Crafting a special kind of license for a very special standard.

David Woolley forums at
Sun Apr 15 08:49:39 UTC 2007

Grant Robertson wrote:
> It seems to me that the GPL claims the right to "prevent unauthorized
> implementations" of any software derived from the original code. It

That's the default copyright position; the GPL is simply not
lifting that restriction except where you comply.

> seems to me that any software written to work with a standard could be
> considered to be "derived" from that standard. Although, I see how
> that is a stretch the courts may not agree with.

Where you need the lawyers is to define the exact meaning of
derived.  However, as a non-lawyer, I haven't heard of implementing
a standard being considered a copyright issue (although Adobe do
claim the copyright on the PostScript operator names, so, if they
are correct, you might not be able to implement an interworkable
implementation without the copyright licence that they give - that
may be a particular problem for software standards, as it wouldn't
apply to, say, screw threads).

> open-source software is always tested in open beta. So I will probably

The beta/release distinction for open source is not really well defined.

However, I think that "open beta" is really a marketing name for
pre-releasing, so as to corner the market, rather than for testing,
as most users of open betas don't provide feedback.

> Finally, I will also have trademark control. I can simply refuse to
> allow anyone to use the trademark unless they abide by the copyright
> license. Yes, someone could make up an entirely different standard

I think that what you are calling a copyright licence is actually a
trademark licence, in this respect, and it is trademark law that you
should be using to enforce the integrity of the standard.

(Incidently, there is a long history of big companies mis-implementing
standards and simply renaming them to get round the problem.  There is
also a significant history, in the software world, of companies simply
mis-implementing and then relying on their power in the market to make
their implementation the de facto one - especially for HTML!)


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