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Re: license =? copyright



On Tue, Feb 04, 2003 at 05:21:49AM +0100, Antoine Mathys wrote:
> What IS the real difference between a licence and a copyright?

A copyright is a legal concept that grants (negotiable[1]) monopoly
privileges to authors to duplicate, modify, and distribute physical
forms of an abstract thing called a "work", which, at least in the
United States, has to exhibit "originality", and must be a "specific
expression".  This, in the U.S., because a work must be "original", you
can't copyright the "work" "ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ", and because it
must be a "specific expression", you can copyright a novel in which the
major plot events are "boy meets girl; boy gets girl; boy loses girl;
grief-stricken boy commits suicide", but you cannot copyright all
possible novels that feature those events.

Broadly, a "license" means permission from someone who has an exclusive
privilege to do something that allows someone else to do.  For instance,
I can grant you a "license" to hunt and fish on my land, or chop trees
down on my property.  A "copyright license" thus means that I, for
instance, can grant you permission to duplicate, modify, and/or
distribute a copyrighted work of mine.  Ordinarily you would have no
permission to do so because the government has granted me an exclusive,
monopolistic privelege in those activities under the letter of copyright
law.

As with most laws, there are exceptions to the exclusive privilege of
copyright.  One such exception is known as "fair use".  Unfortunately,
copyright is poorly understood by the layman, and opportunistically
exploited by large corporations that possess lots of copyrights, often
by virtue of compelling the original authors to sign their copyrights
over to the company.

I hope this helps.

[1] meaning that these monopoly privileges can be bought and sold

-- 
G. Branden Robinson                |       Yesterday upon the stair,
Debian GNU/Linux                   |       I met a man who wasn't there.
branden@debian.org                 |       He wasn't there again today,
http://people.debian.org/~branden/ |       I think he's from the CIA.

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