[ntp:questions] poll interval - RFC compliance question

John Ackermann N8UR jra at febo.com
Sat Jun 14 21:44:53 UTC 2008

David Woolley said the following on 06/14/2008 04:34 PM:

> To the extent that copyright agreements are optional, their purpose is 
> normally to give you a copy only on the condition that you do not 
> exercise some of the rights that you would have if given the copy 
> without making the agreement.
> I suspect Open BSD's problem is that the statement of permission doesn't 
> actually give all the rights that are restricted by copyright.  In 
> particular, if it says "use", that has a technical meaning that doesn't 
> include copying to give to others.

Good point, David.  The US copyright law lists five exclusive rights
that the copyright holder possesses.  "Use" isn't one of them, and that
does make software copyright issues more interesting.  The five rights
are the right to: copy, create derivative works, distribute, perform
publicly (applies only to certain types of works), and to display
publicly (also applies only to certain types of works).

The reason that "use" normally works in the software context is that to
make software function you almost always need to copy it (for example,
from hard disk to RAM).  In some situations, "use" would also trigger
the display right.  But it's also possible to conceive of a computing
device with nonvolatile memory such that there is no copying involved in
running the the software.  So, a right to "use" is inherently ambiguous
from a copyright perspective.

I believe (pretty strongly) that "use" would not normally be interpreted
to include the right to distribute copies to third parties.  However,
that right could be implied by the circumstances (if I publish my
software on a web site and encourage downloads with no restrictions, it
might well be that I've granted an implied license to those who download
to further distribute.

By the way -- relying on copyright notices drafted in the early '80s
isn't necessarily a good idea.  At least in the US, there was still
significant debate on whether software could even be copyrighted up
until 1983, when Apple v. Franklin pretty much laid that to rest.
Rights notices of the time were experimental, to say the least...


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