All rights waived

David Johnson david at
Sun May 13 07:38:08 UTC 2001

On Saturday 12 May 2001 23:31, David Croft wrote:

> It worries me a bit that some of the licenses treat "use" as just one of
> many potential permissions that can be granted.  Take the MIT license
> for example:

I'm not sure what the legal definition of "use" is in regards to software. I 
was using [sic] it in the sense of "utilize". This is different than some 
definitions in the industry where it only refers to the execution of the 

In my mind, "use" refers to execution, modification, distribution, 
performance, incorporation and publication of the software. 

> Of course, if it turns out that by stating "All rights waived" a
> copyright holder is indeed placing a work into the Public Domain since
> he is explicitly waiving all copyright rights, stating the following
> could be considered either a contradiction or an instantaneous
> transition:  "Copyright 2001 John Smith.  All rights waived."

Interesting conundrum. But I don't think it would be a contradiction. You 
first assert through the copyright notice that you possess certain exclusive 
rights to the work. Then you subsequently waive those rights. I think the 
only question remaining is whether you are able to waive *all* rights through 
such a simple statement.

> You may be wondering why I am so interested in waiving all rights
> instead of using an Open Source license to grant permissions.  My
> situation is that I wish to incorporate some of my personal code into a
> larger work that I am creating for a client.  Looking at it from their
> perspective, I can see where it would be simplest if I released my
> personal code to the Public Domain (or something akin to it) prior to
> integration.  Let's face it:  there aren't many clients out there who
> both understand and are willing to manage the obligations and
> restrictions of incorporated Open Source code.

I'm not sure I'm following this. Do they want exclusive rights to your 
previous code? Are they afraid of the restrictions and obligations of the MIT 
and BSD licenses? Or have they been brainwashed by the likes of Allchin and 
Mundie? If the latter, just place your stuff under an EULA and sell it to 
them for $5000 :-)

Actually, the latter isn't such a bad idea if they're locked into a 
legalistic mode. Write a contract that authorizes them to use your prior code 
for any purpose for a sum of $1.00.

> By the way, my recent clients have been cool enough to accept joint
> ownership without accountability of any "reusable software of general
> applicability that extends beyond the scope and purpose of the software
> developed for the Company under this Agreement".  By having requested
> this contract clause, I am able to integrate any highly reusable
> non-application-specific code, such as an array manipulation library or
> an SML parser, back into my personal library.  I can then turn around
> and release it to the general public under the terms of an Open Source
> license.  While this is not quite the same as being employed directly to
> create Open Source code, it seems to achieve the same effect.

Oh, I wish I had that clause in my employee's intellectual property 
agreement! I have some personal code that is useful for a project at work, 
but the agreement gives them rights to anything I work on during company time 
or with company resources. In fact, that agreement is rumoured to be changing 
in the near future, so I may keep your clause in mind as something to insert 
when it comes up.

David Johnson

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