Copyright and jurisdictions (was: GPL License with clause for Web use?)

Ben Finney ben at
Wed Nov 21 22:03:04 UTC 2007

On 21-Nov-2007, simo wrote:
> Remember that only the author can ever sue someone

Perhaps you've missed some of the more nasty developments in copyright 
around the world in recent years.

In several jurisdictions (e.g. the USA and many countries that it has 
negotiated with for "compatible laws"), copyright infringement is now 
a criminal offense: anyone can request that the state prosecute. The 
copyright holder never needs to be involved in the case.

> so to get a "Public Domain" at all effects you just need to release 
> code without any authorship but with explicit consent to use for any 
> purpose, and keep record privately of the fact you own that code.

In jurisdictions that don't have such a concept of Public Domain (e.g. 
the UK, I believe), works cannot be released from copyright before 
they expire.

Releasing a work "without any authorship" in such a jurisdiction 
merely means that the copyright holder still exists but isn't 
identified on the work, leaving the recipients with a task of tracking 
them down that may be nigh-impossible; which they may need to do if 
the license terms are poorly written.

These are not academic issues; they happen with depressing frequency.

> You must live in a different world then the real world ... for a 
> license, it does not matter what the laws *should* say, it matters 
> what the *current* legal environment is, and what are the *current* 
> threats.

Indeed. Perhaps you'll bear that in mind when exhorting people on the 
ease of avoiding copyright hassles around the world.

 \     Rommel: "Don't move, or I'll turn the key on this can of Spam!" |
  `\                             -- The Goon Show, _Rommel's Treasure_ |
_o__)                                                                  |
Ben Finney <ben at>
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