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Re: OK to distribute autoconf.texi under the GPL too?

From: Bruce Korb
Subject: Re: OK to distribute autoconf.texi under the GPL too?
Date: Mon, 20 Dec 2004 12:16:52 -0800
User-agent: KMail/1.6.2

On Monday 20 December 2004 11:23 am, Paul Eggert wrote:
> Bruce Korb <address@hidden> writes:
> > "Piffle".  It is a trivial example.
> Well, it doesn't really matter what you or I think is trivial: what
> counts is what a federal judge would think (in the US, anyway).

It would be difficult to construct an argument that could successfully
construe using example text as an example for an implementation
was a violation of a copyright.  "fair use" can certainly be derived
from "example".

> Let's put it this way.  The song "Happy Birthday to You" has trivial
> lyrics -- only 16 words long.  And yet those lyrics return about $2
> million/year worth of royalties to AOL Time Warner and the Hill
> Foundation.  See "Happy Birthday, We'll Sue"
> <>.
> Now, I don't for a moment think the Autoconf examples have the same
> artistic merit and revenue potential as that immortal 16-word poem.
> But it's quite clear that the Autoconf manual's longer examples are
> nevertheless protected by copyright,

It is the fact that the examples are examples and explicitly intended
for the guidance of the reader.  I won't say that lawyers cannot accomplish
the bizarrely insane contortion described above to the satisfaction of
a clueless judge, but nevertheless _unless_ it is the kind of contorted
argumentation that the FSF would want to engage in,  then it is not
the kind of thing worth worrying about.  If it isn't worth worrying about,
then make it not a worry for any worry wart.

> and if the FSF continues to 
> publish these examples solely under the GNU FDL, this will inhibit
> honest programmers who try to abide by the law, however silly the law
> happens to be.
> > There would be no way to assert a copyright claim.
> Sure there would, for the longer examples.  If you don't believe me,
> ask Veritas's copyright counsel.

Okay, rephrase:  It would be ridiculous for the FSF to assert such a claim.
They would lose more in credibility than they could possibly gain in
"protecting" even the most extensive of autoconf example code.
But it would be amusing to find out if Amazon's council would file a
copyright claim against a user of example text that was published as an
example.  :-)

Actually, I do think we are more-or-less on the same side here:  the examples
need to be freed up.  I am simply saying that rather than going through
contortions to constrain their usage to only politically correct programs,
instead just say, "These examples are not worth a big fight and a lot of
hassle over" and release them to the public domain.  :)

Cheers - Bruce

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