[MUD-Dev] Diku & GPL

Steve {Bloo} Daniels sdaniels at playnet.com
Wed Dec 6 15:07:21 New Zealand Daylight Time 2000

Jon Lambert wrote:

> No.  Copyright law is not murky.  It is not untested or uncharted
> waters.  It is crystal clear.

I wish you had taught my Intellectual Property Transactions
course in law school if that were really the case.

Pardon this lawyer, though not practicing at the moment,
and newbie to the list for chiming in.

This looks to be a messy issue.  Therefore, expensive.
>From what I can gather on this thread, and the page of
info referred to the issues are not clear.  That means
both sides take a huge risk by letting a judge or jury
decide the case.  There is never any certainty when
there is a jury.

A brief list of issues I see:

Contract dispute:  The strength of the license.  It explicitly
allows for the creation of "derivative works" (a term of art),
as long as license is adhered to.  Actually, most copyright
cases are actually contractual/license issues.  Copyright law
is "default" law, i.e., what the rules are when the parties do
not agree otherwise.  Generally, it is possible to contract
around most of it, assuming you have good lawyers to draft
the agreements.

Copyright infringement:  Is Merc or Medievia a derivative
work?  Remember that term has special meaning in copyright
law.  If it is a derivative work, then the license applies.
If it isn't, then it is an independent original work of authorship
and qualifies for copyright protection on its own, without regard
to DikuMud.

Copyright Fair Use Exception:  If Merc/Medievia does have
parts of DikuMud, does it have a fair or unfair amount?  Not
an easy question.  There are cases on the books in which 30%
of one program's code was used verbatim and there was no
finding of copyright infringement.  Copyright is sometimes weak
at protecting code optimization routines because it is more
functional than original in that situation (which is a *very*
dangerous area because it invites the cross-contamination of
copyright and trademark doctrines - they are combustible
when mixed - and there are already enough, IMHO, wrongly
decided copyright cases that use trademark theory to torture
copyright law).

What I see is a situation that is expensive to litigate, as well
as dangerous because you would have a very tough time
predicting an outcome.  No great surprise.  This is why 90+%
of all legal disputes are settled out of court.  It is also why
finding business solutions to legal problems is much better.

In these kinds of quasi-open development, gpls, and such,
the unfortunate fact is that you maintaining exclusive control
of something is incredibly difficult and ludicrously expensive.
There is a push-pull between ability to control and the ability
to grow the popularity/usage/accessibility of your product.
There are always free-riders out there.

If it were me, and maintaining my attribution rights (keeping
my name on the thing) was most important, I would have
allowed others to make profit on it as long as they kept
my name on it.  If profit were my goal, but I still wanted others
to use and develop it, I'd use a small royalty on licensee's profits.


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