Is inherited class a derivative work?

Michael Beck mbeck1 at
Thu Oct 18 16:04:49 UTC 2001

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Angelo Schneider
> Sent: Thursday, October 18, 2001 05:33

> As I pointed out allready: linking to an API is not, I repeat: not a
> derived work.
> "derived work" is a legal term. You can not redefine it in
> your license.

Why are in insisting that "deriving a new class" is equal to "linking to an
API"? Unless you believe that a class cannot be copyrighted, please see the
class as a copyrighted entity, the same way as you see a book.

If we agree that class is a copyrighted entity, then inheritance is NOT calling
individual functions of that class. If you make changes to the class via
inheritance - you add new elements, you modify existing elements - you are
adapting this class to be or do something different than it was designed to be
or do.

All those elements are part of the class, the same as words are part of a book.
Individual words cannot be copyrighted, and anyone is free to use them in a
different combination. But as soon as your start to change them in a particular
book, you are making modification to this book. So unless you deny me the right
to copyright my class, from the CLASS perspective any changes to the class
implementation (and not just to the class interface) should be treated as
modification of this class, and as such, a "derivative work".

> Probably you see that "the character of the original work" still is
> easyly recognizeable in ane form of derived work.
> You can say the essence of the original work shines through the
> reworking (reworking creates a derived work).

Yes, the original class shines through reworking (a derived/inherited class).

> How do you like to construct a case of derived work by calling an API?
> Is that a "transaltion" of the library?
> Is that a new [deleted musical] "arangement" of that library (source
> code)?
> Is that a "dramatization" of that librarty if you write code
> calling it?
> Is it a fictionalization?

It's an "adaptation" of an existing class, and as such, it creates a "derivative

> So: how may a call to an API, which surely may be a heavy
> use, the whole
> work may be unthinkable without that API, but how may this be
> a "derived
> work"? No modifications, adaptions, elaboratons. annotations,
> recasting,
> transforming of the original work!

Yes, by making changes to the class, you have made adaptation of this class.

> In most programming languages you only use *one* keyword plus the name
> of the base class to derive a class from: that would just be
> a citation of the class name.
> Citation is fair use, and a one word citation is (legaly) not even
> considered to be a citation.

I think, it's a wrong premise. You can do it ONLY because the technology enables
you to do it. Could you do it the same, if the compiler wouldn't do the dirty
work for you? Since your "intent" was to modify this class, I don't think that
you can claim a simple citation here.

As the least (i.e. you don't do any changes), you are making a copy of the
class. And as soon as you start to make additions/changes to the new class, you
are making adaptation of the original class. Again, please see the class as a
copyrighted entity, the same way as a book, or a chapter of a book.

> Finaly, (I said this at least 4 times on the list during the
> alst days)
> as long as you do not take one original source file from said library
> and modify THAT file, you make no derived work. NO, this is not my
> opinion, that is legal fact.

Can you show some court cases where this was clearly stated?

Till I see something different, I have to assume that similarly to a book, you
don't have to modify THAT file to create a derivative work - book translation
into another language, movie based on a book, a script for that movie - all of
it's a derivative work, even if you didn't modify the original book.


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