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Copyright & Copyleft

 
 
Lawrence D'Oliveiro
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      07-28-2009
The Swedish Pirate Party wants to reduce the term of copyright to just 5 years. But reducing the term of copyright also correspondingly reduces
the term of applicability of copyleft licences like the GPL. So is this a good idea?

<http://arstechnica.com/open-source/news/2009/07/pirate-partys-copyright-reform-cannon-could-sink-copyleft.ars>

 
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peterwn
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      07-28-2009
On Jul 28, 6:53*pm, Lawrence D'Oliveiro <l...@geek-
central.gen.new_zealand> wrote:
> The Swedish Pirate Party wants to reduce the term of copyright to just 5 years. But reducing the term of copyright also correspondingly reduces
> the term of applicability of copyleft licences like the GPL. So is this a good idea?
>
> <http://arstechnica.com/open-source/news/2009/07/pirate-partys-copyrig...>


5 years would be quite adequate for software whether proprietary or
GPL'd. Any code more than five years old would be hopelessly out of
date, especially since for amendments the 5 years would start ticking
from the date of amendment.
 
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Lawrence D'Oliveiro
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      07-29-2009
In message <(E-Mail Removed)>, Allistar wrote:

> That would be quite cumbersome having a product where some of it (i.e.
> some lines of code) still have copyright but other bits of it do not.


No it wouldn't. You'd just put the whole thing under the GPL or whatever
other licence you want. That's what "public domain" means--you can do that.

 
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victor
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      07-29-2009
Allistar wrote:
> Lawrence D'Oliveiro wrote:
>
>> In message <(E-Mail Removed)>, Allistar
>> wrote:
>>
>>> That would be quite cumbersome having a product where some of it (i.e.
>>> some lines of code) still have copyright but other bits of it do not.

>> No it wouldn't. You'd just put the whole thing under the GPL or whatever
>> other licence you want. That's what "public domain" means--you can do
>> that.

>
> The GPL is only enforcable as long as copyright still exists on the code.
> Once copyright runs out, then the GPL can be ignored and people can do what
> they please. Or am I wrong in that?


Don't know, nobody knows, whether copyright could be renewed on new
releases.
Its a worse situation for the rest of the copyright world, its only a
provocative statement to promote debate, and the consequences can only
be defined by subsequent law which won't happen.
Copyright will continue to be pragmatically administered by content
creators reserving their rights and only enforcing them selectively.
 
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Bruce Sinclair
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      07-29-2009
In article <h4qkuj$bgn$(E-Mail Removed)-september.org>, victor <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote:
>Allistar wrote:
>> Lawrence D'Oliveiro wrote:
>>
>>> In message <(E-Mail Removed)>, Allistar
>>> wrote:
>>>
>>>> That would be quite cumbersome having a product where some of it (i.e.
>>>> some lines of code) still have copyright but other bits of it do not.
>>> No it wouldn't. You'd just put the whole thing under the GPL or whatever
>>> other licence you want. That's what "public domain" means--you can do
>>> that.

>>
>> The GPL is only enforcable as long as copyright still exists on the code.
>> Once copyright runs out, then the GPL can be ignored and people can do what
>> they please. Or am I wrong in that?

>
>Don't know, nobody knows, whether copyright could be renewed on new
>releases.
>Its a worse situation for the rest of the copyright world, its only a
>provocative statement to promote debate, and the consequences can only
>be defined by subsequent law which won't happen.
>Copyright will continue to be pragmatically administered by content
>creators reserving their rights and only enforcing them selectively.




This is best summed up to me by the quote that goes something like ...

Copyright tells me a whole lot of things I can't do.
The GPL tells me what I can do.

Not completely accurate, but it does give you a good idea of the different
'feel' of the things.



 
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peterwn
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      07-30-2009
On Jul 30, 10:06*am, Allistar <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote:
> Lawrence D'Oliveiro wrote:
> > In message <(E-Mail Removed)>, Allistar
> > wrote:

>
> >> That would be quite cumbersome having a product where some of it (i.e.
> >> some lines of code) still have copyright but other bits of it do not.

>
> > No it wouldn't. You'd just put the whole thing under the GPL or whatever
> > other licence you want. That's what "public domain" means--you can do
> > that.

>
> The GPL is only enforcable as long as copyright still exists on the code.
> Once copyright runs out, then the GPL can be ignored and people can do what
> they please. Or am I wrong in that?
> --
> A.


Patents lasts for 14 years or so. Copyright lasts for 50+ years after
creator's death (depending on country) and assignment of the copyright
would not affect this duration.

It is not a matter of 'ignoring' the GPL. When copyright runs out,
you can ignore the copyright. The GPL is something you need to wave
in front of the judge if you are accused of breaching copyright, you
cannot claim that the GPL is illegal, unconstitutional, not tested in
court, fattening etc. If you do you merely shoot yourself in the foot
since you are repudiating your only defence.

