[Mono-list] problems with relicensing

Fergus Henderson fjh@cs.mu.oz.au
Wed, 9 Jan 2002 14:01:45 +1100

Bob Smith <bob@thestuff.net> writes:
> If they relicense it, it only effects what they release.
and Miguel de Icaza <miguel@ximian.com> concurs:
> You can not do retroactive changes.

This is all sounds reasonable, and makes a lot of sense.

Unfortunately, however, the law is not always reasonable or sensible.

If anyone has any legal evidence supporting the position that freely
given licenses (as opposed to contracts) cannot be revoked, I would be
very interested in seeing it.  Australian legal precedent does not agree
with this statement -- in the one case that I know of which explored
this issue, an Australian court found that the current wishes of the
copyright owner took precedence over the license conditions included in
the README file in a shareware software package.

In particular, quoting from an Australian Federal Court judgement

 | A bare licence may be revoked at will, or at least, on giving the
 | licensee reasonable notice:  Laddie Prescott & Vitoria, "The Modern
 | Law of Copyright", para.  10.66.

There are some caveats to this,

 | However, where the bare licence has
 | been acted upon by the licensee to the detriment of the licensee, in an
 | appropriate case there may be an estoppel against the licensor preventing
 | the  << revocation >>  of the licence, either at all or otherwise than
 | upon notice:  Waltons Stores (Interstate) Ltd. v Maher (1988) 62 ALJR 110.

but it's not clear to me how those would apply to the kind of situation
we're discussing now.

Fergus Henderson <fjh@cs.mu.oz.au>  |  "I have always known that the pursuit
The University of Melbourne         |  of excellence is a lethal habit"
WWW: <http://www.cs.mu.oz.au/~fjh>  |     -- the last words of T. S. Garp.