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Re: GPLv3 comedy unfolding -- InformationWeek: "Pick Your Open Source Po

From: Rahul Dhesi
Subject: Re: GPLv3 comedy unfolding -- InformationWeek: "Pick Your Open Source Poison: Microsoft's Patent Claims Or GPLv3"
Date: Sun, 10 Jun 2007 01:10:14 +0000 (UTC)
User-agent: nn/6.7.0 (Lee Hollaar) writes:

>In the 108th Congress, there was an effort (H.R. 2613) to extend that
>to works produced under government contracts.  "Copyright protection
>under this title is not available for any work produced pursuant to
>scientific research substantially funded by the Federal Government ..."
>The idea behind the legislation was to make medical research reports
>more generally available.

>It is interesting to ponder what that might do to GPLed software written
>in universities under federal grants and contracts.  But to the best of
>my knowledge, there was no recognition of that problem by any of the
>"free" software people.

Suppose the software produced pursuant to the research mentioned above
were to be the Linux kernel 1.0, or gcc 1.0. And suppose we don't get a
usable release until 2.x, some years later, and those usable releases
contain numerous contributions all made under the GPL.  Would the linux
kernel 2.x and gcc 2.x have no valid copyright?

I think the answer is that they would. The 1.0 release would be in the
public domain. After software in the public domain is greatly revised
and improved, the result *as a practical matter* gets the full benefit
of copyright law.  Of course, somebody could easily extract out the
un-copyrighted portions and use them, but that only gives them back, at
best, pieces of the 1.0 release, which they already had.  So it seems to
me that the GPL would not in any *practical* way be defeated as to the
2.x release.

There is probably an analogy here to court of appeal published opinions,
which are supposed to be in the public domain, but their official page
numbers are copyrighted (except in one or maybe two circuits). This
small addition is enough to make the result, *as a practical matter*,
get the full benefit of copyright law, and allow the holders of the
copyrights in page numbers to charge hefty fees.

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