Is inherited class a derivative work?

Michael Beck mbeck1 at
Fri Oct 26 00:43:54 UTC 2001

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Karsten M. Self
> Sent: Thursday, October 25, 2001 15:06

> I've been trying to ignore this thread for some time.  It's not
> possible.
> Michael:  it's clear that neither facts nor logic will sway your
> position.  _That_ point has been sufficiently demonstrated.

I am very sorry that you feel that way.

Regarding facts, there were several statements presented as facts on this list,
which later, based on Micro Star v. FormGen case, proved to be simply wrong
(e.g. that a derivative work "has" to contain concrete source code from the
original work to be declared as derivative). If not for this thread, most people
would still believe that this is a given fact. Don't you think then that there
is some educational benefit coming out from this thread?

I have also repeatedly asked for facts - references to legal cases/court rulings
(even in German), but didn't receive any (except the article of Prof. Dixon). If
I missed them in any email, I would appreciate if you could point me to those

Regarding logic - the logic of some of the opinions raised questions in my mind.
For example, the one coming from Prof. Dixon that because some languages have
built-in inheritance mechanism therefore "there is an implied license to create
derived classes that contain objects inherited from another." To me, this is
like stating that because word processors have "copy & paste" feature, there is
an implied license to create documents that contain passages from other
documents. Yes, if the other documents are yours (or in public domain), then of
course you can do it. But I have to respectfully disagree with this logic, if it
involves documents (or classes) copyrighted by other people.

Also, regarding Prof. Dixon's comments about Section 117(a) - this section is
stating that you have the right to make an adaptation, and therefore "the
resulting 'modification' or 'adaptation' would be outside the scope of copyright
protection entirely." How could this logic sway my position if by the exact
definition provided by the Copyright act, an adaptation "is" a derivative work.
So for 117(a) in no way states that inherited class is "not" a derivative work,
but exactly the opposite - by using 117(a), Prof. Dixon actually reinforces the
notion that inheritance "is" a derivative work.

Further, since we started to use section 117, 117(b) states that the adaptations
defined in 117(a) "may be transferred only with the authorization of the
copyright owner."

So based on that we have established that while the developer has the right to
make adaptation of a class (i.e. to derive a new class), he is creating actually
a derivative work. And distribution of it can be done only with authorization of
the original class owner. Which means that while he can create a new
EvenBetterSuperCoolGrid, he can not distribute it to others without the
permission of the original SuperCoolGrid author.

I believe that the Micro Star v. FormGen case provides significant legal support
that inheritance should be treated as "derivative work". But since I didn't
receive any contradicting legal cases or court rulings, and since comments from
Prof. Dixon about Section 117 actually reinforced my position, why should I
change it? Based on what legal facts?

I am sorry to see that you are trying to kill this thread, because I believe
that a clarification of this issue is very important for people donating code to
Open Source, as well as those using it. And if the premise that "inherited class
is a derivate work" would be confirmed, this would also have an impact on how we
write Open Source licenses. And because of that, IMHO, this thread fits into the
scope of this mailing list.

> Others:  I'd recommend strongly that further posts by Michael
> be not be
> favored with responses.  My killfile trigger finger is itching badly.

Again, I am sorry that instead of bringing up actual legal cases / court
rulings, you are trying to shut down this thread.

> Peace.

To you too :)


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