GPL2 and IBM Public license

Rick Moen rick at
Sat Mar 22 22:01:30 UTC 2008

Quoting joe digital (nkj690 at

> Hi, so what you are saying is that unless its totally unique then it
> cannot be classified as "intellectual property".. 

This term "intellectual property" suffers from inherent, wretchedly
severe vagueness -- leaving aside other objections that many have raised
to it on other grounds.  Therefore, if you want useful answers, you
might want to ask more-precise questions.  (I know, I know; you're
probably just quoting the exact terminology some C*O or other corporate
flack used.)

> Basically the way I see it is that if all you have done is put
> together some open source software into a "special configuration" then
> there must be a hundred other people out there that have done the same
> thing.

Is there a question?  Earlier, you asked:

> but lets say you have configured a combination of this software in a
> special way or even have added a patch to the software can you then
> claim intellectual property over the way its configured?

(I'm going to assume you mean "copyright" where you said "intellectual
property", above.  The latter term also encompasses trade secrets,
patents, and trademarks -- which are extremely diverse beasts, which is
part of the reason why the umbrella term is so utterly useless in any
specific, practical discussions.)

John Cowan already said "yes", and pointed out that the legal criterion
used is whether the integrator is judged to have established a "creative
work" within the meaning of that phrase in copyright law, or whether in
the alternative it involved some sort of merely mechanistic action.  Note
that obviousness isn't the issue:  It's whether the rather bare minimum
legal requirement for creative content has been achieved.

(As Leonard Bernstein pointed out, the sequence of notes in Beethoven's
Fifth Symphony has a sort of inevitability about it, but nonetheless
required a genius to write it.)

If you want to get a good professional guess about whether a
_particular_ arrangement/configuration of works is creative enough to
qualify for copyright title, hire a really good copyright attorney.  ;->

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