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Re: copyright assignments

From: Bruce Atherton <bruce_at_hagbard.flair.law.ubc.ca>
Date: 2001-02-24 00:21:13 CET

At 08:37 PM 2/22/01 -0800, Greg Stein wrote:
>On Thu, Feb 22, 2001 at 10:08:02AM -0600, Karl Fogel wrote:
> >...
> > [As an aside, for my personal projects, I'm beginning to think I might
> > just release them to the public domain, with non-binding commentary
> > describing my hope that the reader will preserve the same freedoms by
> > releasing modified versions p.d. or under a free license. That
> > sidesteps *all* legal issues, heh.]
>This came up in another conversation recently. I never got a followup from
>the guy, but he stated that it is actually impossible/difficult to truly
>release something into the "Public Domain." Effectively, you are always
>(legally) regarded as the Copyright Holder. Thus, you at least have
>*liability* for the software.

Ok, IANAL but I worked on a research project for a law faculty for many
years, so some of the concepts have rubbed off on me.

It is definitely possible to specifically release your copyright and place
something in the public domain. It is provided for in the U.S. Code, and
all other Common Law jurisdictions I've ever heard of have the same
provision. What is impossible in the U.S. now (although it used to be
possible) was abandonment of copyright. That is, if you didn't defend your
copyright you lost it. That is no longer the case in the U.S. Nor is there
a requirement any longer to reregister your copyright.

I've included the Chainware "license" I originally wrote in 1987, a year
when Usenet was suddenly indundated with Chain Letters. I've used it ever
since. It specifically places a program in the public domain, and I think
most people would agree that it is even less restrictive than the MIT license.

Regarding liability, that is an issue that is completely separate from
Copyright. Whether Copyright is held or not has no effect on the liability,
other factors do. They aren't even in the same area of law. I suggest you
go to a lawyer and ask them about "duty of care" and the notion of
"representation" if you are concerned about them.

Here is an example that may help clarify the difference. Suppose a company
develops a program in-house for performing a task, but due to a bug it
occasionally wipes out the users hard drive. The programmers have all
assigned Copyright for the program to the company. A cracker breaks in and
steals the program, and then offers it on their LEET web site.

The company is not going to be liable for damage that the program causes,
irrespective of Copyright. They are not distributing the program. They are
not making any claims about what the program does. It was never their
intention that the program be used by people outside of their testing
group. A claim that it was reasonably foreseeable that a hacker would break
in and distribute the program would be on thin ice indeed.

Again, IANAL. Consult one for a full and accurate explanation of the law in
your area.



This program is released to the public domain. It is completely
without a copyright, copyleft, or license of any kind.

This code may be hacked, cracked, munged, split, merged, fixed,
tossed, heaved, hurled, copied, deleted, erased, eliminated,
annihilated, altered, tailored, capped, cut, pasted, glued, fnord
mauled, pared, extended, archived, fed, bloated, thinned, chewed,
mangled, mulched, fertilized, smoked, burned, toasted, slit,
floated, consumed, exhumed, exhaled, draped, dubbed, subtitled,
optimized, sped up, slowed down, captured, uploaded, downloaded,
folded, spindled, mutilated, crumpled, flattened, crushed,
cranked, torn, curved, tensed, slapped together, ripped apart,
spit upon, gnued, lexed, yacced, bisoned, and especially rabbits.

This code is not Freeware, Begware, Nagware, Crippleware, or
Shareware. It is public domain CHAINWARE.

SEND NO MONEY. No operators are standing by. No salesman will
call. If you want to make a payment for this program, write your
own program and release it, including source, as Chainware.
Within a few months, thousands of programs will fill the Internet
in return for your contribution.

DON'T BREAK THE CHAIN!!!!!! Little Billy G. broke the
chain and bad luck immediately struck him in the form of numerous
anti-trust lawsuits and a cream pie. It wasn't even banana cream!
Chain breaker Mother Theresa died soon after breaking the chain.
Some claim it was because she was 142 years old, but we know
better. And a metal fellow named Marvin had this to say: "I'm so
depressed." He had also broken the chain!

writing your program. Your luck isn't fooled by good intentions,
and will turn bad unless you get started immediately.

Even if you can't program, all is not lost. Answer a question on
Usenet if it has gone unanswered for two days. Improve the jokes
in this license. Don't respond to flame bait in a flame war. Kill
a spammer. Create an HTML page with INTERESTING and ORIGINAL
content. If you can't come up with anything interesting to say,
find a new program that belongs on a particular FTP site and
upload it there. Any of these actions will make the world a
better place and prevent the chain from being broken.

When you have written your program or performed your action, add
it to the bottom of the list below and include this file with
your offering. When everyone else joins in the chain and releases
programs for your enjoyment, you'll have good luck galore!

In fact, if your program causes just 10 other people to write
one, each of which causes 10 more programs to be written, within
17 years the entire mass of the Earth will be composed of
electrons representing Chainware software. In 21 years the
entire Milky Way will be organized into programs. That's the
beauty of pyramid schemes like this one. Just think of it. By
keeping entropy away, you could be preventing the heat death of
the universe. Just keep the chain intact.

REMEMBER: Open-source software is a win for everyone. Free
software for the masses. A hard drive in every pot.


Programs in this branch of the chain:

         The DreamWeaver Program (http://flair.law.ubc.ca/~bruce/dreams/)
                by Bruce Atherton(bruce@flair.law.ubc.ca)

Received on Sat Oct 21 14:36:23 2006

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