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On 1/6/2011 8:55 PM, Tony Finch wrote:
On Thu, 6 Jan 2011, KHMan wrote:

Are we going to lawyer-tag everything just because lawyers say so?

It isn't hard and the cookbook won't be useful if you don't.

Not trying to restart this, just want to throw a few words out to nobody in particular, to contrast two different positions and maybe broaden some perspectives. If you think this is nonsense, you are welcome to either check an IP book or consider me a fool.

Position A is that of current IP lawyer thinking -- worst-case-scenario by default, prepare for war or MAD (mutually assured destruction). Hence the legal pedantry. Worst-case practices merely leads to the ridiculous legal arms race we see today. Gosling (Java) illustrated this pretty well on patents recently. The current mobile phone lawsuits are just legal games which those corporations can afford to play -- just angling for position and they will settle up soon enough. If your pocket is empty, your ability to enforce your rights in this climate is merely an illusion. The lawyers of course, always win.

Position B is that there are sane exceptions in copyrights that ought to be followed as common-sense norms, as people in the past have done -- this is because a simplistic model of copyright does not capture all real-world complications. The "fair use" doctrine that academics rely on, or used to be able to rely on. C header files as interfaces that can't really be written any other way. Common norms of coding that everybody uses. No one can really claim an authorship monopoly over snippets that embody standard methods and techniques of coding. And standard methods and techniques of coding are precisely what a programming cookbook is chocked full of.

However, such common sense exceptions that used to be well-known seem to be willfully ignored now by lawyers in their madness of pushing Position A exclusively -- a dereliction of duty by the legal profession. It is a pity that many people only know of Position A or are determined to keep to its doctrine for various reasons.

A programming cookbook in particular, will have tons of snippets that are meant to be copied by readers. That's actually the way such a book will be used. If a snippet shows how to enumerate a directory using LuaFileSystem, does the reader need to be cognizant of its copyright? In practice nobody would bother -- people would use it as a freely-usable generic example in a copyrighted work. There is sane reason and logic in such market (people's) behaviour.

It is the presentation of the snippets that is the significant work. A poor analogy: Beethoven is public domain, but a particular presentation of Beethoven can be copyrighted. Many snippets in a programming cookbook would have come from the ecosystem, being standard methods and techniques, and so they should be shared with the ecosystem without a need for licensing tags. The particular presentation of the snippets is the thing to be copyrighted. This is the distinction that I hope some of you can appreciate when whatever arrangements for the cookbook, if it is realized, is firmed up.

Kein-Hong Man (esq.)
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia