Is inherited class a derivative work?

Michael Beck mbeck1 at
Thu Oct 25 11:16:00 UTC 2001

> -----Original Message-----
> From: rdixon84 at [mailto:rdixon84 at]
> Sent: Wednesday, October 24, 2001 23:24

> The `right to derive classes`? I thought someone explained,
> quite thoughtfully, that this was NOT a matter of concern
> under copyright law.

Which one do you have in mind? I've seen quite a few different explanations
here, some of which, based on the MicroStar v. Formgen case, were simply not

> In addition, I think it is unadvisable
> to make object-oriented programming practices like
> inheritance, encapsulation, or polymorphism the subject
> matter of open source licensing.

Regarding inheritance, why is it not advisable? Currently I have couple of cases
where potential donors of code have second thoughts about going OpenSource,
because they are concerned that they are not receiving enough protection for
their code, i.e. some people will inherit from their classes, declare the new
classes as their own work, and never publish them back to the community, and
instead, try to financially benefit from it. I believe that the success of
OpenSource is based on publishing of "derivative work" back to the community, so
ensuring that this is happening would be IMHO very much beneficial to Open

While I felt from the beginning <g> that inheritance is creating a "derivative
work", I believe now that the MicroStar v. Formgen case gives us the required
legal support for just that.

But if there are legal cases that contradict the MicroStar v. Formgen findings,
then I would appreciate any links to them.

>From the open source licensing perspective, I don't see any issue at all. Seeing
inheritance as "derivative work" doesn't harm anybody, because those authors who
agree with developers releasing the derived classes as their own, can release
their code under license like BSD. But treating inheritance as "derivative work"
gives protection to all of those who want to ensure that all "derivative work"
goes back to the community. Currently this is not the case, and it is up to the
developer to publish derived classes or not.

But I would appreciate your perspective on why is it not advisable.


P.S. Your article on treating source code as speech was very interesting. Thanks
for the link.

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