PDA

View Full Version : Software copyrights



TandyMan100
November 2nd, 2009, 08:32 AM
According to international copyright law, software can be copyrighted by it's author, thus requiring that you use a legit copy, and cannot copy it for distribution, for 20 years after it's release. I think this is kind of rediculous considering that the software (and probably the machines it runs on) are obsolete after three years.

barythrin
November 2nd, 2009, 08:50 AM
While I get your point and I'm not familiar with what companies do to maintain ownership of +20 year old data but honestly 20 years isn't the worst thing out there for ridiculous copywrongs. There are different lengths of time associated with trademarks, copyrights, and patents which make things confusing. However this is what I recall a copyright being http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries'_copyright_length in the US it's life+70years.

Now yes I do think it's extreme and it was certainly meant for other items than digital media (a book, a song, etc). However I'm not sure that's really a useful purpose either. Essentially you'd need to pay royalties to someone for 140 years after the time it was written which seems a bit extreme, although I'm not sure I'd like folks selling it once the copyright period is lifted either.

I think in an ideal world folks and companies would open source their products or re-release them for public domain once the period expired so all could benefit from the work. That's my official idealistic stance. Who cares that it's obsolete, if it's cool software or a fun game then let the people have it once it's no longer a profitable item.

Brings up an interesting point though, wonder what specifically occurred that promoted the need for such a lengthy solution?

kb2syd
November 2nd, 2009, 09:24 AM
Brings up an interesting point though, wonder what specifically occurred that promoted the need for such a lengthy solution?

Mickey Mouse and the Walt Disney company were a big part in getting copyrights extended so far. Not saying they were the only cause, but they were a part of it.

Chuck(G)
November 2nd, 2009, 09:31 AM
There are some fine points. Prior to 1989, software under copyright must have a copyright notice embedded or displayed. If it doesn't, it's probably free game.

Copyright currently runs at life of the author + 70 years or 95 from the date of publication, whichever is earlier for works published in the USA.

Not all countries follow the same schedule. Russia, in particular, has established the cutoff date of copyright to be 1992.

In this connected world, this leads to all sorts of problems. I can download a copy of George Orwell's Nineteen eighty-four from a site in Russia, where it's in the public domain. So, technically, downloading it is illegal if I'm sitting in the USA, but not if I'm sitting in Moscow. Iran, on the other hand, recognizes no copyright at all, unless said copyright was issued to an Iranian citizen.

It's a minefield; there's no such thing as "abandonware", although some courts have made provision for "preservation" of old software. But be very careful.

Additionally, the DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act) controls what can be done in the way of hacking old games and programs.

Lastly, IANAL, nor do I play one on TV.

Chuck(G)
November 2nd, 2009, 09:44 AM
Brings up an interesting point though, wonder what specifically occurred that promoted the need for such a lengthy solution?

For the latest extension, M-I-C-K-E-Y ... (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright_Term_Extension_Act), and Sonny's widow, who thought that copyrights should be perpetual.

Some, I suspect was driven by the recorded music and film industry. Things started really getting lengthy with the launch of the WTO at the Uruguay Round of GATT with TRIPS (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agreement_on_Trade-Related_Aspects_of_Intellectual_Property_Rights).

hargle
November 2nd, 2009, 10:25 AM
Another ugly is that lots of companies have folded in the last 20 years.
those rights get bought out by other companies, who in turn fold, and then pass on to others. By the time the dust settles, the owning company often doesn't even know they own the rights to it anymore, since it's not something they are still producing/protecting. That to me is true abandoware.

Here's some personal examples: The game jumpman. Written by Randy Glover, picked up and released by Epyx, then published by IBM for the PCjr.
When I released my disassembled+updated version, I contacted Randy and got permission from him to release it into the wild. He is the author of the game, but didn't port the game to the IBM platform. Epyx owned the end materials, but IBM published it. Epyx is gone, and Randy thinks that IBM probably now owns the rights to the game. IBM has *no clue* they own those rights. I couldn't even find a place to contact IBM as to ask about such an obscure thing from the early 80s.

Likewise with Beyond Castle Wolfenstein. Silas Warner is dead. He wrote it. I got permission to release his game from his widow, but she didn't know who owned the rights. Muse Software is gone, id Software has some rights with regard to the word "wolfenstein", but they didn't know who really owned the game anymore either.

A lot of times, it gets to the point where you just release it, and if the actual owner of it finally complains, then you take action. Of course it's the internet we're dealing with here, and there's really no way to take anything offline...

Chuck(G)
November 2nd, 2009, 10:40 AM
Another ugly is that lots of companies have folded in the last 20 years.
those rights get bought out by other companies, who in turn fold, and then pass on to others. By the time the dust settles, the owning company often doesn't even know they own the rights to it anymore, since it's not something they are still producing/protecting. That to me is true abandoware.

There is no legal principle that covers "abandonware", so anyone who embraces the notion could be walking on very thin ice.

I've long thought that since copyright is dependent on publishing, that the holder of a copyright should be held to being able to provide a copy for sale of his/her/its/their works on request.

Copyrights today are by fiat--something created is assumed to be under copyright; registration is not necessary. With today's huge database capabilities, there's no rationale for not requiring registration.

The music world is full of works under copyright, but unobtainable because of being POP (permanently out of print). You can't get a legal copy, and copying is illegal; performance or recording requires yet another license, which may or may not be available. Same for arranging.

But nothing's going to change, as it's the global corporate interests that are calling the tune now and will make copyright perpetual if they can.

