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Ask Slashdot: A GPL-like Copyright Tagline for Text? 219

murrayc asks: "I need a short GPL-like copyright message to put on the end of my online articles. I'm no lawyer so I don't know what would be valid. I recently discovered that a commercial site had ripped-off one of my web pages word for word. Compare my article with their copy. They removed any mention of me or my web site and put their copyright on the end of it. When I complained they added my name to the top of the article, but they still have their copyright notice on it, saying that people have to ask their permission before copying it. I don't want to prevent anyone from copying my articles, but I want to retain control over them. No, the articles themselves won't be of much interest to Slashdotters." It was only a matter of time until the digital version of the plagarism spectre reared it's ugly head. What's one to do if they want to protect their content, yet still make it available to all?
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Ask Slashdot: A GPL-like Copyright Tagline for Text?

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  • Actually, you own the copyright, whether you put notice on the article or not. You should INSIST that they put your copyright notice on your article, and add "Used by Permission". If they refuse, ask them to remove your article from their site. If you have trouble, hire a lawyer to send them a "bark letter", wait a while, and call them again. A bark letter should cost you $25, $50 at most.

    Disclaimer: IANAL
  • by Anonymous Coward
    RMS and ESR worked on this license which is specific for text. It is the textual equivalent of the GPL.
  • I thought Slashdotters didn't believe in intellectual property rights.
  • What kind of a capitalist corporation thinks it can steal from the righteous owner and creator of a document, and then slap their own copyright on top of the guy's original work? Reading the article gives me the impression (as an average, no-computer-knowledge net citizen) that this guy works for their company. Obviously, this isn't the case, but they do a damn good job of making it look that way.
  • The Free Software Foundation and Slashdotters come to mind. Go reread comments in response to the article where UCB dropped the advertising clause.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    It is a common misperception that you still have to submit written material to the Copyright Office in order for it to be copyrighted. This used to be true, but not anymore. Now, any original work is automatically considered to be copyrighted unless the author specifically places it in the public domain. By posting your work without permission, they are violating your copyright, and you are within your legal rights to sue the SOBs. Threaten them with legal action and see what happens.

  • With a GPL like license, it would be "sticky" and apply to derived works of your article as well, right? But how is that defined for writing: that it's OK for someone to cut a paragraph here or there from your article as long as they allow people to do the same from their's?

    Would an article be derived work if you are referenced as a source (I guess not, since IP doesn't apply to ideas)? What about if you were quoted?

    I agree with you that something like this should be in place, I have also seen things I have written popping up elsewhere (though not as bad your example). Maybe you should check the with the IDG people who are working on the "Open Book" on Linux??

    /. is like a steer's horns, a point here, a point there and a lot of bull in between.

  • Read the question again: he does want people to be able to copy his works, but he does not want them slapping their own, restricted, copyrights onto them.

    This is not supporting intellectual property (un-)rights, but trying to circumvent the problems they are causing.

    /. is like a steer's horns, a point here, a point there and a lot of bull in between.
  • But see, difference: I said "as an average no-computer-knowledge net citizen"; in reality, I like to delude myself into thinking that I know something more about computers than the average joe. Viva Linux!

  • by VanL ( 7521 ) on Saturday September 04, 1999 @06:40AM (#1704378)

    A friend of mine is working on this very thing, called the OpenContent [] License. Their FAQ:
    1. Why do we need the OPL?

    Computer software can already be made free for public consumption and improvement by distribution under one of several Free Software licenses as mentioned above. If you're developing executable code with instructional potential, please consider licensing it as "Free Software" so that it can both be a part of the Bazaar development cycle and freely accessible to everyone. Other Content (Learning Objects) such as graphics, images, sound bytes, video clips, models, lecture notes, tutorials, HOW-TO's and anything else that can be "referenced during technology supported learning" can not be released under these licenses because they are written specifically for computer software. The OpenContent License has been created to provide instructional designers and content specialists the same benefits, protections and assurances programmers gain from Free Software licenses. The OPL (pronounced "opal") is always open for comment. This version draws inspiration (and some verbiage) from the GPL and Debian's Social Contract.

    2. Where did you get the idea that people would be willing to give their work away?
    (I'll do my best to refrain from restating the question as "What kind of idiot would actually consider sharing? What kind of idiot would actually expect anyone else to share in return?") If you can honestly ask this question, it seems clear that you have never used the internet. What do people do on the internet more than look for information and find it? and find it available for free? Have you never looked anything up online? You may want to review the project's purpose. Although this idea may seem crazy to those entrenched in academia or higher education (or those who are just greedy), the idea of working hard and freely sharing the valuable results has been in practice for a long time, and is the essence of the Internet ethic (if you don't subscribe to these ideals, maybe you should go on somewhere else.) Richard M. Stallman played a key role early on in the Free Software movement by writing out and evangelizing the idea. He has included Some Easily Rebutted Objections to GNU's Goals in the GNU Manifesto. He answers questions like 'why should software be free?', 'why would anyone do all that work for free?', "won't programmers starve?', and others there. The transfer from the computer programming paradigm to that of education should be easy enough. For a better understanding of the principles underlying OpenContent's organization please read around the Free Software Foundation and Eric S. Raymond's

    3. How do I get involved?
    1. read the OPL []
    2. agree with its tenets or make suggestions
    3. create Content
    4. make it freely available under the OPL
    5. spread the word

  • Nah, if you knew something, you'd be using software that makes computing challenging, DOS and VMS come to mind. :)
  • Although you could use a license, this company has no right to republish your work even though you have not placed one on your work. When you don't otherwise license it, it's automaticaly copyrighted by you with all rights reserved. Find out who accepts process for their corporation, or write their president giving the URL and stating that your copyrighted material is being infringed. If they don't respond, take them to court. They can be found liable to pay you a royalty fee for their use of the work so far.

