Derivative/collective works and OSL

Chuck Swiger chuck at
Mon Feb 7 21:58:04 UTC 2005

On Feb 7, 2005, at 4:07 PM, John Cowan wrote:
> Chuck Swiger scripsit:
[ ...stuff about compilers... ]
> Your argument proves too much: making a print from an oil painting is 
> "art
> reproduction", and is just as mechanical as compiling: yet by statute 
> it is
> making a derivative work, not just copying.

Interesting example!

Reproducing art via photography involves making a derivative work, not 
just mere copying: isn't that because the photographer makes creative 
decisions about what angle to photograph from, what time of day 
(affects lighting), details of camera and film used, and so forth?

If those creative elements were not present, would that make a 
difference?  For example, are the pictures taken by an automated 
security camera creative works which are copyrightable?

>> [ A classic example from NLP was: "The spirit is willing, but the 
>> flesh is
>> weak." became "The vodka is good but the meat is rotten." ]
> This story is apocryphal.

Indeed?  I just tried using Babelfish (, 
but my browser didn't handle Cyrillic well enough for me to attempt the 
return translation.  Trying English/Spanish/English gives:

El alcohol está dispuesto, pero la carne es débil.
The alcohol is arranged, but the meat is weak.

>> A tarball of a single work is an archive containing a single work, 
>> not a
>> collective work.  A tarball of two seperate works is an archive of two
>> seperate works, which is a simple aggregation and not a collective 
>> work. [2]
> I should have said that some tarballs are collective works, 
> specifically those whose components are not all by the same author.

With this distinction made, I would agree.

> They are closely comparable to anthologies of articles or short 
> fiction or poems; there is an art to choosing what goes in and what is 
> left out, and the chooser has a "compilation copyright", but that 
> copyright is rather thin: it extends to none of the underlying works, 
> but only to the principles of selection and arrangement (arrangement 
> is unimportant for tarballs).

I think the analogy between assembling software components from 
seperate authors into a finished program and an anthology of short text 
articles is useful.

>> Is a photocopy of a document considered a derived work, or is it 
>> considered to be the same thing as the original work for practical 
>> and legal purposes?
> It's a copy, not a derivative work.

OK.  Thanks!


PS: I was trying to come up with a fitting Latin quote, but all that 
comes to mind is: "silent enim leges inter arma".  Hmph.  I'd rather 
think about copyright law and compiler design than, say, current events 
in Cuba.

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