Re: Shut it you tedious old windbag
The GPL, just like any other software license, is a Contract. It's governed by Contract Law.
At the risk of pedantry, it actually isn't...
Contract Law varies somewhat between jurisdictions, but typically requires both a Contract (sometimes verbal will do) and a Consideration. This is why you see huge companies sold for £1 - it makes the Contract Law bit a lot simpler.
GPL code doesn't have a signed contract, and some might argue that, since the code has no monetary cost, there is also no Consideration; this would lead to all sorts of nasty legal battles if it were merely a contract. It is often said that a good lawyer will win for you in court, but a great lawyer keeps you out of court in the first place...
And so to the meat of my point: the GPL v2 Section 5 has this to say:
You are not required to accept this License, since you have not signed it. However, nothing else grants you permission to modify or distribute the Program or its derivative works.
IOW, if you distribute the code, it is entirely up to you whether or not you are bound by its terms - but if you choose not to be so bound, then you are guilty of an offence under whichever copyright law applies in your jurisdiction, and there is no way around it. To date, most infringers have chosen to be bound by the GPL, and the ones that haven't - e.g. Best Buy - have lost quite magnificently.
I don't want to detract from the rest of your post, but I think that bit is quite important...