Is inherited class a derivative work?

Karsten M. Self kmself at
Mon Oct 15 07:25:46 UTC 2001

on Mon, Oct 15, 2001 at 02:21:00AM -0400, Michael Beck (mbeck1 at wrote:
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: greglondon at [mailto:greglondon at]
> > Sent: Saturday, October 13, 2001 11:48
> Greg,
> thanks for your comments.
> > first of all, you're mixing USE (inherit) with MODIFY. A derived
> > class is not a modification of the original.
> Derived class is a "derivative work", because it is "based" on, or
> "extends", the original class. "Using" would be instantiating an
> object from it - stand-alone, or as a part of another class
> (composition). There would be no "adaptation" of the existing class.
> According to Copyright law, a derivative work is "a work based upon
> one or more preexisting works". It includes any "form on which a work
> may be recast, transformed, or adapted." (17 USC Sec. 101).

US Copyright law applies to expression.  It does *not* apply to factual
or functional characteristics of a work.

I'm neither a lawyer nor an OO programmer, but my understanding of an
API (which a class essentially is) is that it's largely functional.  To
this extent, the functional characteristics of a class, and their
inheritence in a derived class, would not be governed by copyright.

Specific, non-functional, expression from the parent class would be
subject to copyright protection, and the derived class would be governed
by copyright law in use of same.


Karsten M. Self <kmself at>
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