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What Can't You Copyright?
Sunday, December 28 2003 @ 04:36 PM EST

Exactly what is and what isn't copyrightable? Obviously you can't copyright ideas, but can you copyright lists, for example names and addresses in a telephone book? Court opinions arranged in your own personal way? Page numbers? Number assignments? The alphabet? Can the David Letterman Show copyright the numbers 1 though 10, because they have a daily "Top 10" feature? How stupid does it have to get before the answer is No, you can't copyright that?

Lawrence Lessig recently posted some materials on his blog that are helpful in this context. If you follow the thread Lessig provides, you'll be spending your Sunday afternoon the same way I am and you'll find some answers.

Here is the Lessig blog entry:

"speaking of great Court of Appeals decisions

"I’m sorry it has taken me so long to finally read the Seventh Circuit’s opinion in Assessment Technologies v. WIREdata. Judge Posner, writing for a unanimous panel, rejects an “attempt of a copyright owner to use copyright law to block access to data that not only are neither copyrightable nor copyrighted, but were not created or obtained by the copyright owner.” In the collection of great cases showing the limits of copyright — and why limits are sensible — this should rank highly (indeed, much higher than the Supreme Court’s effort in Feist Publications, Inc. v. Rural Telephone Service Co., 499 U.S. 340, 345-48 (1991).)

"Posner is a friend. I was his clerk. But the best thing about being his clerk is that he does his own writing, which means the clerk’s job is just to disagree. But in the area of copyright and patent, I’ve found less and less to disagree with. Indeed, if you want a brilliant and balanced analysis of a wide range of IP issues, from the perspective of economics, see his (and Professor Landes’) latest book, The Economic Structure of Intellectual Property Law."

So the Assessment case found that if you compile public domain data, while you may have a copyright on your work if it is sufficiently creative (originality being required for copyright), you can't lock up the underlying public domain data and prevent others from using it.

Here is a page that lists salient cases with a paragraph on each, such as these two:

"Feist Publishing, Inc. v. Rural Telephone Service Company, 499 U.S. 240 (1991). In Feist, the Supreme Court found that no protection existed for the compilation of names, addresses and telephone numbers contained in the telephone white pages. The Supreme Court rejected the 'sweat of the brow' theory, holding that the arrangement of facts in alphabetical listing lacks the necessary degree of originality to qualify as an original work of authorship under the compilation requirement of the copyright act. The Feist decision has been widely viewed as a sweeping limitation upon a party's right to protect database collections from third-party copying.

"Hyperlaw, Inc. v. West Publishing Company, 158 F.3d 693 (2d Cir. 1998), cert denied, 522 U.S. 3732 (1999). The court rejected West Publishing's assertion that its selection and arrangement of reported case decisions in the reporter series provided West a recognized copyright interest in the page numbers."

The Hyperlaw, Inc. v. West Publishing Company case is here, and the ruling explains a bit:

"However, as is clear from the second Feist element, copyright protection in compilations 'may extend only to those components of a work that are original to the author.' Id. at 348, 111 S. Ct. at 1289. The 'originality' requirement encompasses requirements both 'that the work was independently created . . ., and that it possesses at least some minimal degree of creativity.' Id. at 345, 111 S. Ct. at 1287 (emphasis added); see also Key Publications, Inc. v. Chinatown Today Publ'g Enters., Inc. , 945 F.2d 509, 512-13 (2d Cir. 1991) ('Simply stated, original means not copied, and exhibiting a minimal amount of creativity.'). At issue here are references to West's volume and page numbers distributed through the text of plaintiffs' versions of judicial opinions. West concedes that the pagination of its volumes-- i.e. , the insertion of page breaks and the assignment of page numbers--is determined by an automatic computer program, and West does not seriously claim that there is anything original or creative in that process. As Judge Martin noted, 'where and on what particular pages the text of a court opinion appears does not embody any original creation of the compiler.' Because the internal pagination of West's case reporters does not entail even a modicum of creativity, the volume and page numbers are not original components of West's compilations and are not themselves protected by West's compilation copyright. 10 See Feist , 499 U.S. at 363 , 111 S. Ct. at 1297 ('As a constitutional matter, copyright protects only those constituent elements of a work that possess more than a de minimis quantum of creativity.')."