Bobthearch
November 2nd, 2009, 11:15 AM
Twenty years seems reasonable to me, probably the maximum time amount that a software application could remain useful. Much shorter than literary copyrights, since books remain usable practically forever.

What I'd like to see, some sort of legal process for abandoned copyrights. Perhaps a centralized database where software copyright owners can/must update their information regularly. There could be a legal process where software could be moved into public domain if the authors don't care enough to keep their info current. Not only would it be a huge benefit to vintage computer users and Abandonware advocates, but it would make it possible for authors to receive continued earnings since interested customers would know how to contact them.

hargle
November 2nd, 2009, 11:44 AM
I'd even go so far as requiring a sliding payment for said database.
It would work like this:

joe sixpack writes a piece of software, or song or anything that would require a copyright. From 20 years after the conception/release of this thing, he'd have a free copyright on it. After 20 years, it falls into the public domain.

If joe doesn't want this thing to be in the public domain, joe pays xxx amount to keep the copyright. xxx would perhaps be a percentage decided upon the amount of money joe has perhaps earned from this thing. (I leave that to congress to figure out)

joe pays some money, gets another 20 years of copyright.

After another 20 years of being in copyright, he has to renew again, this time paying a higher percentage to keep the copyright. If the thing is still profitable after all those years, then joe (or his heirs) would certainly want to continue paying for it.

At some point, the money paid to maintain control of the copyright must then outweigh the amount of money earned from it, thus encouraging people to release the work into the public domain. the thing has earned it's keep, and when it is no longer profitable, let it go.

the money collected for this process then goes to maintaining the database, and possibly even the enforcement of it. you're essentially awarded free bodyguard service for your creative work for 20 years, then you have to start paying for it. This encourages people to register, to be creative, and to then eventually public domain their work after they are no longer of use.



There is no legal principle that covers "abandonware", so anyone who embraces the notion could be walking on very thin ice.

100% agreed.
The thing I was getting at is that copyright is a "gift" to you for being a creative person. If you care about that gift you should be actively using it and fighting for its defense, otherwise gifts that aren't used truly are abandoned. You don't need a legal principle for abandonware if there is no one trying to fight you over it.

barythrin
November 2nd, 2009, 12:24 PM
The law from what I understand, disclaimer being I dun understand much ;-), is really after people profiting from copyrighted material. I forget the exact number but it's something like piracy of software requires over 20 copies are distributed or over $20,000 or $50,000 in "damages"/lost profit. But again..it's been such a long time since I saw the writing regarding it I know I remember it wrong but what I saw was based on distribution and money lost to the company.

So the cool part is yeah X and Y is copyright whoever and you have it and although they don't want you selling it, posting it they may not care. If you're selling it then you're obviously lining yourself up for trouble (should be obvious) but providing it at no cost as an archive it's debatable and if they're no longer selling the product then it's more of a legal formality than something you'll truly get sued over.

I do think things need to be re-reviewed for some ridiculous nature and abuse of copyrighting certain material. I think the government if made aware steps in sometimes like Microsoft trying to patent the scroll bar which would have drastic affect on all the folks who have used it this long so I think they rejected that and some others similar to it.

In affect I still think submitting a patent for the copyright or trying to copyright the patent would be funny to see and certainly an embarrassment if it went through.

mbbrutman
November 2nd, 2009, 12:24 PM
Forget the database and the extensions - too much to keep track of.

Let's go back to what it used to be - ownership of your work for a reasonable period of time, and then it goes to the public domain. Thomas Jefferson and the founding fathers had it pretty close to perfect. Twenty to forty years is more along the lines of reasonable - 75 or more is crazy.

Everything we do is built on the works of others. When we make it impossible to innovate without legal threat (either due to copyright or patent) we stifle innovation. Economies what reward creators without unduly stifling innovation will win compared to what we have.

Chuck(G)
November 2nd, 2009, 01:12 PM
The law from what I understand, disclaimer being I dun understand much ;-), is really after people profiting from copyrighted material. I forget the exact number but it's something like piracy of software requires over 20 copies are distributed or over $20,000 or $50,000 in "damages"/lost profit. But again..it's been such a long time since I saw the writing regarding it I know I remember it wrong but what I saw was based on distribution and money lost to the company.

That may be true for civil damages, but copyright infringement also carries criminal penalties. This means that if you're a big-time infringer, the Federal Marshalls could be knocking on your door with a warrant and handcuffs. (It has happened).

Contrast this with patent protection, which is pretty much a right to sue, period. As a patent holder, you have the burden of proof regarding infringement and legal expenses come out of your pocket. If you're a David suing Goliath, you'll find yourself up against years of legal maneuvering with probably no actual compensation at the end.

...and please someone correct the spelling. It's "ridiculous".

Fallo
November 2nd, 2009, 02:14 PM
Sonny's widow, who thought that copyrights should be perpetual.

Sonny Bono was worried that he would live to see some of his music become PD. Sure didn't do him any good.

As for Disney, their desperation to hold onto cartoons from the 1920s and 1930s is laughable, especially since you can find those cartoons all over the net.


There is no legal principle that covers "abandonware", so anyone who embraces the notion could be walking on very thin ice.

For purely technical reasons, software is problematic. Anything that's 32-bit or up is too complicated to download and still expect to work properly. Most of the CD rips you find on abandonware sites simply don't work, and I would not download them even if they were made PD tomorrow. I can guarantee you that if software copyrights lasted only 10 years, the moderators on vogons.zetafleet would still be pulling their hair out in frustration over people asking for help using DOSBox with bad rips of games.