    You are entirely in the right here, the company is in infringement. Don't let them waffle and don't be pushed around.


    Bruce Perens

  • by Anonymous Coward
    I think a lot of people here would benefit from checking out the following URL. It debunks a lot of misconceptions most people have about copyrights (losing it if it's not defended, if you dont put a notice then it's not copyrighted, etc) -Justin
  • A line like this should do the job:

    (C) 1999 John Smith. Contact for permission to reproduce this article under an open source license.

    Okay, it doesn't quite fit on one line, unless your browser is real wide. But then when someone contacts you, you can hit them with your choice of license. And the copyright notice will make direct ripoffs like happened to the Filemaker article illegal. You could leave out the part about "under an open source license" if you wanted it to be shorter, but that might discourage people who didn't realize how liberal a license you were offering. People who don't know what an "open source license" is won't be deterred.

    Disclaimer: I Am Not A Lawyer. But I am suing someone for copyright violation, so I Am A Person Who Hangs Out With Lawyers.


  • by scrytch ( 9198 ) <> on Saturday September 04, 1999 @06:50AM (#1704385)
    Actually, unlike trademarks, you cannot lose a copyright by failing to defend it. There is, however, probably a statute of limitations on the actual offense, which is of course renewed each time it's exploited. Simply send them a cease and desist letter and tell them you hope that legal action will not be required. If that doesn't work, give 'em a lotta shit for PR if they're a company. Unless there's actual monetary damage, there's not any point in getting a lawyer though.

  • the OPL is a direct descendant of the GPL, so i suppose the rather ambitious self-abbreviation is forgiveable. it has the same enforcement of hereditary freedom, the same indemnifications and the same charge-if-you must clause.

    you don't have to provide source, though. []

  • by Surak ( 18578 ) <surak&mailblocks,com> on Saturday September 04, 1999 @06:55AM (#1704387) Homepage Journal
    While I am not a lawyer, I play one on the Net :-)

    First of all, you have a lawsuit on your hands. You own any content you publish, regardless of form, as long as the work is original and the work is only yours: it doesn't include a substantial amount of work from someone else and you did not do it as a work for hire (meaning, you did not write the thing for an employer). The work does NOT have to have a copyright notice on it if it was written in any of the countries that have signed the Berne convention. (Which means most western countries.)

    Note that you only have lawsuit if you can substantially *prove* that the work is yours and and that you published it *before* they did. One lawyer told me that the only way you can do this is by mailing the thing to yourself via registered mail: it will have a postmark on it proving the date of publication. OTOH, another lawyer told me that the only thing that this accomplishes is the wasting of the stamp and needless tying up of the postal system. I'm if you had 20 different lawyers on the subject, you would get 20 different opinions.

    I don't think a whole license would actually be necessary for content. I think just a notice like:

    Copyright (C) 1999 Rob A. Shinn
    This text may be redistributed in unmodified form only, as long as this notice remains intact.

    would suffice. While copyright notices are not necessary, they make it much, much easier for you to win a lawsuit. In fact, in most jurisdictions, it is impossible to win statutory damages without a notice. This means that your lawsuit could probably only win actual provable damages for this particular instance.

    Unless of course you want people to modify and pass it along, akin to GPL. But, IMHO, this is a mistake: modified content can hurt the reputation of the original author far more easily than can modified, redistributed source code can.

    Once again, disclaimer:

    I am NOT a laywer. It is up to you to seek the counsel of a qualified, competent attorney if you indeed desire a truly useful opinion.

    My sources for information include the Software Developer's Complete Legal Companion, by Thorne D. Harris III. This is an excellent work and you should consider getting it if you are interested in copyright law....

  • Ever heard of OpenContent? They have a couple of licenses you could use. They're like the GPL, but only applicable to non-code works, like text. See and check out the OpenContent License and the Open Publication License.
  • The GPL or a GPL-like license is probably not appropriate for articles. The GPL is designed for software and particularly the modification of source code. Most articles, books, etc., are not intended to be further modified without the author's direct approval.

    However, you can still make the article "Free". The BSD license would work well if you weren't concerned that some publisher could add further material to it and sell it. Giving it a tagline that prohibits the selling of your work would make it non-free unless you were very, very careful in your wording.

    IMHO, just have the tagline announce the copyright and state that it can be freely copied and distributed as long as the notice is kept intact. See the bottom of this reply for an example :-)

    This post Copyright 1999 by David Johnson. Permission to freely copy and distribute this post is granted provided that this notice is retained.
  • The idea is that the commercial site has usurped ownership/copyright of the words. Hey, dude, I say you document actions (when you put up your article, when you saw theirs, when you contacted them, their response, names if possible, everything you can think of). Send one more notice thorough snail mail, with a phone call follow up, insisting that they remove any indication that they own copyright. If refused, then follow the lawyer/bark letter advice.

    One thing that I'm learning from the Apple lawsuits (both by and against them): you have to take legal action or you effectively lose ownership. Sucks, but that's the way the court sees it and the way you will have to treat it if you want help from the legal system.

  • Take a look at the page now, top-right corner of the text and you will see it. Ha, thats funny...
  • I would suggest providing technical articles and documentation under the OpenContent License []. As for editorials and opinions, where modification isn't warranted, the tagline from the Free Software Foundation []'s Web site may be appropriate:

    "Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium, provided this notice is preserved."

    Of course, every need is different. Review the OPL carefully before using it, because its intentions are not applicable to every form of content out there.
  • The part about this that is totally unethical is that they are rotating banner ads over your article, essentially deriving income from your work. If you had an agreement with them whereby they compensated you for your work and posted it on their site that would be acceptable. They would be reselling it then. But that has not happened, they ripped you off, without even asking.

