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Workshop: Legal aspects of free and open source software 
____________________________________________________________________________________________ 
 
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Warranty 
The covered work is given without warranty, except one: the original licensor and 
every subsequent contributor grant that they are the authors (or received licence) 
for their own contribution. This contributes to the security of the licence (regarding 
possible copyright infringements) and is finally the type of requirement that you will 
find in all reasonable contributor agreements.  

 
Reference to the European Court   
Taking advantage of the treaties (TFEU) the EUPL benefits from interpretation by a 
unique jurisdiction: the Court of Justice of the European Union. In addition, the 28 
Member States jurisdictions can address questions and be supported by a single 
European Court.  

 
Variable “Copyleft” 
 
The EUPL is “copyleft” on code and binaries, but this share-alike effect is, by 
exception for interoperability, variable
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 in the case of combined derivatives (see 
section 4 hereafter).   

 
Innovative ethic of interoperability and freedom  
 
These ensure that there is no exclusive appropriation of the software. 
 
4.
 
INTEROPERABILITY OF THE EUPL 
 
KEY FINDINGS 

 
The EUPL has traced an original way to be “copyleft” and interoperable with other 
licences. 

 
This facilitates the development of other “son & grandson” projects, but has no 
impact on a project covered by the EUPL: there is no project relicensing. 

 
The notion of “strong copyleft” is still unclear and it may be that it could not be 
enforced in Europe. 

 
The EUPL approach is pragmatic, avoiding exclusive appropriation of the covered 
code without preventing some reuse in the framework of projects with a commercial 
goal. 
 
4.1.
 
What is legal interoperability? 
Interoperability (at licence level) is the possibility to reuse the covered code in other 
projects, possibly in combination with code(s) covered by other licences, while keeping the 
freedom to distribute the resulting combination, even when considered as a derivative work 
under copyright law. 
Interoperability is a non-issue with permissive licences (as the BSD, the MIT) because they 
implement no conditions for copying or merging the covered code, even inside the software 
code of proprietary applications. 
However, interoperability is an issue when a declared objective of the licence is to keep the 
covered code and its evolutions under FOSS conditions, in order to avoid its exclusive 
appropriation. 
The EUPL is a Share Alike (or "Copyleft") licence. Thus, the following question is often 
posed: How strong is the EUPL “copyleft”? In other words, how far must any re-distribution 
be done under the same EUPL licence, according to a share alike principle? And therefore, 
                                                 
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  The  notion  of  « variable  copyleft »  was  coined  for  the  EUPL  by  Rowan  Wilson  (Oxford  University) 
http://www.oss-watch.ac.uk/resources/eupl
  


Policy Department C: Citizens' Rights and Constitutional Affairs 
____________________________________________________________________________________________ 
 
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is the work protected from subsequent distribution under other licensing terms, which could 
lead to appropriation for the benefit of a third party software vendor? 
In Europe, there are still some doubts whether “strong copyleft”, whereby simply linking
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the code covered by a "copyleft" licence with another source code automatically extends 
the coverage of the licence to this other source, would be generally considered lawful (in 
any EU member state and whatever the licence, GPL, EUPL or any other could be). There 
are specific exceptions for interoperability implemented by Directive 91/250 on the legal 
protection of computer programs. In May 2012, the Court of Justice of the European Union 
interpreted Directive 91/250, "as meaning that neither the functionality of a computer 
program nor the programming language and the format of data files used in a computer 
program in order to exploit certain of its functions constitute a form of expression of that 
program and, as such, are not protected by copyright in computer programs for the 
purposes of that directive"
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. Although this judgment was not taken in the framework of 
free software distribution, it might have repercussions in this field, too. More particularly, it 
might mean that, by licensing his/her work, a copyright holder cannot prohibit the 
reproduction and distribution (under any other licensing terms, FOSS or non-FOSS) of the 
specific portions of the code that are strictly necessary for linking / implementing 
interoperability between the licensed program and other works, that is the data formats or 
APIs (application programming interfaces). Hopefully the Court will have the chance to 
clarify this matter in future case-law.  
4.2.
 
The normal case 
Under the abovementioned reservations, we can state that the EUPL “copyleft” is as strong 
as possible, on code and binaries of copies and all derivative works, with defined 
interoperability exceptions. Let’s first consider the normal case with regard to the 
distribution of the code (although a project is not only the code, but also other important 
assets (brand name, logo, site, DNS etc.)): 
 
Figure 2: Derivative – the normal case 
 
 
 
 
-
 
A project "ALPHA" is more that just its software code: it is an organisation, owned 
by a person or a body, with an active community of developers, a web site, DNS, 
logo etc. Globally, this project "ALPHA", can never be "re-licensed" outside the will 
of its original licensor (who is free, as the 100% copyright owner, to provide 
                                                 
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 Linking makes two software working in a single application without merging their source code.  
o
 
Static linking combines components through compilation, copying them into the target application and 
producing a merged object file that is a stand-alone executable. 
o
 
Dynamic linking combines components at the time the application is loaded (load time) or during 
execution (run time). 
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http://curia.europa.eu/juris/document/document.jsf?text=&docid=122362&pageIndex=0&doclang=en&mode=re
q&dir=&occ=first&part=1&cid=564907
 



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