Is inherited class a derivative work?

Michael Beck mbeck1 at
Wed Oct 24 09:49:49 UTC 2001

> -----Original Message-----
> From: angelo.schneider at
> Sent: Monday, October 22, 2001 02:19
> > > > If I write a class which extends java.util.Dictionary,
> then whose
> > > > implementation
> > > > of java.util.Dictionary am I adapting:
> > >
> > > No-one's.
> > > Is the original work changed? No.
> > > Is the original work copied&pasted? No.
> > > Is the original work translated to produce the new work? No.
> > > Does the new work rely heavily on the original FOR ITS
> >
> > If Chris extended directly the java.util.Dictionary, and
> has overriden the
> > abstract methods, then you are correct. However, if he
> extended any of the
> > listed "implementations" of java.util.Dictionary, then he
> has created a
> > "derivative work", because he has changed the "design
> blueprint" of the
> > particular implementation.
> >
> Sorry but this is plain wrong.
> Creating a derived class, is neither technical in the way you state it
> nor leagaly a derived work.
> All the NOs above make clear that the work is no "derived work" in the
> sence of copyright law.

Unfortunately, all the NOs don't make it so clear. There are cases, where this
doesn't apply.

If you go to Altai v. CA (1992), "the Second Circuit designed its Altai test to
deal with the fact that computer programs, copyrighted as "literary works,"  can
be infringed by what is known as "nonliteral" copying, which is copying that is
paraphrased or loosely paraphrased rather than word for word. [...] When faced
with nonliteral-copying cases, courts must determine whether similarities are
due merely to the fact that the two works share the same underlying idea or
whether they instead indicate that the second author copied the first author's
expression. The Second Circuit designed its Altai test to deal with this
situation in the computer context, specifically with whether one computer
program copied nonliteral expression from another program's code."


In this case:

- the original work didn't change
- the original work was not copied & pasted
- the original work wasn't translated to produce a new work.

Even a better case is Micro Star v. FormGen:

Based on the above, all the NOs are not that clear at all, at least IMHO.


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