    By them posting thier copyright, they are purporting that they "own" the work as others would need thier permission to copy it.

    This is time to take action. Legal action. You not only deserve the right that they post your copyright, since you own the work, but you should also demand compensation, since they are using your intellectual property to derive income through the ad rotation.

  • No, original works are automatically copyrighted under international law as long as it is written in a country that has signed the Berne convention. This includes the United States. In terms of the legal system, the Berne convention is relatively new: it was signed in 1991 by the U.S. and (I think) all of the G7 countries and probably some others.

  • You automatically own the copyright of the article, since you wrote it. You didn't even have have had an copyright notice on it. Because of that, noone - in the whole world, not only the US - may publish that article (in whole or parts larger than a qoutation required for an article written by them) without your permission.

    Even though you want people to spread opinions or thoughts in the article, you can still sue THEM for copyright intrusion (unless you by now have given them permission to re-publish the article).

    And, event if you state that you really want people to re-distribute the article, my personal opinion is that you ought to sue them. Just to maintain the point that you want to know who and where the article is re-printed.

    Disclaimer: I'm NOT a lawyer. Even thought I've taken a university course in patent and other immaterial rights in Sweden, I might be wrong.

  • by Arandir ( 19206 ) on Saturday September 04, 1999 @07:15AM (#1704400) Homepage Journal
    Some /.'s believe in IP and some don't. Some don't even realize that copyrights are IP. Eliminating intellectual property altogether would invalidate the GPL, a nice little paradox :-)

    However, the post assumes that the author is keenly interested in his IP rights. Otherwise he would not have been concerned with someone else using his work "unfairly". After all, if it's not property, it can't be stolen. If you feel it's been stolen, then you must agree that it's property!

    A post can be put under the public domain and then no one would ever be able to own it for themselves. However, they could change the wording a bit and then claim it. If you don't believe that information should be owned, then put your stuff in the public domain, otherwise you are inconsistant. But if you don't believe in IP, but continue to use the GPL, understand that many people will see you as inconsistant and maybe even hypocritical.
  • This is what we use on; "Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium, provided this notice is preserved."

    If you wish to allow people to modify the page (most of the time, this isn't needed), you might want to consider the licensing terms that apply to most GNU manuals. I don't have it at hand now, but you can probably dig it up yourself.

  • Okay, from other postings it seems like I'm wrong about this -- Nowadays, almost all content is automatically copyrighted. From reading some other sites, it is still recommended to provide the copyright notice since it gives you a better case if you do decide to take it to the courts.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I've seen the OPL [] and it seemed incomplete or somehow too simplistic; so, I created my own rendition of the GPL that I call the Oasis Public License [] (because that's the name of the website [] for which I originally intended to use it). It can be shortened to OPL but I realize that that causes an acronym collision. :)

    I wanted to be able to retain control of documents and yet allow people to copy and redistribute them similar in spirit to what the GPL accomplishes for software. The Oasis Public License [] is pretty much a wholesale conversion of the GPL to apply to documents with a few additions from other public licenses.

  • So what? You shouldn't have to ask people to not start murdering, robbing houses, diverting tax funds into shady government projects, or any of the other crappy things that people can do. But this is the real world, and it's time to wake up and smell the bullshit. And you shouldn't have to get a lawyer to tell people to clean up their bullshit, but you often do. Sucks, but it's part of life.
  • IANAL but my mother and GF are...

    Under English law you automatically own the copyright to any original work - you do not even need to put a copyright line in any original works - although it does not hurt.

    You should contact a solicitor immediately. They will charge you about 25 quid for a Cease and Desist letter. You should also file for a hearing in the High Court. As the website that has infringed your copyright is based in the US they will likely not wish to invoke the cost of instructing solicitors in England and will back down. If they do not answer the case you will definitely get Default Judgement in your favour. You are then free to pursue damages (likely fairly low) and court costs (if you get default judgement this is likely to be very low too.) Damages will be easy to obtain without messing around international claims as McLane Novea New Media very likely have some exposure within the EU.

    Contact a solicitor ASAP - you won't make any money, but you will protect your copyright - and protect yourself from any copyright infringement claims by McLane - which would be pursued in US courts and likely be a LOT nastier...


  • Two things...

    First, you own the copyright to the article, whether or not you note such. They are clearly in violation of the US Copyright law, so the bark letters that have been mentioned should work fine. Unfortunately, before you can actually sue for copyright infringement, you must register the copyright for a nominal fee (~$40 if I remember correctly), and because the copyright was not registered before the actual infringement, you can only collect actual damages (probably none in your case) plus any profits that Filemaker Today made as a result of your article. Had you registered it, you would have also been eligible for up to $100,000 in statutory damages. See The Copyright Website [] for more info on the Copyright law.

