[linux-elitists] Fwd: RFC: Freecell Solver Licence "Change"

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Thu Mar 19 15:07:48 PDT 2009

Quoting Ben Finney (bignose+hates-spam at benfinney.id.au):

> I have a lot of sympathy with that attitude.

I have sympathy, too.

To a large degree, you and I and most licensing geeks have had our minds
warped by exposure to all the legal flotsam one must master in order to
really understand software law and "public domain declarations":

o  the list of default reserved rights under copyright law
o  copyright-based licences as overrides of that default reservation, 
   attached to a particular instance of a copyright-encumbered work
o  "derivative work" as a legal term of art
o  Berne Convention's effect of copyright arising at the moment of
   a work's creation and vesting in the author
o  (in USA:)  The fact that pre-Berne lapses into PD for lack of notice no
   longer occur, starting 1978.
o  (in USA:)  Work for Hire rule, and when it does and doesn't
   apply to software.
o  (in USA:)  17 U.S.C. 105-type public domain (Federal works)
o  Possible applicability of abandoned property, escheat, bankruptcy, and 
   inheritance law and (in USA) of the statutory right of copyright 
   recapture to alleged PD works.
o  The difference between merely _abandoning_ a legal right and causing it
   to cease to exist.  (As I keep telling people, it's not actually PD
   unless the latter occurs.)

One has to understand, at minimum, the first item cited, before one 
can fully grasp that "no licence text at all" means _proprietary_
licensing by default -- and has done so (in the USA) ever since Jan. 1,

And yes, that's very counter-intuitive.  Good point.

> What people expect to work (divesting themselves and their works
> effectively of the restrictions of copyright) isn't going to work, as
> we've seen explored. That doesn't mean these people are *wrong* to
> expect it to be that simple. The law is the one in the wrong here,
> The trick is getting people to give enough of a shit to work to
> *change* those laws so they get closer to expectations.

OK, I'm not going to hold my breath waiting, though -- not on the
fundamentals of copyright law.

One of the late Michael Crichton's characters (the older American cop in
_Rising Sun_) was written as quoting a Japanese observation about his
fellow Americans:  they tend to spend rather too much time and effort
debating whether they approve of reality, and not enough dealing with
it.  (I paraphrase, obviously.)

On the current matter, rather than launch a Sisyphean effort to reform
the foundation of copyright law, I'd rather tell coders:  "Folks, the
easist way to accomplish what you want is to put in the headers
'Copyright (C) 2009 Owner Name.  Do whatever you want with this work.'
If you insist on short and simple, just go with that, and don't try to
out-clever the law:  You can hurt yourself, your users, and downstream
reusers of your code."

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