revoke the
freedoms guaranteed in a GNU GPL-covered work. I'd say there's nothing
to worry about from those threats.