    Second, a simple phrase such as:
    "All material on this site is Copyright 1999, Permission is hereby granted for non-commercial reproduction, provided that this notice remain attached. Please email for information on commercial reproduction (including advertiser-sponsored websites)."
    That let's anyone use it as they wish for non-commercial purposes, but if someone wants to put it in their book or whatever, they must get you specific permission first.
  • by K-Man ( 4117 ) on Saturday September 04, 1999 @07:30AM (#1704409)
    A few years back I wrote a smart-ass response to somebody on Usenet, snickered quietly to myself, and then forgot about it. A few months later I saw someone mentioning a funny rant in Wired that sounded suspiciously similar to what I had posted. I went over to a newsstand, paid $4.95, and saw my rant in the letters section, authored by "anonymous". At no time did I recall every giving Wired permission to publish my incoherent ramblings, so I checked around, posted to one of the law newsgroups, and even flamed a few people in alt.wired. The basic facts I established were: I have until something like 75 years after my death to sue them; I don't need a copyright notice; damages are mainly limited to proven commercial value (none, I will freely admit, and I would probably have given them permission *if asked*), and, when you get right down to it, Wired is for ding-dongs. During that time period, Wired was attracting large numbers of zealots who thought that a pink-and-green dead trees publication was somehow revolutionizing the online world, and that things like copyrights, honesty, etc., were obsolete. One guy even seemed to think that Wired was actually an extension of Usenet, and therefore the magazine could freely profit from whatever it could grab there. True, there are some questions as to where Usenet actually ends, since, even more than the web, it's a distributed, multi-copying system, but I'm sure most would agree it stops somewhere short of overpriced, advertisement-laden lifestyle magazines sitting in traditional newsracks. In any case I have something fun to do in my old age, should I ever get the desire to sue them.
  • Perhaps if a few slashdotters visited the comment submission page [] it would have some impact...

    Form Confirmation
    Thank you for submitting the following information:
    MessageType: Complaint
    Subject: (Other)
    SubjectOther: Theft of Content
    Username: Kevin O'Malley
    ContactRequested: ContactRequested
    How much of this content is stolen and re-used without permission?

    "Cyberspace scared me so bad I downloaded in my pants." --- Buddy Jellison

  • by Arandir ( 19206 ) on Saturday September 04, 1999 @07:35AM (#1704411) Homepage Journal
    Quoting or referencing an article is "fair use".

    Now here's some food for the same way, dynamically linking to a library is also considered "fair use" by many people, and if such a case ever makes it to a court, there is a good possibility that it will be determined legal to link to a GPL library! It can be justified as "fair use" since linking to a library is the whole purpose of the library, and in many cases, you aren't even including code at all, only a "#include ".

    The same thing also goes for any proprietary dll's you happen to have laying around. You may not have any rights to distribute the proprietary library, but you can still dynamically link to it and distribute your own stuff.
  • He's in the UK and English copyright law applies. We're talking about violation of Enlgish law here and copyright registration is immaterial (it doesn't exist in the UK). The website, even though it is based in the US, would have a hard case to answer in an English High Court.


  • >I thought Slashdotters didn't believe in intellectual property rights.

    An incorrect assumption. The free software movement is *based* on the *use* of intellectual property rights, and on the belief that most current intellectual property rights are abused to the detriment of the community, and society as a whole.

    Far from being against intellectual property rights, the GPL (and ALL other free software licenses (excluding public domain software)) *require* intellectual property rights. It is intellectual property rights that allow the author of a work to stipulate conditions on the use, modification, and re-distribution of a work. (for example, the advertising clause that, until recently, was required by the BSD license, or the many well known requirements of the GPL)

    Free software isn't about abolishing intellectual property rights. It's about reforming the use of intellectual property rights. Intellectual property rights are supposed to be about benefitting society, and (to a lesser degree) about protecting small authors/inventors/programmers. Unfortunately todays legal/corporate environment has corrupted those laws to benefit deep pocketed mega-corporations, often to the detriment of small authors/inventors/programmers and society as a whole.

  • You would need to define 'remains intact' better.

    Also, if it ends up appearing to apply in an invalid way, then it may be invalidated (i.e. the condition would be 'non-enforceable')

    But IANAL

  • The 1976 Copyright Act provides that all expression is automatically copyrighted from the moment it is fixed in some tangible medium of expression. In other words, you automatically own the rights to all that you write.
  • That is the question

    If anybody owns it, then it is the original author. If anybody is able to own it thenit should be the original author.

    The problem is that they appear to be claiming copyright to it

    Most of the posters believe in I.F. (Intellectual Freedom) -- Where I.P. (Intellectual Property) ideas agree, then we agree with I.P., and where those ideas differe, we are for I.F. and against I.P.

  • > Eliminating intellectual property altogether would invalidate the GPL, a nice little paradox :-)

    It would also remove the need for them.

  • In addition to the "basic facts" in your post, K-Man (which are essentially correct), a court will gladly issue a temporary restraining order and then an injunction in cases of copyright infringement -- especially one as blatant as in Mr. Cumming's case. That means the site removes the article or gets shut down immediately. The TRO can be obtained in a matter of hours. It isn't cheap (the legal fees can be significant), but it's possible to recover your legal costs (probably not attorneys fees but court costs) from the defendant.
  • "Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium, provided this notice is preserved"
  • by redhog ( 15207 )
    First, it doesn't matter if you have a copyright notice or not - you own the copyright of all work done by you. To provide everyone with the ability to distribute your work, but not to restrict the rights of anyone else, there are several licenses. I don't know if GPL is applicable to anything else than source. But if it is (A text-file is it's own sourcecode?), that's a good choice (Mainly because everyone knows what GPL is). Another alternative is OPL ( ; it is designed for non-code documents so it is guaranteed to be usefull for this purpose. A more restricted license to distribute text under may be the license for the Linux documentation. But I havn't read that license that thorough, so I don't know if it's what you want...
  • ...that the link to the copied page at FileMaker no longer works?
  • At the bottom of every FSF page, and most articles written by Stallman is:
    Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium, provided this notice is preserved.
    See [], for example.
  • They still link to it from their homepage, though.
  • since I ripped LinuxCare's bumpersticker

  • I don't think the current directory can do much to them. /. could wreak havoc on them, though.

    However, I don't think slashdotting their form is such a good idea. Remember the story of Cheryl the Unisys secretary.
  • "Copyright Begins With the Author at Creation
    At the time an original work is created in fixed form, copy-right
    is automatically secured. At that moment, all the rights
    in that copyright belong to the author of the work. Those
    rights remain with the author unless the author specifically
    transfers them, in writing, to someone else. Ownership of
    the rights can change, but the author of the work remains
    the same regardless of who subsequently owns the rights."

