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Re: Is license text copyrightable? [was: Re: Is OSL 2.0 compliant with DFSG?]

On Mon, 12 Apr 2004, Nathanael Nerode wrote:
> Francesco Poli wrote:
> > This brings up the question (once again): is a legal text, such as a
> > copyright license, copyrightable? In which jurisdictions?
> Not in the US.  No idea about other countries.

About once a month I seem to be running into this statement, which is
pretty much wrong. I dealt with it most recently in February.[1]

You need to read Veeck v. SBCCI and see the distinction between law
and legal text. In that decision,[2] they specifically state that the
model codes themselves (a purely legal document) are
copyrightable. However, the version of the codes incorporated into law
is not.

     As the organizational author of original works, SBCCI
     indisputably holds a copyright in its model building codes. See
     17 U.S.C. § 102(a). Copyright law permits an author exclusively
     to make or condone derivative works and to regulate the copying
     and distribution of both the original and derivative works. 17
     U.S.C. § 106. The question before us is whether Peter Veeck
     infringed SBCCI's copyright on its model codes when he posted
     them only as what they became -- building codes of Anna and
     Savoy, Texas -- on his regional website. Put otherwise, does
     SBCCI retain the right wholly to exclude others from copying the
     model codes after and only to the extent to which they are
     adopted as "the law" of various jurisdictions?
     The answer to this narrow issue seems compelled by three sources:
     the Supreme Court's holding that "the law" is not copyrightable;
     alternatively, the Copyright Act's exclusion from its scope of
     "ideas" or "facts"; and the balance of caselaw.

Don Armstrong

1: http://people.debian.org/~terpstra/message/20040228.225236.bafd4ac1.html
2: http://www.ca5.uscourts.gov/opinions/pub/99/99-40632-cv2.htm
Junkies were all knitted together in a loose global macrame, the
intercontinental freemasonry of narcotics.

-- Bruce Sterling, _Holy Fire_ p257


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