A nice resource for further digging on Feist is here.

The US Copyright Office has a FAQ on copyright, which includes this answer to question 4, on fair use, "How much of someone else's work can I use without getting permission?":

"Under the fair use doctrine of the U.S. copyright statute, it is permissible to use limited portions of a work including quotes, for purposes such as commentary, criticism, news reporting, and scholarly reports. There are no legal rules permitting the use of a specific number of words, a certain number of musical notes, or percentage of a work. Whether a particular use qualifies as fair use depends on all the circumstances. See FL 102, Fair Use, and Circular 21, Reproductions of Copyrighted Works by Educators and Librarians."

And here is the US Copyright Office's list of what is not copyrightable:

"Several categories of material are generally not eligible for federal copyright protection. These include among others:

"Works that have not been fixed in a tangible form of expression (for example, choreographic works that have not been notated or recorded, or improvisational speeches or performances that have not been written or recorded)

"Titles, names, short phrases, and slogans; familiar symbols or designs; mere variations of typographic ornamentation, lettering, or coloring; mere listings of ingredients or contents

"Ideas, procedures, methods, systems, processes, concepts, principles, discoveries, or devices, as distinguished from a description, explanation, or illustration

"Works consisting entirely of information that is common property and containing no original authorship (for example: standard calendars, height and weight charts, tape measures and rulers, and lists or tables taken from public documents or other common sources)"

Additionally, §102(b) of the Copyright Act says:

"In no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work."

If you are interested in knowing how anyone could argue that page numbers could be copyrighted, here is the court's decision on West v. Mead, where the judges tried to think it through. Their decision was reviewed here. Some reactions to the decision here. Here is an address by Joel I. Klein, then Acting Assistant Attorney General, Antitrust Division, US Department of Justice, in 1997, on the subject of "CROSS-LICENSING AND ANTITRUST LAW", which mentions the case. And here is a law review article by James H. Wyman, "FREEING THE LAW: CASE REPORTER COPYRIGHT AND THE UNIVERSAL CITATION SYSTEM", that tells the whole story, including pointing out that because Feist, which was decided five years after West v. Mead, "was the Supreme Court's first opportunity to interpret the 1976 Copyright Act's express provision granting copyright protection to factual compilations and derivative works, it has a significant impact on any analysis of the holding in Mead." I am listing all this information on Mead, because there is some information on the internet on the case that isn't quite accurate. One more. And finally, a breakdown of fair use decisions.


What Can't You Copyright? | 256 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
What Can't You Copyright?
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, December 28 2003 @ 07:25 PM EST
"Titles, names, short phrases, and slogans; familiar symbols or designs;
mere variations of typographic ornamentation, lettering, or coloring; mere
listings of ingredients or contents"

Looks like a lot of the files that SCO claimed were theirs fall under this

[ Reply to This | # ]

What Can't You Copyright?
Authored by: the_flatlander on Sunday, December 28 2003 @ 07:28 PM EST
Thank you, PJ. Just what I was looking for. I knew that one couldn't really
copyright a list of numbers, but I didn't quite know how to go about finding an
authoritative source for that, with examples.

This leads to [yet] another question: Is SCO Group's latest letter, wherein the
explicitly claim something that is not true, and which they could/should have
known wasn't true, a cause for, say Linus Trovalds, or the FSF, to file a
complaint? They must be just skirting the edge of the law here, if they
haven't quite gone over it yet.


[ Reply to This | # ]

What Can't You Copyright?
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, December 28 2003 @ 07:52 PM EST
i have a vague memory that Intel were refused a copyright on 586 and
consequently called their then new processor "Pentium". If this is
so then it would suggest that there is a previous ruling regarding the
copyrighting of numbers.

I would appreciate any input into this as my ageing memory may be faulty, and I
would hate to mislead anyone here.

[ Reply to This | # ]

What caught my eye in Feist...
Authored by: Jude on Sunday, December 28 2003 @ 07:55 PM EST
...went a little deeper that the phone numbers being simple facts:

The name-phone# pairings were not just facts; The numbers
had been assigned by the phone company in a way that was,
to an extent, arbitrary. The available numbers could have
been assigned to the people in countless other ways, but
the phone company picked one particular way for reasons of
their own. In spite of this, the court still did not deem
the pairings to be copyrightable.

I think this is quite analogous to the situation with error and signal

[ Reply to This | # ]

OT: What Can't You *Patent*?
Authored by: grouch on Sunday, December 28 2003 @ 08:22 PM EST
This jumps out at me because of the recent battle Linux Gazette is having with
their long-time host, SSC. SSC now appears to be trying to destroy Linux Gazette
and replace it with something from which they can milk some money. There's
nothing inherently wrong with making money, it's the way they're going about
it that's wrong.

SSC has stripped copyright notices from articles and replaced them with
corporate copyright notices. Now, they're trying to patent the name Linux
Gazette, apparently in order to force off the Internet.

Can anyone shed light on this issue? Linux Gazette has been a cornerstone of
Linux for too long to allow it to be usurped by sudden corporate policy


BTW, I've just finished a recursive replacement of all instances of with on my own website.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Republishing Works
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, December 28 2003 @ 08:38 PM EST
I'm not a lawyer but back when typography was an art form in and of itself,
simply republishing a work was enough of a toil and art to create a new
copywriteable form. Is that still true today in this era of computer typography
when it is no longer possible to make a living as a typographer? Should it be?

[ Reply to This | # ]

Copyright a trade secret?
Authored by: mickeym on Sunday, December 28 2003 @ 08:48 PM EST
Can the same piece of text be both a copyrighted work and an unpublished trade


[ Reply to This | # ]

OT: Interesting article on The Inquirer
Authored by: Jude on Sunday, December 28 2003 @ 08:49 PM EST
I just spotted a new Inquirer article that I thought was interesting:

[ Reply to This | # ]

What Can't You Copyright?
Authored by: tazer on Sunday, December 28 2003 @ 09:32 PM EST
Well, a little bird (heh), tells me that a certain someone may have the
copyright on numbers. It would seem that Sesame Street first aired in 1969,
probably before the first UNIX release. Assuming the Count was present in these
early episodes, he may very well have a copyright on these numbers. Not to
mention the show itself was sponsored by at least 1 different letter and number
every episode.

ONE billion dollars, ahh, ahh, ahhhh
TWO billion dollars, ahh, ahh, ahhhh
THREE, ...

SCO -->Santa Cruz Operation ->Tarantella
SCOG ->The SCO Group -------->Caldera

[ Reply to This | # ]

What are they up to?
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, December 28 2003 @ 10:03 PM EST
OK, I don't believe SCO is dumb enough to think their claims on the header
files will stand up in court, so what was their real motivation?

1. Distract from the earnings call/financial numbers?
2. Frighten some Linux using company into ponying up money?
3. Maintain inflated stock price with "copyright/DMCA"
4. Something else that I am missing?

There has to be an alternative motivation other than what is at face-value (the
stated claims themselves). I just can't home in on what it is.

In matters of style, swim with the current, in matters of principle, stand like
a rock.
--Thomas Jefferson

[ Reply to This | # ]

OT: Happy Birthday Linus Torvalds
Authored by: Bill The Cat on Sunday, December 28 2003 @ 10:54 PM EST
"Today (December 28, 2003) is Linus Torvalds' 34th birthday.
So, Happy Birthday Linus and thank you for Linux!!!

