Copyright vs? Click-wrap "contract"

Chris Gray chris.gray at
Mon Nov 4 15:21:44 UTC 2002

On Fri, 1 Nov 2002, John Cowan wrote:

> Brendan Hide scripsit:
> > The first two books I pick up from the shelves:
> > The Concise Oxford Dictionary, reads:
> > "(c) Oxford University Press 1999
> > 
> > Database right Oxford University Press (makers)
> > First published 1999
> > 
> > All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, 
> > [remainder snipped]
> [second example snipped]
> > These look like licenses to me.
> They're not.  They are warnings that the standard rights of copyright
> owners are reserved.  A license includes a grant of rights: these
> notices are anti-licenses that don't grant anything.

BTW what does the team think about notices such as this one:

  Copyright (C) 1997-1999 Sun Microsystems, Inc.
  901 San Antonio Road, Palo Alto, California 94303 U.S.A.
  All rights reserved.

  Duke(TM) designed by Joe Palrang.

  RESTRICTED RIGHTS LEGEND: Use, duplication, or disclosure by the United 
  States Government is subject to the restrictions set forth in DFARS 
  252.227-7013 (c)(1)(ii) and FAR 52.227-19. 

  The release described in this manual may be protected by one or more 
  U.S. patents, foreign patents, or pending applications.

  Sun Microsystems Inc. (SUN) hereby grants you a fully paid, 
  nonexclusive, nontransferable, perpetual, worldwide limited license 
  (without the right to sublicense) under SUN's intellectual property 
  rights that are essential to practice this specification. This license 
  allows and is limited to the creation and distribution of clean room 
  implementations of this specification that: [... list of conditions 
  omitted for brevity].

I read this as a one-sided grant, rather like the BSD license: if I take 
the trouble to read it then I find I have more rights than I previously 
thought, provided I comply with the conditions. Otherwise, I'm just 
reading a book. However it has been suggested to me that this notice could 
be intended to restrict the ways in which the book's contents can be used: 
that if I go ahead and create and distribute a clean room implementation 
then it has to fulfil all the listed conditions. And that I may not 
distribute my implementation under an open source license, because that 
would amount to sublicensing.

Fact or FUD?


Chris Gray

VM Architect, ACUNIA

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