The GPL is a licence, not a contract. A licence is an ancient legal
concept, much older than contract. The most basic form of licence can
be revoked at the leisure of the issuer of the licence. However the
issuer of the GPL promises never to revoke the GPL as long as its
conditions are met. A court of equity will enforce such a promise.

In countries with other legal systems, different concepts apply but
with the same outcome. In Germany, the GPL is treated as a contract
and has been upheld by a German court as such.

No one has been unfairly 'pinged' for allegedly breaching the GPL.
Various companies have been caught breaching the GPL and have settled
out of court (cash settlement plus publication of the source code for
any amendments made to the software). AFAIK no 'common law' court
(Commonwealth and USA) has directly ruled on a GPL case because the
defendant knows he will be hammered by the judge. It is that simple.
This is what is so 'neat' about the GPL, yet for some oddball reason
some people think it is a joke.

Several years ago, some clown on this ng tried to argue that the GPL
was 'unenforceable' in NZ as it had not been tested in a NZ court. As
one can see from above this is total nonsense.
 
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impossible
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      07-30-2009

"peterwn" <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote in message
news:(E-Mail Removed)...
On Jul 30, 10:06 am, Allistar <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote:
>> Lawrence D'Oliveiro wrote:
>> > In message <(E-Mail Removed)>, Allistar
>> > wrote:

>>
>> >> That would be quite cumbersome having a product where some of it (i.e.
>> >> some lines of code) still have copyright but other bits of it do not.

>>
>> > No it wouldn't. You'd just put the whole thing under the GPL or
>> > whatever
>> > other licence you want. That's what "public domain" means--you can do
>> > that.

>>
>> The GPL is only enforcable as long as copyright still exists on the code.
>> Once copyright runs out, then the GPL can be ignored and people can do
>> what
>> they please. Or am I wrong in that?
>> --
>> A.


> Patents lasts for 14 years or so. Copyright lasts for 50+ years after
> creator's death (depending on country) and assignment of the copyright
> would not affect this duration.
>
> It is not a matter of 'ignoring' the GPL. When copyright runs out,
> you can ignore the copyright.


According to the GPL itsef (Copyright 2007 Free Software Foundation, Inc.),
:

"All rights granted under this License are granted for the term of copyright
on the Program...."

That makes sense, because without copyright the there is no one who is
recognized under law as having an exclusive right to set the terms of use
for a given work. So when the term of the copyright expires, so do the
rights granted under GPL. Modifications to the work would no longer require
"copyright permission", and so the GPL would indeed become irrelevant.

http://www.fsf.org/licensing/licenses/gpl.html

Of course, you're the law student. Maybe you've discovered some ancient
clause in the Dead Sea Scrolls that locks in a claim to copyright protection
in perpetuity so long as the Force is on the right (or is it left?)side. But
it looks to me like dropping the copyright term from 50 years to 5 would
pretty much gut the open-source community.

 
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peterwn
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      07-30-2009
On Jul 31, 12:07*am, "impossible" <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote:

>
> According to the GPL itsef (Copyright 2007 Free Software Foundation, Inc.),
> :
>
> "All rights granted under this License are granted for the term of copyright
> on the Program...."
>
> That makes sense, because without copyright the there is no one who is
> recognized under law as having an exclusive right to set the terms of use
> for a given work. So when the term of the copyright expires, so do the
> rights granted under GPL. Modifications to the work would no longer require
> "copyright permission", and so the GPL would indeed become irrelevant.


That is right. Once copyright has expired, anyone can make use of the
work as they see fit, they do not need to rely on the GPL.

>
> http://www.fsf.org/licensing/licenses/gpl.html
>
> Of course, you're the law student. Maybe you've discovered some ancient
> clause in the Dead Sea Scrolls that locks in a claim to copyright protection
> in perpetuity so long as the Force is on the right (or is it left?)side. But
> it looks to me like dropping the copyright term from 50 years to 5 would
> pretty much gut the open-source community.


This is another point that is missed. There is not a single GPL but
thousands if not millions of instances of the GPL just like there are
thousands of instances of the standard agreement form that real estate
agents use for house sales. Critics of the GPL seem to think there is
only one licence in existence.

When the GPL requrires someone to grant licence in the form of the GPL
and to publish the source code, the 50 years or so starts from then,
not when the original code was created. The 50 years would also re-
start for Microsoft's updates on Windows, etc.

If the software copyright term were to be dropped to five years, while
the original code would be 'out of copyright' after five years,
subsequent modifications, bug fixes etc would still be 'in copyright'
beyond that five years. After five years the original code would be
of limited use, hence my argument that a 5 year limit (which I never
suggested in the first place) would have little adverse effect on the
creators of GPL'd code, Windows XP, etc etc.
 
