how much right do I have on my project, if there are patches by others?

Rick Moen rick at
Mon Jul 9 00:59:49 UTC 2007

Quoting Matthew Flaschen (matthew.flaschen at

> What if a significant amount of code is removed in the patch?  Could
> that exceed the limits of fair use?

These questions seem to indicate some serious confusion, since they
discuss an issue that has nothing to do with whether one work is
derivative of another in copyright law.  If you wish to better
understand how that concept is defined in USA copyright law, your best 
starting point is the CAI v. Altai decision.  

> > Merging it into the original work strikes me as very likely to
> > create a derivative work -- which then necessarily falls into either
> > the joint- or collective-work category.
> Is this really correct?  

Attempting argumentum ad ignorantiam again, Matthew?  Your lack of
understanding of basic legal concepts really isn't my problem.

> If a derivative work wasn't coordinated at all with the original, 
> how could it be a joint or collective work?

"Coordinated with" appears to have no meaning in copyright law,
so your question is not answerable as stated.  That aside, it is simple
logic that a collective (not "derivative") work _must_ be either joint
or collective, as those are mutually exclusive and exhaustive conceptual

> Also, some derivative works are illegal.  How does that fit in?

How can you _not_ understand that the creation and distribution of some
derivative works is tortious (not necessarily "illegal"), on account of 
copyright violation?  And what on _earth_ does this question have to do
with the preceding thread?

Again, I don't know exactly what your problem is, here, but I'm unclear
on why it's suddently become my job to teach you.

> > If contributors prove that ye olde primary author has failed to
> > safeguard their interests or has violated agreements with them, then
> > nonetheless the primary author may find he/she lacks that option.
> > Please note that courts tend to measure "interests" for civil-law
> > purposes in economic terms: 
> So if a contributor uses copyleft for non-pecuniary reasons, they have
> no recourse, right?

I said nothing like that.

Whether one party has committed a tort towards another depends on the
particular circumstances and the duties that person has _in_ those 
circumstances.  I cited _one_ theory of law that could apply.  Many
others could, also.

> > But, anyhow, in that hypothetical, any party (obviously) can fork
> > rev. n-1, taking over maintenance under copyleft.
> But that's hardly enough, if the primary author has created a
> proprietary fork against a major contributor's wishes.

"Enough" for what?  Facts do not change just because you don't approve
of them, Matthew.  See .signature block, please.

Cheers,                                      "Reality is not optional."
Rick Moen                                             -- Thomas Sowell
rick at

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