389COM: Copyright

Dr Carey Pridgeon, DR Nazaraf Shah

Created: 2018-09-14 Fri 09:47


What is Copyright

  • Copyright is legal right that protects the use of your work once your idea has been physically expressed.
  • Valid in the country of origin or certain economically co-operating countries.
  • Worldwide Copyrights can be obtained.
  • Copyright is automatic, and can be expressly abandoned.
  • Copyright can expire (70 years after authors death in the US and EU, 95 if author is unknown), but cannot be assumed to have been abandoned.

How Does it Work? - 1

  • Rights to use Copyrighted work can be granted with or without payment a fee by the Copyright Holder.
  • The rights to use Copyrighted work can be expressly denied, or withdrawn by the Copyright Holder.
  • Code that lacks a Copyright notice can not be used for 95 years, so in our terms, never.
  • Copyright ownership can be transferred.

How Does it Work? - 2

  • Copyright cannot be arbitrarily assigned to works you did not create, or assigned to works that have fallen out of copyright.
  • Copyrighted names can be co-opted (eg, Linux, which was 'stolen' in this way in 1996 link), but are usually returnable with enough evidence and work.

Copyrighting Options

  • Creative Commons: code, literature, music, hardware.
  • CopyLeft: Free Software Foundation (software primarily)
  • Open Source: Software/Documentation/Hardware.
  • Commercial: Access granted via a fee or under strict non profit conditions.
  • You can create your own Copyright notice.
  • Within those options there is a huge range of choices.

TradeMarks - 1

  • A symbol or name associated with a given product.
  • A mark should be unique enough that it won't confuse consumers with a similar brand.
    • Names: Champagne, Oreo, Smarties
    • Symbols: Nike Swoosh, FireFox Logo, FSF Logo, Coke Swirl.
  • Unlike Copyright, Marks must be protected/defended or they can be lost (Cheddar, Hoover, Aspirin), a process also known as becoming Generic, after which the name can be used by any similar product, or will more usually be used to refer to a general class of product.

TradeMarks - 2

  • Trademarks can also become effectively, as well as legally, generic, rendering the Trademarks recovery impossible.
    • Can you Hoover that up, would you like an Aspirin or somesuch.
  • Owning a Mark for a product does not prevent someone producing the same thing and using a different Mark for it, you need Copyright to control that.

TradeMarks - 3

  • A Trademark gives you a Brand, Copyright protects the products of that brand.
  • Some Marks predate trademark laws, so can be widely used to identify a process or class of product (Sabatier knives, Damascus steel).

Open Source Relevance

  • Marks are as important in the free/open source world as in the commercial.
  • Possibly less at risk of becoming generic, because there is no profit motive to re-use them.
  • Free and Open Source licences, do not transfer Marks.
  • Like Copyrights, Marks can be transferred/sold.

Patents - What they protect

  • Patents control an idea expressed in a design (usually)
  • Holding a Patent means you can prevent someone else using your idea/design in their own product.
  • Patents are usually made available for a fee, but the can be licensed for a minimal fee, or none at all.

Free Patents

  • Patents can be dedicated (released to the public domain), which means the owner allows free access to the technology it covers.
  • Patent licensing abuse is rampant in the US.
  • Patent Trolls are a thing.
  • There is a Patent covering the Internet, which was initially conceived/created by Vince Cerf

Trademark Mistakes - 1

  • In 1996, Linux itself had its Trademark stolen by William R. Della Croce of Boston (who had hoped by registering it, to make a lot of money by claiming ownership of Linux), and it took a year to get it back.
  • What happened to Linux occured mostly because the developers weren't paying attention to the Trademark issue. Since then they have been a lot more careful.

Trademark Mistakes - 2

  • They weren't alone in being so lax, since in 1999, Microsoft forgot to pay their domain renewal, causing virtually their entire online presence to vanish. They've done that more than once too.
  • So long as you don’t forget that you need to register your trademarks once your project moves beyond being being a small project with just a few users, you should be ok.
  • It isn't free to register them though, so make sure it's worth the cost. A faily simple metric is that if your project is generating a revenue stream, it's worth it, if not, it isn't.

Obligatory XKCD


  • Copyright: Randall Munroe - XKCD
  • Mirrored in my hosting to avoid bandwidth stealing

Licence for this work

  • Licenced under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International by Dr Carey Pridgeon 2016
  • (Licence does not cover linked images owned by other content creators)