[linux-elitists] Re: GPL Violations [was Re: Mobile Phone Choices]

Rick Moen rick@linuxmafia.com
Wed Aug 2 17:00:28 PDT 2006

Quoting Shlomi Fish (shlomif@iglu.org.il):

> Well, for the record, the headers for all the files carry something like that:
> [[[[[[[[[[[
> /*
>  * intrface.c - instance interface functions for Freecell Solver
>  *
>  * Written by Shlomi Fish (shlomif@vipe.technion.ac.il), 2000-2001
>  *
>  * This file is in the public domain (it's uncopyrighted).
>  */
> ]]]]]]]]]]]

You can claim that all you want, but it's not true.

Copyright title exists (and persists) by operation of statute.  It
expires (at least in theory) at the end of a specific term.  Before
that, I suppose you could attempt to disclaim ownership, but doing so
doesn't destroy title or the consequent rights issues.
And -- getting to the bone of the matter -- merely because your headers
contain something _short_ doesn't mean it's _clear_:  To return to my
point about "a potential legal quagmire", your attempt to do so creates
a situation that might well be resolved differently by the courts in
each separate jurisdiction (should the matter ever get litigated).  I'm
sure you weren't _intending_ to create that sort of mess, and I'm sure,
if you'd thought about it, you wouldn't have voluntarily forgone the
warranty disclaimer you get with simple permissive licences, e.g., the
MIT / X Consortium one or new-BSD.

So, next time, please strongly consider one of those, instead.  The 
dozen extra lines of text required won't deplete the world's electron
population, overmuch.

> Furthermore, Freecell Solver was already integrated into at least 4
> programs so far, including KDE's KPatience which is part of kdegames.
> The KDE developer who originally integrated it there (Stephan Kulow -
> a German), originally did so without asking for my permission (which
> was naturally not required), and without noting there was some kind of
> a licensing issue.

If your point is that Kulow and others now have an _unrecognised_
licence quagmire, it seems to me that makes matters worse, not better.

<irony>The KDE Project being tripped up by licensing issues?  Who'd have

> I'm not sure if there was an official Public Domain COPYRIGHT file at the 
> time. (Which was some time before CC-Public-Domain came into being).

Prof. Lessig has acknowledged to me in e-mail that the CC public domain 
declaration (which is not a licence) is problematic, and said he'll try
to get this addressed in a future Web site revision.

Meanwhile, Larry Rosen wrote this recent analysis:

   Just as there is nothing in the law that permits a person to dump
   personal property on a public highway, there is nothing that permits
   the dumping of copyrighted works into the public domain, except as
   happens in due course when any applicable copyrights expire. Until
   those copyrights expire, no mechanism is in the law by which an owner
   of software can simply elect to place it in the public domain. [...]

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