Subject: Re: copyright and license issues
To: None <tech-userlevel@NetBSD.org>
From: Thor Lancelot Simon <email@example.com>
Date: 10/08/2004 13:44:11
On Fri, Oct 08, 2004 at 04:10:32PM +0000, Charles M. Hannum wrote:
> On Wednesday 06 October 2004 00:45, mouss wrote:
> > Can anybody enlighten me and get me back to the right way?
> > I feel some satanic forces making me believe that it is silly and stupid
> > to have a copyright and a license (other than public domain) on files
> > that contain trivial source code. for example, I would laugh at the
> > following:
> Generally, you cannot enforce a copyright on something "trivial," so indeed
> there is no point. This is why it's usually silly to have a copyright notice
> on things like Makefiles.
Except that in this painfully litigious era, the question of what is
"trivial" and what is not is not something you want to get sued about.
The important point to understand is that, by default, with no copyright
and license statement on a work you have no right to use the work,
period. "Triviality" and various other exceptions are just that: exceptions.
It's important to us to make sure that third parties *know* they are free
to use NetBSD as they want to. The easiest way to do that is to stamp a
consistent copyright and license header onto every file so that they do
not have to worry about files that bear no copyright (or, worse, a copyright
but no license, or a confusing license) but that might, or might not, be
To use technical language, triviality seems to admit of degree: you can
have an argument with someone about "how trivial" something is. Stamping
a copyright and license statement on every file reduces this to a simple
binary decision and that's what most third parties, particularly commercial
third parties, seem to want.
That said, I am personally in favor of very small files bearing a simple
public domain dedication statement. That makes the issue *completely*
unambiguous, and only requires a line or two in the file.