Tutorial :How can Mercurial be copyright and free software? [closed]


I was looking at my version of Mercurial and I don't understand how it is that it can be Copyrighted and Free software at the same time.

Mercurial Distributed SCM (version 1.3.1+7cea12e70129)

Copyright (C) 2005-2009 Matt Mackall and others This is free software; see the source for copying conditions. There is NO warranty; not even for MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE.


All software, even free software, is copyrighted. The free software license just means that the copyright holder is granting you rights to use, modify, and distribute the software under certain specific terms. The reason they are allowed to do this in the first place is because they are the copyright holder and thus get to dictate the usage terms of the software.

In fact, this idea is what was so novel about the GPL in the first place: it used the framework of copyright law to enforce distribution terms for software covered by the license.


The GPL (and similar licenses) work via copyright. In the US, as well as any country that's a signatory to the Bern convention, works are copyright to the creator by default, and cannot be distributed without their permission. The GPL grants such permissionâ€"with some additional restrictions to boot. Since you would normally not have permission to distribute the software at all, the restrictions in the GPL that you have to endure in exchange for redistribution can be automatically activated merely by redistributing the software.

Thus, your question shouldn't be how a program can be GPL'd and be copyrighted; rather, it'd be how the GPL leverages copyright to work.

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