389COM: Copyright

Dr Carey Pridgeon, DR Nazaraf Shah

2016-08-06 Tue

Created: 2016-11-03 Thu 15:35


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  • The rights to use Copyrighted work can be expressly denied, or withdrawn by the Copyright Holder.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), but are usually returnable with enough evidence.

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.


A symbol or name associated with a given product.

  • A mark 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, and can be used by any similar product.


  • Trademarks can also become effectively, if not legally, generic.
    • 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.
  • 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.


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), 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

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)