Bill Catz -
"The number of UNIX installations has grown to ten, with more
expected." -- UNIX Programmers Manual, 2nd Ed. June, 1972

[ Reply to This | # ]

This has recently come up in Wine development
Authored by: firasha on Sunday, December 28 2003 @ 10:56 PM EST
The Wine developers have already had to look at this, because Microsoft's Unicode sort key table (which, for compatibility, is necessary for Wine to reproduce in some manner) isn't compatible with any Unicode standard. So the question arose of whether this table was copyrightable, and it appears that the answer varies depending upon what country you are in. Australia and New Zealand in particular appear to be problematic. Anyway, it's an interesting thread that shows how this issue can be important for free software projects that aren't currently being sued by SCO, and that there can be international issues to contend with.

The thread is here, and this is apparently the relevant case in Australia [Desktop Marketing Systems Pty Ltd v Telstra Corporation Limited [2002] FCAFC 112 (15 May 2002)].

[ Reply to This | # ]

What Can't You Copyright?
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, December 28 2003 @ 11:03 PM EST
As a police detective friend of mine once told me, "See, criminals are
almost always stupid." The reason is this: a criminal facing a police
investigation has to lie. Liars have to maintain two separate versions of
reality: the one their lies create and the one inhabited by the rest of us.

Lies can be detected by one of two kinds of inconsistency: internal or external.
A lie passes for the truth if it is internally consistent and consistent with
all external facts. Liars have the arrogance to believe that they can keep the
internal consistency and keep ahead of all external facts.

A liar is forced to waste tremendous mental energy validating and recalibrating
the consistency of his version of reality. He'll be discovered if he makes
statements that contradict each other or if he makes statements that contradict
known facts, either on their face or after logical analysis.

Having to waste brain cycles on reality modification is why criminals seem

SCOG is not stupid; they just waste a lot of effort trying to shape reality.
The Dec 19 letter is just the sort of thing that happens when you believe your
own lies.

[ Reply to This | # ]

What Can't You Copyright?
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, December 28 2003 @ 11:07 PM EST
Telephone listings may not be protectable by copyright, but they are protected
by other provisions of the law, or by regulatory constraints. I don't know
much about the legal basis of these protections.

The telephone service provider, such as Verizon or SBC, owns the listing for
each telephone customer. Each customer is entitled to a free appearance in the
local directory, and sometimes in more than one directory, when the territories
of those directories overlap. The scoping of these directories is governed by
the Public Service Commision of each state.

Another publisher -- whether it be another telephone company or an independent
directory publisher such as Feist -- can publish the listing as well, but only
with the permission of the listing owner, and generally for a per-listing fee as
set by the FCC. There is a constant traffic in listings among providers and
publishers. I know because I maintain some of the software that manages this

There are complicated rules governing this traffic depending, among other
things, on what kind of provider owns the listing: an incumbent exchange
carrier, a facility-based
CLEC (Competitive Local Exchange Carrier), a UNE-P (Unbundled Network Element
Platform) CLEC, or a service reseller. It also matters whether the listing is a
free listing or a paid-for additional listing. Another factor is whether the
publisher is publishing a white pages directory or some other product such as a
customer list for telemarketers.

In short, notwithstanding the Feist decision cited above, a directory publisher
can't just take somebody else's telephone directory and copy the information
into his own publication. Telephone listings are tightly regulated in complex
ways. They may not fit into the usual IP categories of copyrights, trademarks,
trade secrets, or patents, but in practice they are treated in some sense as

Scott McKellar

[ Reply to This | # ]

The Laws they be different over 'ere
Authored by: stevem on Monday, December 29 2003 @ 01:08 AM EST
Interestingly a similar case to the "Feist" case was concluded recently here in Australia.

Known as "Telstra Corporation Limited v Desktop Marketing Systems Pty Ltd" it was heard in 2001, or so I understand.

The New South Wales Society for Computers & Law (NSW SCL) had this to say about the case: /journal/45/Stammer.html

In essence Telstra won, and the Australian telephone directories ARE copyrighted. Such that every single page that I quickly scanned thru of our local pages has a "(c) Telstra 2003" down the bottom right.

An appeal was lodged by Desktop Marketing Systems, and was denied.