Many abandonware sites have been operating for years with no problems, and only occasionally being asked to remove a piece of software. Indeed, there are only a few companies that are in the habit of stopping distribution of their stuff.


Let's go back to what it used to be - ownership of your work for a reasonable period of time, and then it goes to the public domain. Thomas Jefferson and the founding fathers had it pretty close to perfect. Twenty to forty years is more along the lines of reasonable - 75 or more is crazy.

The problem is that the Constitution only states that copyright shall last for a limited amount of time, but does not state what a "limited" time is. It needs to be explicitly changed to no more than 75 years. Software should be at most 20-25 years. Furthermore, all the troublemaking groups like the MPAA, RIAA, ESA, and BSA need to be broken up.

Chuck(G)
November 2nd, 2009, 02:54 PM
As for Disney, their desperation to hold onto cartoons from the 1920s and 1930s is laughable, especially since you can find those cartoons all over the net.

I don't think that Disney cares who pirates copies of "Steamboat Willie" as much as they care about having clear title to the Mickey Mouse trademark.


For purely technical reasons, software is problematic. Anything that's 32-bit or up is too complicated to download and still expect to work properly. Most of the CD rips you find on abandonware sites simply don't work, and I would not download them even if they were made PD tomorrow.

The big problem is having an individual decide alone what is abandonware. Do you think OS/2 is abandonware? I think you'd get a differing opinion from Serenity Systems.

It does little good to try to chase the net pirates down; you can get just about any current title from Russia or China and quasi-legal sharing sites such as Rapidshare and Full Downloads engage in wholesale piracy.

I did know a woman who made a very nice living from her ranch near Medford sniffing out and reporting people with pirated copies of AutoCAD.

What piracy does force software developers into doing, however, is constantly producing incompatible "upgrades" every year or so. So you get bled $100+ every time you upgrade. Ignoring the upgrade leaves you incompatible with the community of users. A good example of this is music engraving software such as Sibelius or Finale.

Lorne
November 2nd, 2009, 03:26 PM
Having been a computer and software purchaser since 1980, I was kind of shocked recently when I read the software license of something I'd recently purchased. It's probably the first time I've read a manual from front to back.

It went as follows:

"The (program name) software is the property of (company name). The purchase of (software name) is really a purchase of a non-exclusive license to use (program name)". da, da, da, da, da, da.

It also stated that "You may not copy the written materials accompanying the software".

So, after spending $ 300, what have I got?
I don't own the software, and can't copy the software (except for a backup) or the manual.
I spent $ 300 on a floppy disk, and some 8 1/2" x 11" paper"?
Am I really subject to that software license? I ordered the software over the phone, and nobody read me the license. How can I agree to, or be held to something, when I haven't been informed of it or read it, in advance?
(Side note: I recently had a run-in with Sony when I tried to cancel an order, and they told me I couldn't because it was against their terms and conditions. Their website never asked me to agree to their terms and conditions when I ordered, so I won out in the end).

Question: I'm sure these license warnings were included with all kinds of software back in the eighties, and for good reason too, as there was rampant copying going on at the time. Did anyone ever enforce these, or was it just an attempt to scare most people away from copying and distributing copied software? I would think the legal costs wouldn't have matched the potential gains from any lawsuit.

lutiana
November 2nd, 2009, 03:51 PM
As for Disney, their desperation to hold onto cartoons from the 1920s and 1930s is laughable, especially since you can find those cartoons all over the net.


I disagree. Disney still makes money from their cartoons from the 20s, in fact Mickey Mouse is the image of the company. If it fell into public domain who knows what we would see Mickey doing. Disney is a clear example of why a 75+ year copyright is justified IMO.

I also don't think that its about stopping people from reproducing their stuff (though they do issue their fair share of cease and desist letter from what I understand), its more about people representing themselves as legitimate Disney creators and making non sanctioned works. Disney is very dedicated to the Family oriented image and take it very seriously.

However, the problem comes into play with items that fall out of public notice and become obscure.

I think the copyright should be simplified. Person x creates something and is given 20 years of copyright by default, then he is forced to renew that copyright every 10 years with perhaps a 6 month grace period, as soon as he does not renew it the thing he created become public domain. The copyright (be it a person or a company or whatever) can renew as many times as they like for as long as they like.

This way big companies like Disney can maintain their bread and butter materials, and more obscure things can then fall into public domain and everyone is happy.

On a side note. I tried to contact Microsoft about MS-DOS to ask them about using it/buying/downloading it etc. After about 50 emails with people who had no idea what I was talking about, gave me the stock answer on software copyright or alternately could not tell me who had the answers to my questions I simply gave up. To me this is an issue, if a company is going to maintain a copyright on a product they should be obligated to maintain at least 1 contactable person on said copyright material.

Edit: I just tried to call MS again and I was told "The only way to get a license for any Microsoft product is to purchase it. MS-DOS is no longer purchasable from Microsoft." The guys sounded very confused about it himself.

lutiana
November 2nd, 2009, 03:59 PM
Did anyone ever enforce these, or was it just an attempt to scare most people away from copying and distributing copied software?

Its not a question did anyone enforce them, its more a question of they could enforce them if they wanted too.

Digital copyright law is simply unenforceable.

Fallo
November 2nd, 2009, 04:45 PM
The big problem is having an individual decide alone what is abandonware. Do you think OS/2 is abandonware? I think you'd get a differing opinion from Serenity Systems.