    Get the entire thing from this PDF [].

    I think the OpenContent License, mentioned above, is probably the best solution to this guy's problem.
  • looks very much like the Java steaming mug to me.
    Maybe Sun's lawyers would like to sue them too...
  • I would assume that it'd only be fair use if you only used a function or two of the library. Otherwise, you'd be using such a large portion of the library that it'd bbe equivalent to quoting entire chapters of a book.

  • Some guy did this to my whole web site - he just ripped the whole site along with the links and everything and then changed the names - thats it ! This was at a time my web site was getting about 25 hits a day (which is a lot for a personal home page).

    Here is my original web site [] and the copy [] that he made. I have changed my site a lot since then (he did this a year ago). He refuses to respond to any emails I send him.

  • If copyrights were eliminated then I could still "freely" close my source code. The purpose of the GPL is to keep the source code out in the open where people can use it. Without the copyright on the GPL then anyone can make it "nonfree".

    In a world without copyrights I can take your source code, modify it, distribute it binary-only (with heavy copy protection), sell it, etc. Bill Gates can take GNU software and incorporate it into Windows (with heavy copy protection).

    The only way around it would be to make the GPL and other former Free Software licenses into actual contracts. And forcing someone to sign a contract before they can use software is hardly up the FSF's alley.
  • Remember, it could have been someone else who sent Wired your rant. Someone who adored your post and felt as though it should get more attention could have easily sent Wired a copy.
  • a General Ridicule Liscense. if you feel you have had your words stolen, send the case to a centralized website. there your grievance will be looked into. if the site operators feel you have been plagiarized, they will make a posting with the a link to the original work, the copy and the contact info of the offending person.

    it could be a subset of /.

    then we /. them until they give in.. or something to that effect.

  • Actually, my understanding is that you must use EITHER the word "copyright" or a little "c" with a complete circle around it (©), to indicate that your tagline is a copyright notification. (HTML: &copy;). A "C" with parenthesis around it does not indicate "copyright".


  • I visited the ripoff page and got a "Page Not Found" error. Apparently they realized the error of their ripoff ways.

    In general, a GPL license would be useless in a case such as this one. You retain copyright to your written works unless you give it away, and that is true whether you explicitly post a copyright notice with your work or not.

    If these ripoff artists chose to ignore your own copyright then they could just as easily have ignored a GPL license. Either way you handled it correctly. I guess that your posting to this site resulted in people emailing the ripoff site with their complaint. I certainly was prepared to do so.

  • It'd be interesting to know how long it took the article to be pulled.
  • Well the rest of the site is still up, so I would guess that they have removed the offending article ...
  • I mailed the site about this (said it was disgusting), and this was mailed back to me:

    I do not have a clue what you are talking about. We never made claims the
    article was ours...Mr. Cumming is aware that it is on our site and he is
    referenced as author with link to his site. Mr. Cumming has also listed
    several plugins with us. Someone out there is a very sick person but
    starting this stuff and obviously trying to start trouble. So go ahead and
    post this where ever this sick post is coming from. Please let us know where
    this thread is! The copyright on our site is a footer which is located on
    all of our pages.

    Donna Ellis

    I don't buy that, since it was Mr. Cummings himself who alerted slashdot, but if you try that page now, FileMaker Today took it down.

    Seems he may have won.

  • I don't get this discussion. It has come up a lot lately also in the debate about the BSD license vs. the GPL.

    If an open license is good, then a completely open license should be even better... no?

    If you believe that the open source model is better than proprietary software then it shouldn't really matter if someone can fork the source tree and close it off with added proprietary stuff, because the main tree would still have the best software as a result of the open source model and peoples general interrest in free software. All the best people work elsewhere remember?

    Most people would still develop for the main branch and the proprietary branches would soon be forced to become folded back into the main tree or they would perrish because of lack of support/interrest.

    I do believe that one of the main reasons for the succes of open source is that it is free beer as well as free speech. Take away either and the interrest would dwindle.

    I honestly don't believe that it makes any difference whether software is released under the GPL or completely without copyright.You wouldn't be able to close of the source of a program make some changes and then charge money for it when there is a very similar product allready available and open source'd.

    Imagine for one moment in a parallel universe, where Linux had been developed without copyright, the absurd notion that Microsoft would fork the entire Linux codetree and make some proprietary changes and then try to sell it. doh. There would shurely be a lot of buyers ... not!

    The license doesn't matter much.

    A good party is made from free speech, free beer, and the coolest people. maxm

  • You know, f I were a less ethical person [mailto], I'd recommend that we use the power of the /. effect to increase the number of banner impressions this site gets, and ergo the settlement that our poster would be entitled to...

    If I were a less ethical person :)

    Adam Schumacher

  • Jesus...thats pretty close to yours. It makes me wonde if individuals have the same recourse that did in regards to the greek bookstore that just recently cahnged thier site.
  • Is the PR department out of the office today? That response sounds unprofessional. And a poor attempt at being silver-tongued.
  • Checking the timestamp on posts. I was still asleep when I supposedly posted the parent...

    "Cyberspace scared me so bad I downloaded in my pants." --- Buddy Jellison

  • As I thought...posted at 6:56pm EDT the server is on west coast time but stamping it eastern daylight time. 4 hour diff...

    "Cyberspace scared me so bad I downloaded in my pants." --- Buddy Jellison

  • I've approached this problem in many ways. First, as other Slashdotters have commented, you don't need any special notice; you own the copyright regardless, and that means you can ask anybody at any time to remove the copy from their website.

    Most people put a copyright notice on their work that also states that any copy must contain the copyright notice. This what I do on my documents (example: http:// ion.html#copyright []).

