Subject: Re: Merger
To: Brian Kendig <>
From: Erik Speckman <>
List: macbsd-general
Date: 09/01/1994 16:00:52
>I'm honestly confused about this; I'm not trying to incite a debate.
>If you place no legal bindings whatsoever on NetBSD/MacBSD, not even any
>sort of a copyright, then it would be perfectly legal for somebody to
>come along and make a few minor changes to the code, and place *his*
>copyright on the whole thing, and make it *illegal* for you to
>distribute NetBSD/MacBSD from then on.

Seems unlikely.

>I've seen this happen.  A programmer friend of mine was developing
>Citadel and distributing it freely; then a company snatched it out of
>his hands, put a copyright on it, began selling it, and argued in court
>that this guy's policy of distributing it freely was cutting into their
>sales.  The company won, and the programmer had to pay some amount of
>royalties to the company, as well as promise that he would not continue
>any work on the software nor allow it to be distributed.

If Citadel was really public domain when your friend was working on it then
it sounds like he needs a better lawyer.  On the other hand, if it was made
freely available, and open to modification by the original copyright holder
and that copyright holder then transferred the copyright to someone else
then your friend really is SOL.

>Similarly, an
>author friend of mine had freely distributed some stories he wrote until
>a magazine published one of them, claimed a copyright on it, and legally
>bound the author not to publish it nor any derivates of it in any other

Unless your friend explicitly released his writings into the public domain,
his writings are still copyrighted material.  In anycase, no company has
the right to simply snatch up his writings and publish them while at the
same time keeping the author or anyone else from publishing them.

On the otherhand, when many publications buy manuscripts for publication
they buy exclusive right to publish the work, until the copyright runs out.
This isn't uncommon.  Many essays and short stories are first published in
magazines.  If they are later published in a collection in book form, there
will be a notice at the beginning of the book explaining that barbaz
appears by permission of foobar magazine.

This isn't how it is always done.  A local weekely here only buys rights
for a single publication.  I think they may retain rights for 6-12 months
so you don't turn around and sell it to someone else right away.

As someone else pointed out, if what you say is really true then anyone
could snap up the works of Poe, Shakespeare, the Bible, etc, copyright them
and keep anyone else from publishing them without paying a hefty fee.
People don't because they can't without being battered in court (and
ultimately loosing).  What people do do is place edition copyrights on
published copies of public domain works.  (I don't know how it works).

(I am not a laywer and I am sure I have overlooked some of the subtleties
of copyright law.  That said, I still believe that what I have said is
accurate.  If anyone wants to pursue this further there is a newsgroup
dedicated to copyright issues.  They have a FAQ)

Erik A. Speckman       Seattle, Washington      Good Brain Doesn't Suck