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Re: [ROFL] GCC's GPLv3 "Updated License Exception"

From: Alexander Terekhov
Subject: Re: [ROFL] GCC's GPLv3 "Updated License Exception"
Date: Thu, 05 Feb 2009 19:14:52 +0100

Hyman Rosen wrote:
> Rjack wrote:
> > If you think the Copyright Office may re-define the definitions
> > provided by Congress in the Copyright Act then you are either
>  > extremely naive or smoking something causing you to hallucinate.
> Given the choice of believing you or believing the manual of
> procedures for the government agency responsible for copyrights,
> I should think the choice is obvious. To be explicit: not you.

Here's a more balanced view:

VI.B. Source Code and Object Code

Although copyright comes into being with the writing of the source code,
it is the object code – the actual instructions that control the
computer when the program is being executed – that copyright generally
protects. In most instances, the source code is never revealed to the
public, and thus remains protected as a trade secret even though
millions and millions of copies of the program are distributed as object

Every computer program copyright case treats the copyright in the source
code and the object code as equivalent. That is likely because they were
decided at a time when there was essentially a one-to-one correspondence
between the source code and the object code. The source code was written
in assembly language, with each line of the source code corresponding to
a single machine instruction (or, if a macro facility existed as part of
the assembler, a small predefined series of machine instructions). The
source code contained information that made it easier for a programmer
to write or understand the program – mnemonics like “ADD” instead of a
bit pattern of “01000011” for the addition instruction, the use of
symbolic labels for storage or program locations, and the inclusion of
comments to annotate the program – which the assembly process removed or
replaced as it produced the object code.

With the advent of higher-level programming languages, that is less the
case. The compiler for the higher-level language performs a much more
complicated translation than was the case for an assembler. It not only
produces complex series of object code instructions for each source line
but may actually rearrange the statements of the program to produce a
more efficient program. There is no longer the one-to-one correspondence
between the source code and the object code. This, along with their
size, makes it more difficult to reverse engineer (for example, to learn
how the program works either by testing or by trying to convert the
object code back to source code) a modern computer program, which in
turn makes it more likely that any copying will be a literal copying of
the entire program.

Even though source code and object code are distinct, it is still useful
to maintain the concept that the source code and the object code are
just different forms of the same copyrighted work. The Copyright Office
regards the source code and object code as equivalent for purposes of
registration. In fact, it generally requires a deposit of at least a
portion of the source code (generally the first and last 25 pages – see
their Circular 61) and questionsany registration that includes only
object code.

Where an applicant is unable or unwilling to deposit source code, he/she
must state in writing that the work as deposited in object code contains
copyrightable authorship. The Office will send a letter stating that
registration has been made under its rule of doubt and warning that it
has not determined the existence of copyrightable authorship. {FN102:
Copyright Office Circular 61: “Copyright Registration for Computer
Programs,” at 2} 

I personally believe that even if a particular instance of object code
is judged to include protected expression of both/either source code's
copyright owner and/or compiler's copyright owner, the resulting binary
is merely an aggregation of multiple computer program works -- in
GNUspeak it is called "mere aggregation".

Do you agree, Hyman?


P.S. Hey Hyman, consider:

"Judiciary · Although the Office does not enforce the provisions of
title 17, it may be involved in litigation in several ways. It can
choose to intervene in a copyright infringement suit under section
411(a) in a case where registration has been refused. It may be sued
under the Administrative Procedure Act. Or it may be asked to
participate in litigation by (a) assisting the Department of Justice in
preparing an amicus curiae brief in support of a particular position or
in defending a particular action, or (b) by bringing a suit under
section 407 to compel the deposit of a work."

(GNG is a derecursive recursive derecursion which pwns GNU since it can 
be infinitely looped as GNGNGNGNG...NGNGNG... and can be said backwards 
too, whereas GNU cannot.)

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