John Cowan jcowan at
Thu Oct 24 18:22:04 UTC 2002

Ken Brown scripsit:

> Thanks for your reply.  Let me be clear.  There is a big difference between
> saying that I have a copyright, which is  intellectual property ...with
> legal enforceable rights, and saying that I have a copyright but I choose
> not to enforce it vs. I have a copyright, but I choose to put my material
> into a pool whose members have every right to retangle, untangle, rework and
> modify my work.

If you wrote the work, you are a copyright owner (unless your employer is,
or unless you work for the U.S. government, or unless you transfer the
copyright to the FSF or someone else), period.  Nothing you can do about it.

> This is particularly precarious when the GPL itself says that there is
> unmitigated circulation of the work which is completely opposite of the
> basic definition of copyright.

The bundle of rights called "copyright ownership" constitute the right to
prevent certain things.  You don't have to exercise these rights for them
to be actual rights.

> If you cannot control distribution or
> modification, you do not have "copyrights."

The GPL emphatically controls modification.

> So I get credit...big deal.  Credit is entirely different from enforceable
> copyrights.

Credit is indeed a big deal, especially when profit is not available for a work.
Most people want the justly acquired approval of their peers.

> Ex:  I own a piece of property...but at anytime, anybody in the General
> Public can use it, dig it up, change it, etc.  How can you say I have
> ownership of the property?

Let a member of the public step in a rabbit-hole and break his leg, and
it is you and no one else who will be sued.  This is why public licenses
disclaim all warranties.

John Cowan   jcowan at
    "Mr. Lane, if you ever wish anything that I can do, all you will have
        to do will be to send me a telegram asking and it will be done."
    "Mr. Hearst, if you ever get a telegram from me asking you to do
        anything, you can put the telegram down as a forgery."
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