The judgement is here:

The original Court declaration is here:

A transcript of the (first) appeal is here:
http:/ /

I'm eductatedly guessing here, but I understand that Desktop Marketing then lodged an appeal against the Full Court (3 judges vs 1 in the earlier stuff). They lost this as well.
The Full Court appeal is here:

aside: I'm beginning to see why PJ so enjoys being a para-legal. :-)

There were some interesting comments made in the NSW SCL article:
How international treaties effect Australian law. That the UK has come up with it's own laws about the protection of databases. And, IMHO most tellingly, that the Court did review how similar cases are handled elsewhere around the international arena.
The implications at the end of the article are also quite interesting - unsure of the relevance to SCO....

- SteveM

[ Reply to This | # ]

What Can't You Copyright?
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, December 29 2003 @ 08:02 AM EST
"Ideas, procedures, methods, systems, processes, concepts, principles, discoveries, or devices, as distinguished from a description, explanation, or illustration"
I bet SCO doesn't like to hear this at all :)

[ Reply to This | # ]

What Can't You Copyright? PATENTS COVER
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, December 29 2003 @ 10:03 AM EST
Actually the PTO has changed the way it operates after a landmark ruling in
1998. YOU CAN PATENT AN IDEA! You don't even have to have a working model...
This is where all of the current patents are coming from... Most patents like
the one MS just coughed up 60million for net meeting are not fully fleshed out.
"a system and method for ....." This is bad unlike days of past you
phyical objects that you could hold in you hand and see exactly what it is,
change it slighly and go get your own patent. With the new Idea's and Business
Methods patents you can't do that. First there is no phyical object it could
simply be a way of doing things, for example, a telecom company got patent for
blowing fibercable down a pipe for installation. Pretty good idea that anyone
could have though of, but because they have a patent on it you better not get
caught using there technique. What a joke that PTO has become. Keep giving them
out like that and they will become worthless... MS just got sue for NETMEETING
and the whiteboard concept. They may just pay out the 60 million. But the bottom
line is MS is building their patent portfolio to the tune of almost 8000 new
patents filed, some three thousand already granted. Wait til the tides turn
agaist all of these companies going after MS. Pretty soon there will no
competion left. And as far as open source is concerned WE WILL BE LEFT BEHIND OR
WILL BE PAYING TO USE THE TECHNOLOGY. SCO is bad but our worst enemy is the PTO

[ Reply to This | # ]

I'm Curious
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, December 29 2003 @ 10:15 AM EST
Let's say someone had a copyrighted work, say, an electronic compilation of
ancient Greek texts. They have a searching tool, and have grammatically parsed
the texts. However, the texts, being ancient, are out of copyright.

Therefore, do I have a right to copy and redistribute the underlying texts of
the compilation, even if they are directly copied from the compilation CD?

I understand that whatever I get is not official legal advice.

[ Reply to This | # ]

  • The texts should be ok, - Authored by: Jadeclaw on Monday, December 29 2003 @ 10:45 AM EST
  • I'm Curious - Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, December 29 2003 @ 11:26 AM EST
    • I'm Curious - Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, December 29 2003 @ 11:33 AM EST
      • I'm Curious - Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, December 29 2003 @ 10:43 PM EST
  • I'm Curious - Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, December 29 2003 @ 12:14 PM EST
    • I can verify that - Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, December 30 2003 @ 04:13 AM EST
    • I'm Curious - Authored by: Wol on Tuesday, December 30 2003 @ 04:37 AM EST
  • I'm Curious - Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, December 29 2003 @ 04:32 PM EST
    • I'm Curious - Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, December 29 2003 @ 05:03 PM EST
What Does "SCO IP" Mean?
Authored by: smtnet1 on Monday, December 29 2003 @ 10:42 AM EST
SCO keep talking about infringements of "SCO IP", and "SCO
IP" in Linux. What is SCO IP?

1. AT&T UNIX has no trade secrets, it has been open to the public for years,
and most of it (BSD style) open sourced
2. The Copyrights to AT&T UNIX are with Novell, or at least in dispute, and
SCO have not filed any copyright infringement claims
3. SCO have no patents in UNIX as far as I know, and have made no patent
infringement claims
4. The UNIX trademark is owned by the Open Group
5. Linux is open source and SCO have distributed Linux and the Kernel source for
years, so there cannot be anything in their that could be concidered as a
"trade secret".

