[Top][All Lists]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Re: [Groff] Licence question regarding an-ext

From: Ingo Schwarze
Subject: Re: [Groff] Licence question regarding an-ext
Date: Thu, 17 Dec 2015 21:38:43 +0100
User-agent: Mutt/1.5.23 (2014-03-12)


Werner LEMBERG wrote on Thu, Dec 17, 2015 at 08:14:28PM +0100:
> Carsten Kunze wrote:
>> tmac/an-ext.tmac says:

>>> .\" Copyright (C) 2007-2014  Free Software Foundation, Inc.
>>> .\"
>>> .\" Written by Eric S. Raymond <address@hidden>
>>> .\"            Werner Lemberg <address@hidden>
>>> .\"
>>> .\" You may freely use, modify and/or distribute this file.

That notice actually says very different things in different

According to international copyright law (Berne Convention) it
implies that Eric S. Raymond and Werner Lemberg own the moral rights
to the code (including, for example, the right to be known as the
authors, so removing the lines "Written by" would be illegal in most
countries; and the right to object to derogatory modifications).
According to the Berne Convention, these rights are inalieniable,
they cannot be transferred.  It also means that the two authors
have transferred their economic rights regarding the code to the FSF.

If i understand correctly, U.S. copyright law is still in violation
of the Berne Convention in so far as it barely protects the authors'
moral rights.  Consequently, U.S. parlance often talks about
"transfering Copyright" (as a whole), even though that is outright
illegal internationally.  This non-compliance of U.S. law is also
at the root of the widespread bad practice of not even mentioning
authors in Copyright notices but only mentioning the company they
worked for.

So this is actually a very good Copyright notice because it is clear
and unambiguous both in international and in U.S. context.

That said, even if you bump into a Copyright notice that is less
than ideal, never change it without explicit permission of all the
authors.  Even if you do it with the best intentions, for example
to correct an error or to add missing information, people are likely
to suspect malice when detecting the change, and it is very likely
to cause confusion and cast doubts on your right to distribute the
file legally in the first place.

In case you detect an error or omission and the author cannot be
reached or doesn't respond, you can add that information *outside*
the existing Copyright/License section.  For example, if the Copyright
line only lists a company and author information is missing but
available from other public sources and you want to redistribute
the file outside the U.S., it often makes sense to add a notice
like this:

  According to (source of information), the code in this file
  was written by (name of author).

>> For me it is polite to name the authors no matter for whom they
>> work.

According to the Berne Convention, that is not only polite,
but they actually have the right to be known as the authors.

>> Ok, if it has no disadvantages I can of course leave the FSF
>> line as it is.  But for me IMHO the people count, not the companies
>> they work for ;)

Still, don't change the Copyright line.  On the one hand, to avoid
confusion; on the other hand, as a matter of respect, because it
is the Copyright line that Eric and Werner have chosen for their
work.  In Germany, it could arguably maybe even be considered illegal
to change the line without their consent - nota bene, *their*
consent, not consent on the part of the FSF.

> Well, the authors don't matter in a copyright notice.  The important
> bit is the copyright holder, and this is the FSF, regardless of the
> license.

That seems like a decidedly U.S.-centric viewpoint to me, in clear
violation of the Berne Convention, and of the copyright law of most
countries worldwide:

Just to name one drastic example:  In Germany, Copyright cannot be
transferred at all, so the "Copyright FSF" line is not really
compatible with German law (but people are used to expressing the
idea that way, so it will be interpreted as an intent to transfer
all rights of use rather than to transfer Copyright itself).  German
law grants even more moral rights (Urheberpersoenlichkeitsrechte)
than the Berne Convention, for example:

You cannot transfer these rights, they are yours until your death
and even beyond, so it does matter that it's you who owns them.


reply via email to

[Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread]