Is inherited class a derivative work?

David Johnson david at
Thu Oct 25 01:53:51 UTC 2001

On Wednesday 24 October 2001 02:49 am, Michael Beck wrote:

> 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."

The key phrase above is "copying that is paraphrased or loosely paraphrased". 
In some rare instances, a subclass could be considered a "paraphrase" of the 
base class. But this is not the normal and typical use of inheritance. There 
would be no use at all for inheritance if it were only a restatement of the 
base class. Why use the subclass at all then? The most common reason for 
using inheritance is to (in literary terms) "expand upon a theme."

I don't see how the Altai test applies to subclasses.

David Johnson
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