I know that I should really ask SCO what "SCO IP" means, but I
suspect they dont want to limt the possibilities if they ever stumble across a

[ Reply to This | # ]

OT: Must read Yahoo post
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, December 29 2003 @ 10:55 AM EST
http://finance.messages.yaho 64&mid=76202

Thoughts, opinions, comments? PJ? Other Groklaw brains?

[ Reply to This | # ]

`forbids the use of the copyright to secure an exclusive right or limited monopoly not granted..
Authored by: ralatalo on Monday, December 29 2003 @ 10:55 AM EST

The following caught my eye...
Starting on Page 16. DSC Communications Corp. v. DGI Technologies, Inc., 898 F. Supp. 1183 (N.D. Tex. 1995), aff'd, 81 F.3d 597 (5th Cir. 1996).
Bottom of Page 17 over to Page 18:

The defense of copyright misuse `forbids the use of the copyright to secure an exclusive right or limited monopoly not granted by the Copyright Office,'

Unless I am miss reading this.... SCO would be shutdown pretty quickly as they are attempting to use Copyrights (or anything else they can think of) to secure an exclusive right and a monopoly on ..... and the world at large.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Microsoft vs Lindows
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, December 29 2003 @ 11:44 AM EST
Wouldn't this debunk microsoft's case and injunction against Lindows.

It seems to me that microsoft was alledging that they could not use Lindows
because it infringed on the Windows name.

[ Reply to This | # ]

So, does that mean
Authored by: mickeym on Monday, December 29 2003 @ 12:00 PM EST
that you can claim one protection, say trade secret, until it's no longer in
your benefit? Then, you can claim copyright from there?

Up until then, someone could have independently produced it?

Seems like one should have to pick a protection and stick with it.

[ Reply to This | # ]

New twist to the story?
Authored by: pfusco on Monday, December 29 2003 @ 12:57 PM EST
A new article in Newsforge has some interesting reading. tid=82&tid=85&tid=94

It is a interview with Kirk McKusick, a man whi has intimate knowledge of the Berkley - AT&T.. who writes...

Linus Torvolds says that he typed in these files from scratch and I believe that he did. Unfortunately that does not get him out of the ABI argument, because, by necessity, he had to use the same names and values. Thus, I am guessing that Linux can distribute these files, but only with the above notice. It is not clear to me whether it would be permissible to also add the GPL to the above set of notices.


only the soul matters in the end

[ Reply to This | # ]

There is also the copyright misuse doctrine
Authored by: sela on Monday, December 29 2003 @ 06:53 PM EST
(IANAL etc.)

Even if such header files where miracuously been found copyrightable, one
additional affirmative defence people fail to mention is the copyright misuse
in Lasercomb Am., Inc. v. Reynolds, the court decided you cannot use copyright
to control competition in area outside the copyright.


It seems like SCO is attempting to use copyright to control the POSIX standard,
in this case. Of course, this is just one out of dozens of reasons why SCO's
claims are senseless and would never hold in court.

[ Reply to This | # ]

  • Good point! - Authored by: babazaroni on Monday, December 29 2003 @ 09:55 PM EST
    • Good point! - Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, December 29 2003 @ 10:47 PM EST
The Right to GPL
Authored by: swengr on Monday, December 29 2003 @ 09:13 PM EST

Sorry if this topic has already been beaten to death, but...

SCO (McBride et al) has claimed that the GPL violates the law because it explicitly allows the making of copies and derivatives.

Central to SCO's claim, was that copyright law limits the number of copies it is legal for the copyright owner to authorise.

However, according to the documentation at, emphasis mine:

Regarding Fair Use,

One of the rights accorded to the owner of copyright is the right to reproduce or to authorize others to reproduce the work in copies or phonorecords.