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impossible
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Posts: n/a
 
      07-31-2009
> "peterwn" <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote in message
>> news:(E-Mail Removed)...
>> On Jul 30, 10:06 am, Allistar <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote:
>>>> Lawrence D'Oliveiro wrote:
>>>> > In message <(E-Mail Removed)>, Allistar
>>>> > wrote:
>>>>
>>>> >> That would be quite cumbersome having a product where some of it
>>>> >> (i.e.
>>>> >> some lines of code) still have copyright but other bits of it do
>>>> >> not.
>>>>
>>>> > No it wouldn't. You'd just put the whole thing under the GPL or
>>>> > whatever
>>>> > other licence you want. That's what "public domain" means--you can do
>>>> > that.
>>>>
>>>> The GPL is only enforcable as long as copyright still exists on the
>>>> code.
>>>> Once copyright runs out, then the GPL can be ignored and people can do
>>>> what
>>>> they please. Or am I wrong in that?
>>>> --


Whoops! You deleted your daft comments claiming that copyright proytection
was irrelevant to the GPL. Let's restore them to put this discussion in
context.


>>>
>>> Patents lasts for 14 years or so. Copyright lasts for 50+ years after
>>> creator's death (depending on country) and assignment of the copyright
>>> would not affect this duration.
>>>
>>> It is not a matter of 'ignoring' the GPL. When copyright runs out,
>>> you can ignore the copyright.


See? That was really dumb of you to say, right? Allow me to correct you.
>
>> According to the GPL itsef (Copyright 2007 Free Software Foundation,
>> Inc.),
>> :
>>
>> "All rights granted under this License are granted for the term of
>> copyright
>> on the Program...."
>>
>> http://www.fsf.org/licensing/licenses/gpl.html
>>
>> That makes sense, because without copyright the there is no one who is
>> recognized under law as having an exclusive right to set the terms of use
>> for a given work. So when the term of the copyright expires, so do the
>> rights granted under GPL. Modifications to the work would no longer
>> require
>> "copyright permission", and so the GPL would indeed become irrelevant.


> That is right. Once copyright has expired, anyone can make use of the
> work as they see fit, they do not need to rely on the GPL.
>
>
>>
>> Of course, you're the law student. Maybe you've discovered some ancient
>> clause in the Dead Sea Scrolls that locks in a claim to copyright
>> protection
>> in perpetuity so long as the Force is on the right (or is it left?)side.
>> But
>> it looks to me like dropping the copyright term from 50 years to 5 would
>> pretty much gut the open-source community.

>
> This is another point that is missed. There is not a single GPL but
> thousands if not millions of instances of the GPL just like there are
> thousands of instances of the standard agreement form that real estate
> agents use for house sales. Critics of the GPL seem to think there is
> only one licence in existence.
>


Got one that isn't based on copyright protection? No, didn't think so.

> When the GPL requrires someone to grant licence in the form of the GPL
> and to publish the source code, the 50 years or so starts from then,
> not when the original code was created.


Let's be clear: If copyright on the original work has expired, no one has an
exclusive right to require anyone to do anything with regard to that work.
It's in the public domain -- as free as any software can possibly be.
Neither the GPL nor any other license would any longer have the force of
law. Should someone then come along and create a **significant change** to
the public domain version that has the effect of creating a **substantially
new work**, then obviously a new term of copyright begins.

> The 50 years would also restart for Microsoft's updates on Windows, etc.
>


No. Minor revisions to an existing work by the copyright holder do not
perpetually extend copyright protection.

>If the software copyright term were to be dropped to five years, while
> the original code would be 'out of copyright' after five years,
> subsequent modifications, bug fixes etc would still be 'in copyright'
> beyond that five years.


No. A bug fix doesn't extend copyright protection either.

> After five years the original code would be
> of limited use, hence my argument that a 5 year limit (which I never
> suggested in the first place) would have little adverse effect on the
> creators of GPL'd code, Windows XP, etc etc.


Yeah, right. 2015: RedHat emerges as the world's #1 provider of copyright
expiration date pop-ups. Good luck with that.

 
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peterwn
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      07-31-2009
On Jul 31, 12:41*pm, "impossible" <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote:

I can answer your comments very easily.

Agreed modification to the original code does not extend copyright to
the original code, but the modifications themselves are subject to
fresh copyright in favour of the creator of the modifications. That
copyright starts from when the modidications were created. This would
in due course lead to the situation where the original code is out of
copyright while the amendments remain in copyright. Amen.

Such a situation is no different from MS Windows which contains some
public domain (or virtually public domain) code such as the TCP/IP
stack (for the sake of clarity I do not mean GPL'd code). You will be
delighted to hear that the presence of such code does not nullify the
copyright of Windows at large.

Even in the case of bug fixes, the creator of the fixes (eg Microsoft)
sometimes reserves rights to the fixes and may even require a fresh
EULA for their installation.
 
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