    I go futher and track my document. I put a 1-bit GIF file embedded in my document that links back to my server. This tracks people who simply mirror the document through the Referer field.

    Then, I put interesting spelling and wording in the document. This allows me to track the document via AltaVista and other search engines.

    The philosophical standpoint here is that any document you create is the start of a meme. I use these techniques to shepard my meme through the web. From this perspective, the Copyright notice is important for works that you want to be essentially in the public domain: it still gives you control over the basic process.

  • Information wants to be free and anything decent that you put up is fair game to be ripped off. I hope you have a lot of bandwidth so my fellow Slashdotters and I can easily mirror your site and store it on our servers along with all our traded MP3s, bootlegged movies, and k-rad 0-day w4r3z. 3y3 0wn j00 4nD a11 y3R 1Nf0rMa5huN!


  • The purpose of GPL is to destroy the software industry.

    It is also important to note that I like the idea of copyrights (where is my incentive to create unless I can profit from it, the enjoyment of the act of creation will not lead me to create something great in proportion unless I should be fairly compensated for my time). Additionally, I beleive the GPL will ruin an industry I intend to make my livelyhood from.

    Therefor, my original post was to make fun of Slashdot readers.
  • This may or may not be true, but I remember reading it in a legal book about copyrights:

    If you live in a country that supports the Berne convention, you have a copyright to any materials you ever write. Canada is part of the Berne Convention; The United States is not.

    In order to have your works copyrighted in the United States, you have to put the following:

    Copyright © 1999 The Lord DebtAngel (use your real name of course).

    Otherwise, you have no copyright to the information. You probably still have the right to sue, because in North America you can sue for anything. And since you posted to /. , I should think a formal apology is forthcoming (or the site will be /.'d to death).

    --- A person is smart. People are stupid. ---
  • I already posted this to another thread, but I think it bears repeating (especially if it's true; I only read it in a legal text):

    If the original poster is an American, and didn't throw a © notice on it, it's not copyrighted! Mind you, I don't think the plagiarist can turn around and claim © without the original person's permission. This wil certainly make an excellent precedent case :).

    This post © 1999 The Lord DebtAngel. Permission is given to quote from this post, so long as the respondent gives The Lord DebtAngel reasonable acknowledgement, and does not claim copyright to said post.

    --- A person is smart. People are dumb. ---

  • > In a world without copyrights I can take your source code, modify it, distribute it binary-only (with heavy copy protection), sell it, etc. Bill Gates can take GNU software and incorporate it into Windows (with heavy copy protection).

    Except that in a world without copyrights there would be no Bill Gates-s...

    /. is like a steer's horns, a point here, a point there and a lot of bull in between.
  • Just thought I'd reply to help clear up some stuff I've already said:

    1. The Berne convention is not that new. All kinds of countries (70 some-odd, including Canada) were on board in 1985, when the book I was referencing from in my previous posts was published.

    2. I had not realized that the US had signed on.

    3. Throwing on a © is always a good idea. If nothing else, it makes your work look a lot more professional, and makes lawsuits a hell of a lot easier to win (lawyers can be such a pain at times).

    --- A person is smart. People are dumb. ---
  • I can't quote it exactly, but sometime in the mid-eighties the United States passed a law stating that everything affixed in permanent form is automatically copyrighted. Putting the copyright notice makes it a little stronger. To be totally bulletproof, one must register the copyright with the appropiate governing body, of course.
  • Some people are cruisin' for a bruisin'... Your blind steriotyping and unsupported facts make you cruisin' for a moderatin'.

    This is a job for ('duh-duh=duh') Bruce Perens, or someone else well versed in why Open Source is good. This is the defintion of flamebait.

  • Imagine for one moment in a parallel universe, where Linux had been developed without copyright, the absurd notion that Microsoft would fork the entire Linux codetree and make some proprietary changes and then try to sell it. doh. There would shurely be a lot of buyers ... not!

    A parallel universe is not required. You only need to look at the popularity of *BSD vs. Linux. In this universe, BSDI took the BSD code, closed it, marketed it and fiercly guard it.

    BSDI has had some success with this business model, although certainly they are no Microsoft. BSDI has probably benefitted from the Free/Open/NetBSD efforts, but not the other way around. Unfortunately, it's the BSD product itself that has suffered.

    The license doesn't matter much.

    I strongly disagree. The GPL has made sure that noone capitalizes on the work of others without also benefitting those who performed the original work. I feel this is a Good Thing and is is what has motivated so many to work so hard to improve Linux and GCC. If the BSD folks find it's in their best interest to improve GCC, then Linux users benefit. If BSD folks improve their kernel, only BSD users benefit. This means that the Linux/GPL software base accumulates the best from anyone who might work on it. A lot of the best work on BSD has been done in commercial ventures that have closed their improvements off to the community at large. You see, public domain efforts tend to fork into backwaters.

    Ultimately, the GPL snowball effect is the only way to build up a product base to challenge such software behemoths as Microsoft. A similar thing could not happen with BSD. If someone tried to build up a critical mass of BSD (or any similarly licensed) software to challenge Microsoft, Bill Gates could just offer a closed alternative, with all of the benefits of the BSD system, that used the public domain code and attract many of the best BSD resources (not just programmers, but companies like Compaq, Dell, etc.) to support MS/BSD.

    In fact, didn't MS use the BSD TCP/IP code in NT? This universe is starting to look more and more like your parallel universe all the time!

    It's no wonder that GPL & Linux often get confused as an Anything But Microsoft movement. It's really the Anything But Closed Software movement and Microsoft just happens to be the poster child for Closed Software.

