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Re: Group Copyright

On Thu, 19 Jul 2001, Joseph Carter wrote:

>Lots of free software projects are developed by fairly large groups.  It
>seems to be a common practice for everyone who contributes to a project to
>be added to the Copyright notice at the top of the file.  Is this actually
>wise?  IIRC, should it become necessary, legal action cannot be taken by
>just one or two of the Copyright holders - it has to be everybody.

The statute in question is 17USC501(b):


It looks to my reading that the only thing a co-owner of a copyright needs
to do when suing is to serve notice on all of the other co-owners.

Often, the copyright file and the credits file tend to become merged over
time, so it does become a munge.  OTGH, who wants to be seen as denying
authors their due authorship rights?  Of course, under Berne, they have
them by default, so the copyright file need not even contain their name in
order for them to have standing to sue.

>Another habit I've seen is for projects to list their group as the
>Copyright holder, even if their group is not an incorporated entity.  This
>much at least I _know_ is a problem, since no such legal "person" exists
>to defend their rights.

If the fiction that a corporation has rights as a person is granted, it
only follows that the next step in the progression is that unincorporated
groups start to get the same rights.  It's as screwed up as a football
bat, but that's never stopped the .gov before.  However, the worst case is
that this makes the copyright a pseudonymous work, subject to the
copyright laws thereon, which still means that infringement isn't the
smartest thing to do...:)

>How then should free software projects handle Copyright?  Advice would be
>appreciated.  I'm sure I'm not the first person to ever worry about this.

As a necessary evil :)  Seriously, the only real way to deal with it is
to do what is the most comfortable thing for the group.  Imposition of
solutions by fiat is not going to win any support, and may very well lose
talent permanently.


The Internet must be a medium for it is neither Rare nor Well done!
<a href="mailto:galt@inconnu.isu.edu";>John Galt </a>

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