Re: Copyright and License Guidelines
I'm having a hard time figuring out where the core of disagreement is. In
this message, you're arguing for a variety of principles of copyright law
that I've never disagreed with, and I completely agree with your
interpretation. I just don't see what that has to do with the point being
Jonathan Yu <firstname.lastname@example.org> writes:
> Just because everyone is doing something, doesn't make it correct.
Actually, in this sort of legal area, it may. There's substantial legal
basis for accepting widespread common action as satisfactory legally if
it's not obviously contradictory to the intent of the law.
But nevertheless, apart from the trickier issues specific to the GPL
license text, I'm quite confident that what I'm saying is firmly supported
by US copyright law.
> 1. Software and copyright law have not historically played well. If I
> wrote a poem to put in your book, there is no question that I retain
> copyright over my work. But since copyright was not designed for
> software, it is no wonder that it is not compatible with the way
> software works. Whether software should even be copyrightable is another
> matter altogether.
I think everyone participating here would agree trivially that software we
write is copyrighted by us, apart from work-for-hire. I've never heard of
someone in the free software community who thought that software they
wrote, intended for someone else's package but on their own free time,
becomes owned by that person. I certainly don't.
> 2. We are trusting that upstream has the correct copyright information.
We don't care whether the copyright information is correct apart from the
specific requirements of individual licenses (which mostly just say that
one has to keep the original copyright notice, whatever it may be), so
we're really just copying it both as a documentation exercise and to
satisfy the specific terms of those licenses. Trust really isn't an
>> Perl is Copyright (C) 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000,
>> 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 by Larry Wall and
>> others. All rights reserved.
> Sure, but do you see who "others" are?
No, and neither does US copyright law.
My point in citing this is that you earlier raised the question of whether
you could add a copyright statement along the lines of "Marc Lehmann and
possibly some other people." I'm pointing out that Perl itself uses
exactly that sort of construction in its own copyright statement.
> The "correct" thing to do is extract copyright information from the
> AUTHORS file: http://cpansearch.perl.org/src/RJBS/perl-5.12.3/AUTHORS
Which the Perl maintainers clearly feel no need to actually do, and
rightfully so because there's no legal necessity to maintain such a
> Not at all. My claims come from the Berne Convention for the Protection
> of Literary and Artistic Works (whether or not software falls under the
> umbrella of the Berne Convention's protection is beyond the scope of
> this discussion. I am not certain it does.)
> From the fantastic summary of the Berne Convention (section 1b):
> "Such protection must not be conditional upon compliance with any
> formality (principle of “automatic” protection)"
Yes, of course.
> As I understand it, this is the clause that means: you have copyright
> over anything you write automatically. You don't need to formally
> declare a copyright statement in order to hold copyright over what you
> write. Contrariwise, if you do not formally surrender your copyright
> (and note that even this is a gray area, as some countries do not allow
> authors to surrender their rights), then you retain copyright on your
> Going back to my earlier example... If I publish some poetry, without
> attribution and without a copyright statement, the Berne Convention
> holds that I still have protection over my work. If you then take my
> poem and put it in some anthology, I can sue you because I did not give
> you permission to do so (you had no license to do that).
Yes, of course. No one is arguing this.
> Now, the question of whether adding some code constitutes the same thing
> as "poetry" is the real crux of this argument,
No, it's not. It has nothing to do with this argument at all. I think
it's obviously the same thing, but that's completely unrelated to whether
or not software has to have a copyright statement.
I'm not sure where the disconnect is in this discussion. You seem to be
treating the copyright statement as equivalent to copyright ownership in a
work, but they have little to do with each other. The copyright statement
is a purely informational notice with some impact on the damage phase of a
copyright legal case under US law, but since the general adoption of Berne
(as you point out) is no longer required for assertion of any sort of
I could release some software that I wrote and put:
Copyright 2011 Larry Wall
on it, and it would still be copyrighted by me, I could still sue for
infringement, and Larry Wall would gain no rights over the work or the
ability to sue for infringement (modulo tricky issues around estoppel and
reasonable interpretation of intent; he may be able to successfully argue
that he should be able to use the work in some way since I "clearly"
intended him to be able to). He would have grounds to be upset at me for
*other* reasons, particularly under European law, for falsely attributing
authorship to him, but that's a separate sort of issue.
Russ Allbery (email@example.com) <http://www.eyrie.org/~eagle/>