    Finally, your contention that

    Most people would still develop for the main branch and the proprietary branches would soon be forced to become folded back into the main tree or they would perrish because of lack of support/interrest.

    is difficult to support. I know of no examples of proprietary code that has been "forced" to be opened up just because those proprietary code are no longer supported. Commercial interests don't free their proprietary works even when it's of no value to them because of the possibility that it may benefit their competitors. Only under the GPL have you seen a great freeing of once-proprietary software (SGI for example) because the commercial interests know that their competitors cannot possibly benefit more they can. In fact, the SGIs (and the like) are banking on the fact that theirs will be the preferred and mature implementation of this code and that they will be in the best position to support it.

  • You could always trademark the library name and function names!!!

    Please not. Proof that, no matter how bad things are, they can always get worse.

  • Open Source is great. I love Open Source. GPL is evil.
  • I looked at the two webpages, seems this guy was born in India as well, I wonder if he copied where he was born from you too? :) Maybe perhaps we should all email him asking why he copied you? :)

    - lakdjfalkdj - cuz all the good nicks were taken :)
  • i believe they are not part of c-net, they just put the c-net news link on their site to try to steal some credibility. run a whois on the two domain names and come up with different registrants. their © message is different then c-net too.

    real sleazy. tragic too... IMNSHO, plagiarism is an empty substitute for real creativity.
  • Only with static linking. With dynamic linking, the person distributing the software that uses the library does not copy the library, so is not restricted by copyright law. The only stuff copied is some metadata about the library and it's symbols - this is certainly fair use.

    Static linking is another thing. Even copying (quoting) might be considered to be not fair use. In a document, quoting provides information which your document already alludes to (or is commentatry). How this applies to static linking is far from obvious - the law does not intend to cover this, there can be no serious contender for precedent unless the law explicitely identifies and categorises software. This is a very contentious issue and I'm just slapping some crap together here, please don't flame me.

    Oh yeah, I'm no lawyer.

    Copyright 1999 Tristan Wibberley
    All rights reserved.

  • Is "shepard" the trackable word?
  • It's my understanding of the copyright law that if you publish without a copyright statement, it becomes public domain. And public domain material cannot be copyrighted once it has been released to the public.
    While it's true that you no longer need to submit the material to the Gov to obtain a copyright, you are still required to place a copyright statement on the material to protect your rights.
  • Please read your copyright laws concerning a copyright statement. Courts have upheld the often seen "Copyright (c) 1999 ..." as a valid copyright since it was shown that the required copyright symbol © could not be affixed to a document written with a typewriter!
  • The purpose of GPL is to destroy the software industry.
    I view it more along the lines of aspiring to transform the industry - and beyond that, society.

    The enjoyment of the act of creation will not lead me to create something great in proportion unless I should be fairly compensated for my time).
    This is understandable. You should certainly be paid for the service you perform of writing software. However, I ask that you please try to discern in your mind that software is not a tangible good and should not be treated as such.

    Additionally, I beleive the GPL will ruin an industry I intend to make my livelyhood from.
    Again, I think I can understand your concern. However, people need programmers to write software whether it is free or propriety. This is where the mechanism of supply and demand legitimately enters the picture, in contrast to the idea of placing artificial restrictions on the software by treating it as a tangible good; once software has been written, it can inherently be shared as much as you want it to be - in other words, its true supply is unlimited. How much would you pay for a bucket of sand at the beach? You should not be willing to pay more than this for software that has already been written. Your time and the specific work you perform at any given time, on the other hand, are truly limited resources and will be in demand in a world with or without proprietary software. Even without this industry, you will be able to pursue your livelihood of choice.

  • But if you don't believe in IP, but continue to use the GPL, understand that many people will see you as inconsistant and maybe even hypocritical.

    I can't speak for everyone who questions Intellectual Property, of course, but here's my take.

    It's my belief that Intellectual Property is the most artificial of all Property rights.

    In the US system of government, Intellectual Property is granted to you by the government in the hope that it will encourage innovation and productivity.

    In the US Constitution, Article I, Section 8 it states

    The Congress shall have power... To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries;

    Here there is not a recognition of a 'natural' property right, but only one insofar as it "promotes the progress of science and the useful arts...". There is also a clause that these rights are "for limited times". After the time limit is up, the right reverts to The People who granted it in the first place.

    It's my belief that the FSF & Linux is demonstrating that, in the realm of software, that if the largest body of Intellectual Property remains in the hands of The People (from which it originates) that the most progress ensues.

    If I were to say that I don't believe in Intellectual Property in some specific context, what I would mean by saying this is that I don't believe that Intellectual Property should be granted to entities (individuals or corporations) for their exclusive use, rather that this Property Right should remain with The People from which it originates.

    I'm not now in favor of abolishing this granting of Intellectual Property rights to entities for their exclusive use. For example, I believe that it does promote "progress" in the arts to grant copyrights. I would, however, be in favor of abolishing all Software Patents and possibly copyrights to software. I'm certain that I would like to see the copyright period greatly reduced for Software Copyrights. The lifetime of the author + 50 years is an absurdly long time in software and does not serve to promote progress.

    If copyrights on software and software patents were eliminated, there would be no need for the GPL. All software would remain in the public domain, even derivative works created by corporations based on other public domain software. This elimination of copyrights and patents on software I might refer to as the "elimination of Intellectual Property rights in regard to software", but what I would really be saying is that it is the "elimination of granting entities Intellectual Property rights for their exclusive use in regard to software".

    I'm not in the least concerned that by not granting these rights to entities that I would be discouraging the creation of new software. It has been demonstrated to my satisfaction that the most progress is made when everyone can build upon software that has been already created.