And, in Section 106, Exclusive rights in copyrighted works

Subject to sections 107 through 122, the owner of copyright under this title has the exclusive rights to do and to authorize any of the following:

The rights are, 1) reproduction, 2) to make derivitives, 3) to distribute copies, and 4, 5, and 6) to perform.

IANAL but it's sure fun to watch the drama unfold!

[ Reply to This | # ]

  • Good find - Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, December 29 2003 @ 09:34 PM EST
  • The Right to GPL - Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, December 29 2003 @ 11:49 PM EST
How much of UNIX / Linux is Copyright?
Authored by: jm493 on Tuesday, December 30 2003 @ 01:18 AM EST
SYSVR4 and Linux kernels are probably copyrightable as "collections", i.e. there is originality in the way that certain files with particular contents are collected together to make a whole.

But an operating system distribution is not a homogoneous whole (like say a novel). It is made up of many files -- some with different types of content than others. Some files may have come from different sources, some may have been released in defferent circumstances under different terms.

SYSV and Linux both contain files that are "lists or tables taken from public documents", e.g. constants in some header files.

SYSV and Linux both contain files that derived from BSD. The modifications to these BSD sources may or may not be sufficient for copyright status.

Ancient UNIX sources have been released under a BSD-like license. How does this effect modified or un-modified versions of these files in later releases of SYSV?

[ Reply to This | # ]

US Govt, ATT and SysV: anyone know the real story?
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, December 30 2003 @ 03:57 AM EST
Regarding whether SCO could claim an "ABI" (like a particular
arrangement of error codes etc.):

I have sometimes seen various histories of Unix allude to a situation back in
80's where AT&T who then owned Unix wanted to sell System V to U.S.
governement. Uncle Sam (probably competitors pointed this to him) initially said
No, it is a proprietary solution, canot be accepted because of some sourcing or
competitive tendering rules (quaint, I don't think they would care today).
AT&T then declared that the SVID API is public, anyone can implement it. And
U.S. then bought it.

I think getting the real story on this, with proper references, would be highly
relevant to SCO:s claims to Linux ABI. If the previous owner of Unix (in fact,
the very company that originally developed it) declared to the U.S. governement
that anyone can implement a System V compatible system, I don't think SCO can
take it back. This would be in addition to numerous other reasons why SCO's
claims are probably invalid.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Thanks to the software pioneers ...
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, December 30 2003 @ 05:20 PM EST
Hoare, Dijkstra & Knuth for not putting their algorithms
and code under copyright or software patents. The world of
computers as we know today would certainly be non-existing!

We owe you a lot, guys!

[ Reply to This | # ]

SCO distributes errno.h via glibc SRPMs
Authored by: ldiamand on Sunday, January 04 2004 @ 04:57 AM EST
I've just noticed that SCO are still (as of 3rd January 2004) distributing the
source code for glibc2.2.4 via Anonymous ftp access gets you to:

If you grab the srpm for glibc (glibc-2.2.4-26.src.rpm) then you can then get
various errno.h files that contain things like:

# define ENOSYS 3
# define EINVAL 4
# define ESPIPE 5
# define EBADF 6
# define ENOMEM 7
# define EACCES 8
(from glibc-2.2.4/sysdeps/standalone/arm/bits/errno.h).

There are 24 such files, and they appear to define most of the ABI that is
claimed as "copyrighted" by SCO. However, these files are
distributed under the terms of the LGPL, by SCO themselves.

I have only checked a couple of values, but they appear to be identical to those
distributed in linux. I haven't checked coverage.

This would seem to mean that SCO is granting anyone the right to use these errno
name-number pairings under the terms of the LGPL.

[ Reply to This | # ]

What Can't You Copyright?
Authored by: lilo on Thursday, February 05 2004 @ 09:38 AM EST

Isn't some new law in the pipe in Congress to somehow make compilations copyrightable? I can't recall the reference but it sounded like a very bad idea, and one that had the typically lobbying push behind it

I'd appreciate it if someone could point me to a reference. Heck, I'd appreciate it if I knew somebody was doing some serious, serious work to keep this from happening. :)

[ Reply to This | # ]

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