You apparently thought that I was cherry picking what software should be made PD and what shouldn't, which is not the case.

I'm saying that all software should have the same copyright term, but that there are just some things that are impractical to download regardless of their legal status. Would you download Office 2007 if it became PD tomorrow? I wouldn't.


I disagree. Disney still makes money from their cartoons from the 20s, in fact Mickey Mouse is the image of the company. If it fell into public domain who knows what we would see Mickey doing. Disney is a clear example of why a 75+ year copyright is justified IMO.

One thing to remember is that anyone who would have directly profited from those old cartoons is dead. Walt himself is long gone, as are all the writers, animators, and anyone else involved in the creation of them.

If you ask me, 75 years actually works out quite well, since by the time that expires, pretty much everyone involved in the creation of a work is gone. But absolutely no more than 75 years.

I could understand why Disney would not want third-party DVDs of cartoons with their characters depicted on them made, but you can find such videos in Walmart or other stores that have Bugs Bunny or Popeye or whatever cartoons that are now PD. They do not have the characters themselves depicted on the boxes though, because the trademarks on them are still owned by someone. Therefore, a third-party DVD of Steamboat Willy could not harm Disney's trademarks, so long as Mickey was not actually depicted on the cover.


On a side note. I tried to contact Microsoft about MS-DOS to ask them about using it/buying/downloading it etc. After about 50 emails with people who had no idea what I was talking about, gave me the stock answer on software copyright or alternately could not tell me who had the answers to my questions I simply gave up.

I don't think that most of the people currently at Microsoft know about anything before Windows XP.

lutiana
November 2nd, 2009, 05:37 PM
One thing to remember is that anyone who would have directly profited from those old cartoons is dead. Walt himself is long gone, as are all the writers, animators, and anyone else involved in the creation of them.


Are you saying that only a flesh and blood person should be able to hold a copyright and not a larger entity such as a corporation?

If an individual creates something for a company and agrees that the company owns it then the company directly profits from the item. And as long as that company is around they should be allowed to maintain the copyright on the thing in question, even long after the actually human creator is gone.

I guess it all goes back to what the point of a copyright is. IMO its there to protect the work of the creators so that no one else can steal/modify it and make money with it. Based on this definition, then I see no problem with a company maintaining a copyright indefinitely.

The part that needs tweaking is the part that dictates how and when something becomes public domain. Especially when it comes to digital content.

Ole Juul
November 2nd, 2009, 06:31 PM
I guess it all goes back to what the point of a copyright is. IMO its there to protect the work of the creators so that no one else can steal/modify it and make money with it. Based on this definition, then I see no problem with a company maintaining a copyright indefinitely.
I haven't heard that definition before, although I suppose it varies from country to country. AFAIK, in the USA the phrasing is "to promote the progress of science and useful arts". That is, the idea is to benefit society, not the individual. Contemporary research tends to cast doubt on the effectiveness, however there is some strong lobbying going on by individuals (and corporations) who have a slightly different view than the founding fathers. :)

Chuck(G)
November 2nd, 2009, 07:33 PM
Are you saying that only a flesh and blood person should be able to hold a copyright and not a larger entity such as a corporation?

Actually, in current US law, "collaborative" or "corporate" works enjoy a longer (120 years IIRC) copyright period than do individual works.

Patents, for example, can be granted only to individuals. But like copyrights, they can be promptly assigned to faceless corporate entities.

mbbrutman
November 2nd, 2009, 08:30 PM
Based on this definition, then I see no problem with a company maintaining a copyright indefinitely.

The part that needs tweaking is the part that dictates how and when something becomes public domain. Especially when it comes to digital content.


You contradict yourself. If a corporation can hold copyright indefinitely, then the work will never make it to the public domain. There is no 'tweaking' possible with this view.

Let's get back to what copyright was intended to do - provide some reasonable protection for new works. It is not supposed to be an indefinite license to profit from something created decades and decades ago. If this silliness keeps up, innovation will move to places where the copyright and patent laws are more reasonable.

rebeltaz
November 2nd, 2009, 10:08 PM
Everyone seems to have gotten off the original topic was was software copyright. Books, movies, music... all of that can be enjoyed years, even decades, after they're created. Software, on the other hand, is not so eternal.

Every year software companies release new versions of their software and everyone scrambles to upgrade. In my personal opinion, newer is not always better. Let's take an image viewer program that I use on my Windows computers. I have been using a program called ACDSee v3.0 for years. I love it. I just looked at their website and the closest thing is ACDSEE 2009. The Pro 3.0 product they list is a different beast all together. After upgrading to whatever they released after 3.0 (probably 4.0) five years ago or so, I reinstalled 3.0 and have used that ever since. Occasionally, I have had to download this program from abandonware sites because I have either lost my copy or it has become unreadable. Contacting ACDSee only results in instructions on purchasing their 'latest and greatest' incarnation. Same as lutiana's problems with M$-DOS.

I think if a company wants to maintain a copyright, then they should be required to offer that software title for sale at a price in line with their currently offered products. In other words, M$ can't offer Windows 7 for sale at $200 and M$-DOS for sale at $500 just so that they can claim no one can 'pirate' it, because "see, we still offer it for sale."

As for length, 10 years is too long since, like others have said - the hardware required to run said software is obsolete after three!

lutiana
November 2nd, 2009, 10:25 PM
You contradict yourself. If a corporation can hold copyright indefinitely, then the work will never make it to the public domain. There is no 'tweaking' possible with this view.


