Copyright and License

Bernhard Reiter breiter at usf.Uni-Osnabrueck.DE
Tue May 9 14:14:04 CEST 2000

In article <000601bfb983$89dbc900$592d153f at tim>,
	"Tim Peters" <tim_one at> writes:
> [Tim]
>> Once copyright status is lost, it can't be regained:  the decision
>> to put something in the public domain is irrevocable.  That means
>> nobody-- not even me! --can ever assert copyright on something I
>> release to the public domain.

Unless you did not have to right to release it in the public domain
in the first place. (See my other posting on the subject.)

> [Cliff Crawford]
>> I've actually heard the opposite said by people defending the GPL.
>> Supposedly if you release something as PD, or even with a BSD or other
>> license, then a Big Corporation can take your code, assert copyright on
>> it without even making any modifications or anything, and then sue you
>> for distributing "their" code.  So that's why everyone should use the
>> GPL.  At least, that's how their argument goes..

Well it is not about the suing. The Big Corporation might make
important changes to the software and lock it up (making it
proprietory) again. So you would not be able to distribute the
enchanced version. They could sue you over that. 

Tim, you are correct, something in the publich domain stays in the
public domain, and you can still go on and reimplement what other
added to your software. But you have no saying over what they do
with it.

> You certainly haven't heard Richard Stallman make that argument.  If
> Andrew's example of the King James Bible didn't sway you, use any old search
> engine and look for any old copyright FAQ -- they all cover this point about
> public domain.  The Big Corp can copyright it after they make some changes,
> but the copyright applies only to their changes, and even then only to their
> particular *expression* of their changes (not to the ideas behind them).

True, but in praxis, because they might be able to copyright the
new collection again, the full product is closed and proprietary

>> I don't really have the time or the legal expertise to sit down and
>> read copyright laws, and there's so many different interpretations of
>> the GPL that I'm wary of using that too.

The GPL is among the savest Free Software licenses you can get.
It is a bit complicated, but the complexity crawles in because
copyright law is so complicated and not because the intention was

> I've never been able to stay awake thru the whole thing.  But it's what you
> want if your project embraces the GNU philosophy (mine usually don't; the
> Emacs pymode was an exception).
>> So I just slap a BSD license onv everything and hope for the best :)  I
>> think I'll look more into PD though, it sounds like it's not as dangerous
>> as I thought it was.

Public Domain is only an option where it exists. It does in the USA,
but it does not in Germany. That is what I know for sure.
Putting source code in the PD or using the MIT License (equivalent
to the new BSD license (please do not use the old BSD license with
the advertisment clause)) all puts your software in the Free
Software Category. But some Free Software licenses are protecting
the longterm freedom of the software bettere then others.

[For using the BSD license.]
> There's no danger that you'll get ripped off in a serious way.  
> GNU is pushing a particular ideology for software, but short of
> that most everyone just wants to avoid getting sued.  

This sentences are flawed. If you do not use a strong Free Software
license other Companies might lock up your code and make money from 
your work. They might even gain a monopoly and you do not have a word 
to say about it.  And they do not need to contribute anything back.
And the MIT license is not a strong Free Software license.

The GPL on the other hand of course tries to avoid getting software
authors sued. Writing software should be free. But this is not the
only thing it does. It also protects your code from being locked up

software-creation-is-a-legal-dschungle-ly y'rs - Bernhard

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