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Re: public_domain

>>>>> "D" == David Lawyer <bf347@lafn.org> writes:

    D> PUBLIC DOMAIN (Here are my thoughts on it)

    D> If a document doesn't have a copyright, it may be in the public
    D> domain.  Some of the HOWTOs are like this.  But I recall once
    D> seeing a statement that if you failed to include a license,
    D> then it would default to the LDP license.  But if there's no
    D> copyright notice, then it probably doesn't need a license.

This is not my understanding: By the international agreements on
copyrights in 1984, in those countries who signed the agreement, any
work which does not specifically give away rights is considered to be
tightly copyright restricted.

Under the 1984 treaty, if I understand it correctly, the purpose of
the copyright statement is not to restrict rights, but to grant them.
Where not stated otherwise, maximum restrictions apply.  I know this
is the case in music publishing: All a composer need do is prove prior
art, and poor composers will do this by mailing the manuscript to
themselves by registered mail. 

Thus, for documents which do not specifically say they are governed by
an LDP-default licence, we legally have no right to distribute or to
modify them.  They are copyright by their authors, all rights reserved.

I don't expect any authors will challenge you if you commandeer their
work, but that is the way of the Law.  Legally, you have to get the
author to grant permission before you can do anything, and if you
can't find the author, legally you have to scrap the document.  If you
can't identify the author, then anyone can come forward and claim it is
theirs and we have a legal problem.

We are fortunate in this that no one in the legal world really cares
squat what we do.  To my knowledge, the GPL has never been tested in
court.  Neither have any of the other licenses.  Right now, it works
because we are a closed community of compatriots, a fellowship.  Will
it change?  I remember when it was totally safe to buy computer parts
off of usenet by sending the seller a cheque the same day they would
send the part.  I couldn't imagine being so 'naiive' today.

In the music business, there is big money to be made if someone uses
even a small segment of music for any tangible commercial gain.  Not
knowing where it came from is not an excuse. Sarah McLaughlin is sued
by her ex-boyfriend, George Harrison is sued by the author of "She's
So Fine".  Are artists so petty?  

In the majority case, no. They are no better and no worse than
software engineers ;) But because there is big money to be made, there
is a whole subclass of lawyer who make their living looking for and
pursuing these cases.  Like software patent lawyers, the holder of the
patent in most cases does not even know of the lawsuit because some
legal firm found them, purchased the patent for a huge sum, and then
went off in search of blood.  I'm afraid that day will come for us

"Public Domain" applies after a holding period which varies by media
and by country, for example, Gustav Holst's compositions are PD in
Japan and the US, but copyright in Canada. PD also applies if the
copyright statement specifically places it into the public domain, or
if the legal battle over ownership results in a draw (as with the song
"Goodnight Irene" where Woody and Leadbelly very cleverly set-up
competing publishing company lawyers for an expensive and futile
ownership war ;)

Gary Lawrence Murphy <garym@linux.ca>: office voice/fax: 01 519 4222723
TCI - Business Innovations through Open Source : http://www.teledyn.com
Canadian Co-ordinators for Bynari International : http://ca.bynari.net/
Moderator, Linux Education Group: http://www.egroups.com/group/linux-ed

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