    Those that would create programs, but not distribute the source code would have to contend with reverse engineering and the extraction from these programs of their essential elements. It would ultimately benefit everyone in such an environment to distribute source code for a nominal distribution charge (just as the GPL provides for), but anyone who didn't would just be placing themselves at a disadvantage to entities that did, or to those who had reverse engineered the source out of their product and distributed it.

    I don't feel there is anything contradictory about supporting GPL and also supporting the abolition of Intellectual Property rights if you define the "abolition of Intellectual Property rights" as I have above.

  • But if you don't believe in IP, but continue to use the GPL, understand that many people will see you as inconsistant and maybe even hypocritical.

    I respectfully disagree, because as you pointed out yourself, someone else can take work that we place in the public domain, modify it a bit, and claim legal ownership. Therefore, it is perfectly consistent of us to use the GPL and simultaneously believe that software and ideas should not be legally ownable. I do not want legal ownership of my own ideas. I do not want want any legal ownership of any ideas to exist in this world. However, it does exist, and the only way to protect the freedom of software I write or ideas I express is to use a tool like the GPL.

  • Exactly. It's the word "copyright" that does it for you... not the construct with the parentheses.
  • Butch Landingin, author of squishdot [], which I am using, did indeed clone the Slashdot look. In the documentation for the software, he says he hopes it will eventually evolve its own look.



  • Lots of people have default footers with copyright notices, but they must be careful that those copyright notices don't get applied to things they don't own - just saying it's the default that appears on every page is no good excuse. Listing the author's own copyright notice at the end of the article would have made sense - by having nothing but the default appear at the end of the page, they are effectively announcing that someone else's work is their own.

    Note that on I handle copyrights of postings differently than on Slashdot. Over there, when you make a posting you agree to sign a separate and independent copyright over to me, and you keep your own copyright - the effect is that I can do whatever I want with your posting, and so can you. This is so that I can reprint discussions, etc., without having to go back to the original poster. I've seen this dual-copyright scheme used once on software - it was in the contract when I wrote an iostreams library for Zortech. I don't know of another example of its being used for a discussion forum.



  • Your post probably got reposted, say to Or somebody quoted it in a sig. And before you know it you have a GEN-you-wine Ann Landers Craig Shergold immortal bit of netlore ...

    I doubt Wired (even today's craven Wired) would have printed your letter with the full knowledge that it was attributable to someone specifically. They're a company. They have lawyers. And whatever you think of them then (techno-weenies) or now (netbiz-weenies), they're magazine people, and magazines are actually a whole lot more cognizant of these kinds of issues than netfolk.

    I mean, if they were printing it as "interesting found humor" I doubt they would have chosen to do so as a *letter*. That's pointless.
  • Who told you this? You won't lose the copyright, but it can be considered a public work if you don't defend it. You keep the copyright but lose all control on how it's used and the ability to get paid for your work.

    Prove it. Show me one single precedent.
  • Instead, they are *very* reluctant to enjoin any form of speech, instead almost always leaving it as a damages issue.

    Just last week, Ford attempted to have a site shut down. They got an initial TRO, which lasted pretty much until the other side showed up. In fact, the judge ordered Ford to assist in the resuscitation of the site--at the same time cautioning the publisher that thie was *not* permission to publish the materials, and that doing so could leave him liable for additional damages.

    The general rule on speech is to award damages, but not to restrain it (short of national security issues such as war-time shipping schedules [and you *really* have to wonder why the editor of that paper wanted to publish those--perhaps under a special "U-boats" heading?]).

    hawk, esq.

  • I'd be surprised to see $25. Maybe $50 in an area where legal fees are around $100/hour, or maybe $50 beyond the cost of consultation (if there's a fee). In Las Vegas, I typically charged $100 (which was half my [then] hourly fee). If it was a very short consultation and a short letter, I'd probably apply the consultation fee towards it. More complicated issues, I'd tack it on after the consultation fee.

    Keep in mind that a lawyer pretty much has to open and keep a file forever after sending one of these; it's not just five minutes on a typerwrite.

    hawk, esq.

    p.s. The suggestion below about sending a reasonable bill is a good one. $150 isn't out of line for a short article (about $200 for an op-ed piece in a large newspaper last time i checked). Paying it when clearly wrong costs them less than calling their own lawyer.

  • Apple drew heavily from NetBSD--and, contrary to GPL advocates' dire predictions, returned nice piles of bug fixes.

    On another front, Caldera has decided that Wine has strategic value, and has *hired* a firm to contribute to that bsd license.

  • I think it would be quite hard to prove either way who created something first.
  • >Don't you think the prices you charge are a bit over the top for the average person, if prices
    >were lower more people would see justice around the world as they would be able to afford it.

    It's not as if I got to keep those fees. My secretary wanted to eat, and demanded to be paid. The government insisted I repay the loans I took for law school. etc. I was at one point paying in excess of $100k/year for overhead, meaning that the first $8.25k/month went everywhere *but* me.

    So, no, they were hardly over the top. I had to charge that much to stay in business.

    Other parts of the country see lower overhead, and tend to charge less.
  • >Don't you think the prices you charge are a bit over the top for the average person, if prices
    >were lower more people would see justice around the world as they would be able to afford it.

    It's not as if I got to keep those fees. My secretary wanted to eat, and demanded to be paid. The government insisted I repay the loans I took for law school. etc. I was at one point paying in excess of $100k/year for overhead, meaning that the first $8.25k/month went everywhere *but* me.

    So, no, they were hardly over the top. I had to charge that much to stay in business.

    Other parts of the country see lower overhead, and tend to charge less.

    When you get down to it, the letters and consultations *don't* pay their own way. Even at those prices, they're more a public service than a money maker. Priced by the amount of time & resources they took, it would be closer to $200 for the letter and consultaton.

Overflow on /dev/null, please empty the bit bucket.