Well I did mean to contradict myself. What I mean to say is there are clearly defined laws with regards to maintaining copyright, but when it comes to them becoming public domain it become far more vague.

Ole Juul
November 2nd, 2009, 10:32 PM
As for length, 10 years is too long since, like others have said - the hardware required to run said software is obsolete after three!
I agree that 10 years is probably too long, but obsolete hardware? :confused: In case you didn't notice, this is the Vintage Computer Forum. :p

Looking at one of my two main computers here (power on 24/7) I see the BIOS says 1997. That computer is far from obsolete and I will probably be using it 10 years from now. There are also a lot of 10 year old cars out there running (you guessed it) 10 year old software. :)

Unknown_K
November 2nd, 2009, 11:13 PM
Doesn't the government used software for tax, SS, air traffic, militry systems etc written decades ago on mainframes? Even if the hardware was upgraded the same software is run in a virtual machine because it would cost many millions to code and debug a new version. If anything hardware becomes obsolete faster then software.

Personally I think 20 years is good enough for any copyright after which it should be public domain. Plenty of time to milk something to death and move on.

Fallo
November 2nd, 2009, 11:34 PM
It is not supposed to be an indefinite license to profit from something created decades and decades ago.

...Especially something who's original creator(s) are dead, and who's present owner had nothing to do with the creation of. Case in point, the Disney of today is a totally different company than the Disney of the 1930s, run by totally different people. The people there today had nothing whatsoever to do with the production of those early cartoons, and most of them hadn't even been born yet.

As for a more recent (and on-topic) example, take First Star Software, an insignificant little company who's entire existence seems to be based around releasing variations of Boulder Dash, a game they didn't even create (the original programmer sold it to them). Any time a website offers copies of BD for download, they go nuts. Since they can continue to milk the game for decades at the very least, they have absolutely no motivation to create anything new. The only other game of theirs that anyone remembers is Spy vs Spy, which was a licensed title and not an original concept. I've been to a couple different Commodore forums (Lemon 64 and others), and FSS is generally seen as a laughingstock on them.


I guess it all goes back to what the point of a copyright is. IMO its there to protect the work of the creators so that no one else can steal/modify it and make money with it.

As I said, Walt Disney and co. are all gone, and protecting their works no longer benefits them. We can disagree on this, but the primary purpose of copyrights should be to benefit those directly involved in the creation of a work.


Everyone seems to have gotten off the original topic was was software copyright. Books, movies, music... all of that can be enjoyed years, even decades, after they're created. Software, on the other hand, is not so eternal.

For games, it's a bit debatable, because they can be enjoyed years after they're created. However, they still depend on hardware that will eventually be outdated. Applications and operating systems really do become totally obsolete, and there is no reason whatsoever to maintain any lengthy copyright term on them.

Ole Juul
November 2nd, 2009, 11:35 PM
Perhaps only fashionable software gets dated. :) This year Cobol celebrates it's 50th anniversary. It has an estimated 200 billion lines of code and 5 billion lines added every year. The fact that there also are between 1.5 and 2 million active developers would also indicate that it's far from dead! I would imagine that in this case the hardware has been updated a few times however. Still, it shows that software can have quite a long lifespan.

carlsson
November 2nd, 2009, 11:48 PM
Yikes! It means every Cobol programmer in the world on average adds about 3000 lines of code per year. How many working days is there is a year, about 240? Well, it boils down to a moderate 12 lines of code per day. On the other hand that figure doesn't include all the lines that are changed, replaced or deleted assuming you can delete Cobol source code, not just jump around bad implementations.

Ole Juul
November 3rd, 2009, 12:05 AM
Fallo: . . . but the primary purpose of copyrights should be to benefit those directly involved in the creation of a work.I'm not sure where you're getting that from since you haven't listed your location. :) As I mentioned earlier, in the US, copyright is in the constitution. The exact phrasing is "To promote the progress of science and useful arts, . . . " and it is in Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8. It is not without reason that it is called the "Progress Clause".

I believe that the idea is to foster an environment where creators can invest their time for the benefit of society. In other words, to promote progress. The theory is that if their works are not protected, then they might not spend the time and, in some cases, resources to do this. I've seen various legal interpretations, but to go from there to "benefit those directly involved" is a bit of a stretch IMHO.

PS: I'm not arguing for the concept here. :) Personally I believe that copyright, especially on software, should be much shorter than it is.

Chuck(G)
November 3rd, 2009, 09:08 AM
Yikes! It means every Cobol programmer in the world on average adds about 3000 lines of code per year. How many working days is there is a year, about 240? Well, it boils down to a moderate 12 lines of code per day. On the other hand that figure doesn't include all the lines that are changed, replaced or deleted assuming you can delete Cobol source code, not just jump around bad implementations.

Those figures, amazingly enough, have pretty much held steady for the last 40 years. I recall a Datamation study from the early 70's that put the number of lines of COBOL per programmer per day at about 10.

Note that this dates back to the day of writing the code on a coding form, turning the form over to be punched into cards and then getting a few (2-4) compile and/or execution runs. All of the advances in computing and access to hardware haven't accomplished all that much.

As always, it's the debugging that kills you.

The principle behind the US Constitution's provision is to encourage innovation in the arts and sciences by granting a limited monopoly to the innovator.

Back in the mainframe days, no one inserted copyright notices into software--what would be the point? Software was just a necessary evil to sell hardware.

That pretty much changed when microprocessors came on the scene and anyone could own a computer that would run generic software.

linuxlove
November 3rd, 2009, 11:09 AM
here's a thought: if the company who wrote the software still held copyright on their software, but gave it up on the web (Like MS and Word 5.5), then what is this?

