Licensing a python module

Ben Tilly btilly at
Thu Apr 24 18:32:50 UTC 2008

On Thu, Apr 24, 2008 at 9:07 AM, John Cowan <cowan at> wrote:
> Ben Tilly scripsit:
>  > Doublecheck that "usually, by default."  Matthew is completely right
>  > about jurisdiction mattering.  If you live in New York then by default
>  > it belongs to your lawyer.
>  That's pretty funny, but you should really use a smiley face, or someone
>  might just take it literally.

Oops, I didn't *mean* to say that.  I meant employer.  Honest.

But I wish I'd meant it.  And put the smiley in. :-)

>  But then again the intersection of the over-broad U.S. copyright law and
>  the over-broad New York statute produces some bizarre results: the copyright
>  in the grocery list you scribble down belongs to your employer, and if
>  you copy items from it to a later grocery list, you are theoretically
>  liable to your employer for infringement.

I've had a lawyer explain this one to me.  It isn't that simple.  If
your personal work relates in no way, shape or form to the kind of
stuff you do your job, you have a case to claim your own copyright.
So if I'm hired as a programmer and I write the great American novel,
it may be mine.  If I'm a programmer and write a program that has
nothing to do with my work, it still is theirs.  If I'm an editor and
I write the program, it is probably mine.  But the book would be

Since few of us are in the business of writing grocery lists, we
probably own the copyright on our grocery lists.

>  > the module in your own time on your own equipment, then you own it by
>  > default.
>  I'm proud (as well as relieved) to say that my employer, a California
>  for-profit but don't-be-evil corporation, extends this benefit
>  of California law to all its employees, even those like me in less
>  civilized jurisdictions.  (This is done by a special page in the contract
>  of employment.)

I just took care of the problem by moving from New York to California.

And New York wonders why it doesn't have many startups?


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