Seth Johnson seth.johnson at
Sat Oct 26 01:49:54 UTC 2002

John Cowan wrote:
> Lawrence E. Rosen scripsit:
> > You "own" a copy of the software under a license from the copyright and
> > patent holders.
> Why the horror quotes?  Ownership is not absolute _alodium_, right enough,
> but subject to the copyright owner's enumerated interests, ownership
> of a lawful copy looks to me much like ownership of any other chattel.
> You buy a book, you get to read it, scribble on it, burn it, use it to
> check erosion in a gully.  Same story for free software.

There is an unavoidable difference between the material
fixed-medium recording, and the ideas represented by the
expression recorded there.  Authors have statutory exclusive
rights to expression, not real "ownership" in the sense of
fundamental, natural rights.

This is important when you want to get to the nitty gritty
of just what copyright "ownership" boils down to.  The
author "owns" expression in the sense of statutorily granted
exclusive rights.  The buyer of the work owns the product. 
Nobody, or everybody, owns the ideal and/or cultural ideas
that expressive works convey.  The author has *exclusive
rights* (copyright) to particular expressions.

Seth Johnson


[CC] Counter-copyright:

I reserve no rights restricting copying, modification or
distribution of this incidentally recorded communication. 
Original authorship should be attributed reasonably, but
only so far as such an expectation might hold for usual
practice in ordinary social discourse to which one holds no
claim of exclusive rights.

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