Fallo
November 3rd, 2009, 11:54 AM
That pretty much changed when microprocessors came on the scene and anyone could own a computer that would run generic software.

In fact, software has been eligible for copyright since 1962, before microprocessors existed. But even when the Altair was around, the early hobbyists (such as the Homebrew Computer Club) typically did not conceive of software as being a commercial product.


here's a thought: if the company who wrote the software still held copyright on their software, but gave it up on the web (Like MS and Word 5.5), then what is this?

I have no real problem with that. The real villains here are companies like First Star, not Microsoft.

Chuck(G)
November 3rd, 2009, 12:15 PM
In fact, software has been eligible for copyright since 1962, before microprocessors existed. But even when the Altair was around, the early hobbyists (such as the Homebrew Computer Club) typically did not conceive of software as being a commercial product

It depended on the software and how the copyright was claimed. A notice was required up until 1989 and in 1962, registration would have also been required.

Most firms didn't bother.

The mood of the hobbyist groups (such as HCC--I went to a few meetings at the SLAC auditorium) was more of interest and not commercial exploitation of software. That really didn't get started until BillG started yelling about peiople pirating his BASIC.

Chuck(G)
November 3rd, 2009, 12:19 PM
here's a thought: if the company who wrote the software still held copyright on their software, but gave it up on the web (Like MS and Word 5.5), then what is this?

Simply an intention not to prosecute. The copyright is still in force, as you'd find out if you came out with a blockbuster product that used code taken from one of those.

There is a mistaken notion floating around that a copyright owner must prosecute every instance of infringement that they're aware of. In fact, said owner can be as selective as s/he/it wants. This is not the case with a trademark, however.

Fallo
November 3rd, 2009, 12:49 PM
That really didn't get started until BillG started yelling about peiople pirating his BASIC.

The reason 90% of all copies of Altair BASIC were pirated was because of MITS' policy of charging $500 for a standalone copy (a large sum of money today, even more in 1976), or a cheaper price in exchange for also buying their worthless, unreliable 4k memory cards.


There is a mistaken notion floating around that a copyright owner must prosecute every instance of infringement that they're aware of. In fact, said owner can be as selective as s/he/it wants. This is not the case with a trademark, however.

Yes, a copyright remains in effect until the owner releases it as PD or it expires naturally. Trademarks last forever, and only expire if they're not enforced. As an example, Ford keeps coming out with new Mustang Cobras every few years to ensure that they never lose their ownership of the Cobra name.

Chuck(G)
November 3rd, 2009, 01:08 PM
The reason 90% of all copies of Altair BASIC were pirated was because of MITS' policy of charging $500 for a standalone copy (a large sum of money today, even more in 1976), or a cheaper price in exchange for also buying their worthless, unreliable 4k memory cards.

Heh, I bought MITS' $1K deal advertised in Poptronics, when, December of 1974? Took me a whole weekend and a lot of coffee to put it together. CPU , SIO and two 4K DRAM cards--how I hated those things! You'd lose bits every time you hit the reset switch. Eventually I wound up with a couple of SSM's 8K static (21L02) cards, then went back to DRAM with a 64K card. But anything was better than the *&$! MITS 4K cards.

rebeltaz
November 3rd, 2009, 03:34 PM
I agree that 10 years is probably too long, but obsolete hardware? :confused: In case you didn't notice, this is the Vintage Computer Forum. :p

Looking at one of my two main computers here (power on 24/7) I see the BIOS says 1997. That computer is far from obsolete and I will probably be using it 10 years from now. There are also a lot of 10 year old cars out there running (you guessed it) 10 year old software. :)

:rolleyes: By obsolete I meant to the average Joe - which I think we can all agree does not apply to anyone here on this forum! :)

Fallo
November 3rd, 2009, 04:19 PM
Eventually I wound up with a couple of SSM's 8K static (21L02) cards, then went back to DRAM with a 64K card. But anything was better than the *&$! MITS 4K cards.

The 4k cards were so bad that MITS had to keep seven Altairs running simultaneously to ensure that at least one worked. Ed Roberts was a complete thickhead who wouldn't listen to Bill Gates, Paul Allen, and others who protested that the cards were junk. He also became upset when third-parties started making useable memory cards. IIRC, it was a faulty design that did in the 4k cards.

Chuck(G)
November 3rd, 2009, 04:48 PM
The 4k cards were so bad that MITS had to keep seven Altairs running simultaneously to ensure that at least one worked. Ed Roberts was a complete thickhead who wouldn't listen to Bill Gates, Paul Allen, and others who protested that the cards were junk. He also became upset when third-parties started making useable memory cards. IIRC, it was a faulty design that did in the 4k cards.

So, does anyone need any of those funky 22-pin 4Kx1 DRAMs? I've still got a bunch. :(

Ole Juul
November 3rd, 2009, 09:38 PM
:rolleyes: By obsolete I meant to the average Joe - which I think we can all agree does not apply to anyone here on this forum! :) Agreed. I just couldn't resist the jibe! :)

However, besides the computer sitting in front of people, there are a lot of computers that are not seen. As an example I mentioned the ones in cars, but there are others. There is also "hidden" software in the form of libraries or routines. Stuff which only programmers see or notice but which lives on for decades.

When you say 3 years for hardware, perhaps you are not far off for the computer-in-front-of-you crowd. I agree that the software market there should have very short copyright terms. The more serious underlying stuff should also be short - but for different reasons.

