[ntp:questions] poll interval - RFC compliance question

Unruh unruh-spam at physics.ubc.ca
Sun Jun 15 15:35:37 UTC 2008

jra at febo.com (John Ackermann N8UR) writes:

>You're right, Dave, I didn't read the original license language -- I
>should have.  I personally don't see any real issues with the language
>quoted below, as it grants a license to copy, distribute, and modify,
>which are the three rights that make the most sense in a software
>context, as well as "use".

>However, on a point of extreme pedantry, the copyright notice itself is
>technically flawed.  You're OK here because you added some redundancy,
>but under US law a copyright notice must either fully spell out the word
>Copyright, abbreviate it as "Copr.", or use the c-in-a-circle symbol --
> the "(c)" construct isn't a valid substitute.

>(While under US law, any of the three forms suffice, if you include the
>real c-in-a-circle, it provides additional protection under one
>international treaty, the Universal Copyright Convention.)

>I'm not aware of any cases on point, but because the relevant laws and
>treaties specifically require the c-in-circle symbol, there is a broad
>consensus that c-in-parentheses does *not* suffice in a copyright
>notice, and that adding it does no good at all.

>The US Copyright office circular on copyright notices is at

>Sorry for that diversion, and as noted your use of the full word
>"Copyright" solves the problem -- but the use of "(c)" is so widespread
>that I wanted to use this opportunity to denounce it.

Yes, it is pedantry, since the copyright is automatic and does not need to
be asserted. Ie, that notice is infomational, not a legal requirement. 
It simply informs the reader as to who actually owns the copyright. What is
not mere pedantry is where or not this claim is actually true. Many people
have contributed to ntpd, and unless they all transfered copyright to David
Mills, then the claim that he owns the copyright is really false. They all
do (David has copyright interest in all of the works since the other
people's work is derivative of his work, but others have copyright interest
as well.) To keep things perfectly clean, David shoule ask anyone who
contributes to transfer their copyright to him. 


>David L. Mills said the following on 06/15/2008 12:05 AM:
>> John,
>> I can tell you haven't read the statement. Please do. Perhaps a lawyer 
>> would have phrased it differently and maybe modern times are different 
>> than mellow old MIT days, but I am loath to change it on advice, as this 
>> might compromise prior use and interpretation of the statement.
>> Dave
>> ***********************************************************************
>> *                                                                     *
>> * Copyright (c) David L. Mills 1992-2008                              *
>> *                                                                     *
>> * Permission to use, copy, modify, and distribute this software and   *
>> * its documentation for any purpose with or without fee is hereby     *
>> * granted, provided that the above copyright notice appears in all    *
>> * copies and that both the copyright notice and this permission       *
>> * notice appear in supporting documentation, and that the name        *
>> * University of Delaware not be used in advertising or publicity      *
>> * pertaining to distribution of the software without specific,        *
>> * written prior permission. The University of Delaware makes no       *
>> * representations about the suitability this software for any         *
>> * purpose. It is provided "as is" without express or implied 
>>          *
>> * warranty.                                                           *
>> *                                                                     *
>> ***********************************************************************John 
>> Ackermann N8UR wrote:
>>> 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...
>>> John
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