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[Groff] Copyright notices in groff's man pages

From: G. Branden Robinson
Subject: [Groff] Copyright notices in groff's man pages
Date: Sat, 4 Nov 2017 10:33:10 -0400
User-agent: NeoMutt/20170113 (1.7.2)

[forked from [Groff] recent changes not in ChangeLog]

At 2017-11-04T07:27:28+0100, Werner LEMBERG wrote:
> Finally, I'm not sure that a copyright line like
>   Copyright \[co] 1989\[en]2014 Free Software Foundation, Inc.
> in a source code file is legal.

I am of course not an attorney and this is not legal advice, but I have
been following software copyright issues for about 20 years and for
whatever it's worth I'm confident that there is no significant hazard

Defective notices of copyright used to cause works to fall into the
public domain but that hasn't been true for a long time.

        As originally enacted, the 1976 law prescribed that all
        visually perceptible published copies of a work, or published
        phonorecords of a sound recording, should bear a proper
        copyright notice. This applies to such works published
        before March 1, 1989. After March 1, 1989, notice of copy-
        right on these works is optional. Adding the notice, however,
        is strongly encouraged and, if litigation involving the copy-
        right occurs, certain advantages exist for publishing a work
        with notice.[1]

At the risk of sounding like a nitwit who got his law degree from Google
Law, the only case law I could find where presentation errors in a
copyright notice had any impact on a work's status dates back to 1944.
More recent copyright law, including treaties like GATT and enabling
acts like URRA, has gotten much more expansive and friendly to copyright

>  I think it should rather be
>   Copyright (c) 1989-2014 Free Software Foundation, Inc.
> If you are going to print the copyright notice in a manpage (or
> whatever), then the first version can be used *additionally*.

All[2] of the copyright notices I altered to be proper roff markup had
this property of printability; they were apparently attempting to do
double duty as a within-source copyright and permission notice near the
top of the file _and_ a transformed, user-readable copyright,
permission, and authorship notice at the tail end of a man page.

Most of them achieved this by defining page-local macros "co" and

My personal preference would actually to be to _stop_ emitting copyright
and permission notice information in man page output.  But I wasn't
planning on tilting at that windmill; the one I'd rather charge is the
problem we have with several FDL notices where we claim as Invariant
Sections things that the FDL specifically says we can't claim as
Invariant Sections, because they're not Secondary Sections.  The FDL,
like the GPL (and like BSD-style licenses) _already_ makes things like
copyright notices and permission notices invariant.

Anyway, for the time being I propose we choose one of two courses of

(A) Make man pages' copyright and permission notices visible in the roff
    source file only, and put them in plain ASCII in comments.  Stop
    defining macros for them.  Author information, if present, can be
    directly inlined into the man page, not stuffed into a private macro
    to be popped later.

(B) Maintain the (very recent) status quo, with copyright notices marked
    up and permission notices flowed as groff recommends.

Again, my preference is for (A).

Whatever the consensus is, I'm happy to make the changes to align the 68
man pages in the groff source tree with it.

[2] Except one, for which I just committed a fix,
[3] 64 of the 68 for "co"; 37 of the 68 for "au".


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