In fact when these discussions come up, I can't help but think of the clothing fashion industry. A world where everybody copies everyone else and there is always a rush to be first and stay that way. It is a vibrant and profitable business which manages to do that without being bogged down by copyrights. In fact I marvel at how the software industry has managed to survive this long despite being bogged down by copyrights. Actually, I think we have reached a point where it is seriously hampered by it.

rebeltaz
November 4th, 2009, 05:44 PM
When you say 3 years for hardware, perhaps you are not far off for the computer-in-front-of-you crowd. I agree that the software market there should have very short copyright terms. The more serious underlying stuff should also be short - but for different reasons.

And that (CIFOYC) is really the only software copyright I meant.

On a similar note, while researching XBox mods, I saw where Micro$oft has released a new update to the 360 that is intended for the sole purpose of preventing people from installing Linux or homebrew software on their XBox 360. It irks me to no end to see a company taking steps to control what you can do with something, especially hardware, that you purchased. And I know M$ is not the only company to do this, they are just the most prevalent. In my opinion, if I can't hack it, take it apart, rewire it, modify it or use it for a purpose totally against it intended design - then I don't own it! If I bought it, by God it's mine and I will do with it whatever I feel like.

Chuck(G)
November 4th, 2009, 09:36 PM
If I bought it, by God it's mine and I will do with it whatever I feel like.

The legal question is "exactly what did you buy?"

In the case software, you bought a right to use it according to the license terms (e.g., for your own use, for your company's use, etc.).

There are all sorts of examples of this. For example, if I purchase a piece of sheet music, that doesn't give me a right to perform it for pay. It also doesn't give me the right to arrange it or make a recording of myself playing it and then selling the recording. Nor can I arrange it for some other media or instrumentation.

That's the law. Suppose I purchase a music CD. Can I use the CD for a soundtrack for a video I produce and sell? Of course not.

Ole Juul
November 4th, 2009, 10:31 PM
There are all sorts of examples of this. For example, if I purchase a piece of sheet music, that doesn't give me a right to perform it for pay. It also doesn't give me the right to arrange it or make a recording of myself playing it and then selling the recording. Nor can I arrange it for some other media or instrumentation.When one starts with common sheet music (what we used to call "music") then it seems easy to understand. Even if one didn't agree with it. However, as a jazzer, I wouldn't be able to function in a world of copyright enforcement, any more than we would be able to talk to each other if copyright was enforced on literary works in a public context. Most sentences are generic and it is only context which distinguishes one sentence from another. In a world where software is used in a "public context" the idea of copyright becomes barely workable. The same is true of music which is arguably even more limited than words in terms of the number of possible combinations.

I think, when you mention music, that you've hit on an interesting parallel with software. Popular music, for example, is so thoroughly derivative (even by definition) that we cannot talk about unique notes or rhythm. The only thing left is the unique character of the performance - which is where the artistry lies in that case. In other words, the clearly copyrightable part (outside of the original recording, if one exists) is really the social context. Something which is quite fleeting.

The whole culture of fake books is interesting in this context too. I used to write stuff down myself, or copy other peoples transcriptions and then, if you could afford it, there were the underground copies sold in collections such as "The Real Book". I've still got a well thumbed copy of the original, but nowadays we can get all that legitimately. I've got a stack of great fake books which are under 50 bucks but which I would have died for 40 years ago.

Chuck(G)
November 5th, 2009, 08:16 AM
The whole culture of fake books is interesting in this context too. I used to write stuff down myself, or copy other peoples transcriptions and then, if you could afford it, there were the underground copies sold in collections such as "The Real Book". I've still got a well thumbed copy of the original, but nowadays we can get all that legitimately. I've got a stack of great fake books which are under 50 bucks but which I would have died for 40 years ago.

Heh, the real "real" book used to be sold by shady guys who had their store in the trunk of a car. Jazz seems to be a special case, but just try publishing a new arrangement of a jazz standard without clearing the copyright. You'll probably end up going up against an army of Hal Leonard or Warner Bros lawyers who will make it very clear that they don't tolerate such stuff.

"Restored" copyrights are one of my sore points. A work that has been in the PD for decades suddenly isn't any longer and my rights to the work have evaporated. I understand that Shostakovich's family is making a nice living from Dmitri's hard work. I am aware of no "restored" software copyrights, but they abound in music.

But sometimes copyright isn't necessary to control a work. There's a vast amount of public domain work for large orchestra that's available only for hire. Just ask Ricordi or Boosey and Hawkes.

carlsson
November 6th, 2009, 12:40 AM
In the case of music, often there is an arranger or editor who has processed the original manuscripts. Converted Db flutes to C, replaced ophicleide parts with tuba, added harmonies present in the score but not in the parts, fixed a few bad accidentials in the strings, reformatted rhythms to a modern notation, added dynamics and so on.

I believe if you can get access to the original manuscripts (which probably sell for a lot of money, even if the music within has gone out of copyright), you can make and distribute copies of those, perform and record the music freely. However those manuscripts may contain lots of errors or missing parts which have been patched by the editor.

I am sure we could look at computer software in similar ways, just look at Apple. While Mac OSX by no means is free, it is built upon some form of BSD Unix. Today you have at least three free distributions of that operating system: NetBSD, FreeBSD and OpenBSD. You could argue that Apple is the arranger who has put a graphical shell on top of the core, possibly also fixed a bunch of bugs in BSD. Just like you could take a 100 year old music manuscript and fix it up yourself, you should be able to download NetBSD, XFree (if it runs on *BSD at all?) and patch it up to work pretty much like how OSX does. Yes, it is a lot of work but it doesn't cost you money except loss of income for those hours you neglect your paid work.

Besides, I believe commercial distributors of Linux actively take part of improving the kernel which everyone can get benefit from later on. It is not quite the point of this thread, but it would be akin to if the music publisher uploaded the original music out of copyright, most obvious mistakes fixed but you were still stuck with parts written for instruments popular 100 years ago.

Chuck(G)
November 6th, 2009, 08:16 AM
In the case of music, often there is an arranger or editor who has processed the original manuscripts. Converted Db flutes to C, replaced ophicleide parts with tuba, added harmonies present in the score but not in the parts, fixed a few bad accidentials in the strings, reformatted rhythms to a modern notation, added dynamics and so on..

If only. No, if you lease the Berlioz overture to "Le corsaire", you still get the insane ophicleide parts that go to a high Bb; horn and trumpet parts in odd keys, the whole thing.

I can understand copyrighting something with careful editing, but most hired orchestral music isn't that way. The copyright on the page is often in the 19th century.

Boosey, on the other hand, is notorious for fixing a note or two in a part and re-copyrighting the whole thing. Hence, it could be argued that making errors is in their best interest, as it gives them some basis for yet another go at copyright when the current one expires. The same might be said for some software.

There should be a test in copyright as to something be "substantively distinct", both for software and music, much the way a patent needs to embody something new or novel.

antiquekid3
November 11th, 2009, 07:53 PM
And that (CIFOYC) is really the only software copyright I meant.

On a similar note, while researching XBox mods, I saw where Micro$oft has released a new update to the 360 that is intended for the sole purpose of preventing people from installing Linux or homebrew software on their XBox 360. It irks me to no end to see a company taking steps to control what you can do with something, especially hardware, that you purchased. And I know M$ is not the only company to do this, they are just the most prevalent. In my opinion, if I can't hack it, take it apart, rewire it, modify it or use it for a purpose totally against it intended design - then I don't own it! If I bought it, by God it's mine and I will do with it whatever I feel like.

Wow, so true. I mean, I can understand the part about not using a CD in a soundtrack to a movie that you would make a profit off of, but not being able to modify a piece of hardware for your own personal enjoyment is ridiculous. In 30 years we've gone from building our own computers from a kit or scratch to not being able to modify a game console/comluter at all!!

Kyle

barythrin
November 12th, 2009, 07:47 AM
Really, the example I know best (and this is probably unfair and plenty of other companies had the same) but Apple IIe was a great open system and hacking it was encouraged, Apple IIc comes out and you open it up and you void your warranty.

Not sure what or why they decided to take that route but it was certainly discouraging as you no longer are supposed to own your hardware at that point.

I think I'm too tired this morning to continue the conversation though. There are lots of examples that don't make sense or are loopholes in a very old and probably need to be revised law.

rebeltaz
November 12th, 2009, 08:11 AM
Really, the example I know best (and this is probably unfair and plenty of other companies had the same) but Apple IIe was a great open system and hacking it was encouraged, Apple IIc comes out and you open it up and you void your warranty.

No, I can understand the 'voiding your warranty' stipulation. I wouldn't expect a company to fix something for free that I screwed up myself. And there a lot of idiots that do not need to be opening anything electronic - I get at least one in here every week.

But to actively work to prevent modding and hacking... That's a horse of a different color altogether!

facattack
November 17th, 2009, 08:30 AM
How about those old Sierra games that ask you to reference a page in the manual to answer a question to prove you legitimately own the game? That irks me! Or the disks that say "put in the original game disk" and all you seem to have lying around are copies of it?

Chuck(G)
November 17th, 2009, 11:26 AM
How about those old Sierra games that ask you to reference a page in the manual to answer a question to prove you legitimately own the game? That irks me! Or the disks that say "put in the original game disk" and all you seem to have lying around are copies of it?

Both, it seemed to me, were legitimate ways to thwart software piracy. I learned a long time ago that gamers are some of the more prolific software pirates...

There were even a couple of games that used a cardboard "circular slide rule" as part of the game.

lutiana
November 17th, 2009, 11:28 AM
I learned a long time ago that gamers are some of the more prolific software pirates...


I think that will change as the bulk of them get older and can afford the ridiculous price of games.

I used to pirate all my games because as a starving student I simply could not afford $30 - $60 for a new game. Not so much these days because either I don't have the time or I do have the cash.

barythrin
November 17th, 2009, 01:34 PM
Not to get too off to the side but games are still rediculously priced. I sometimes don't have the money but if I do I certainly don't want to plop down $70 for a game that sucks. It seems too many bad games are being made anyway where it's all graphics and no game play. Then either bugs and bugs (I truly don't ever remember patching games prior to the mid-90's .. that last game I installed downloaded a 1.8GB patch.. I mean c'mon) in the release, or a demo that has no real feel for the actual game, or worse a demo that was really good and we ran out and bought it then the game that was released was missing the features in the demo. A nice slap in the face to us who bought it.

Maybe I'm old now but I need to see things first before investing in them at the gouging prices. That and another thread elsewhere regarding collector editions lately not having what they promise in certain regions. Last collector's game I looked at getting didn't even come with the stuff that it was supposed to (a cd sound track, printed special manual/character sheets) instead it was a link to download some mp3's and a pdf with the content that you would normally get printed. Wow what a deal?!