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Re: zsh startup oddity

On  4 Apr, Michael Wardle replied to:
>  > BTW, should you include a copyright and license term comment in shell.c? 
>  > It would make me feel much more comfortable. 
>  It's a trivial program I wrote with reference to no other programs.  I 
>  hereby release it into the public domain.  Use it as you like. 

Great, but for legal reasons, doesn't that statement need to be inside
the source file itself?  I thought you'd need to have a copyright
statement in there so that it even had a *chance* of being adopted into
the official Cygwin release.

I had a look at, and saw these

    If your change is going to be a significant one in terms of
    the size of your code changes, be aware that you will have to
    sign over the copyright ownership of your code changes to Red
    Hat or the FSF (depending on the source file) before we can
    include your changes in the main source tree. Your employer may
    also have to send us a disclaimer stating that they have no
    claims to your contribution. This is necessary for liability
    reasons. Here [] is our standard
    assignment form for changes to Cygwin that you can fill out, sign,
    and send back.

I also think that there are big difficulties about getting anything
into the public domain.  Much easier to put it under a Free or OSS
licence.  See below, from a googled discussion page about Dmitri
Sklyarov that drifted into the topic.

Unfortunately, the legal practicalities can't be ignored without
risking damage to Cygwin, IMHO.  Sorry to be so pushy about this, but
it's simply because I'm really hoping to see your shell.c included in
the official Cygwin distribution!

Best regards,


Karsten M. Self:
Date: Thu, 15 Nov 2001 17:15:18 -0800
Subject: [free-sklyarov] RE: Free Sklyarov
In-Reply-To: <>; from on Thu, Nov 15, 2001 at 12:13:34AM -0800 References:
<> <p051003a9b818fd67704e@[]> <> <> Message-ID: <20011115171518.E19665@navel.introspect>

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on Thu, Nov 15, 2001 at 12:13:34AM -0800, Christopher R. Maden (crism@maden= wrote:
> Hash: SHA1
> At 00:44 15-11-2001, DeBug wrote:

>> I find it very dangerous to REQUIRE that every  software had a
>> copyright holder. For example I want to put my program into public
>> domain anonymously so that noone can control how other people use it.
>> It seems to be impossible because BY DEFAULT any program has an owner
>> i.e. lawers want to have a person that could answer in the court who
>> can and who cannot use the program.
> Well, you have copyright when you create it - you can then assign that=20
> copyright to the public domain.=20

It's not clear that this is possible.

"Public domain" is not a term defined in the US copyright statute.  The
definition I have from _Black's Law Dictionary_ is

    The realm of publications, inventions, and processes that are not
    protected by copyright or patent.

The strict legal argument I've seen is that a work doesn't enter public
domain until it has lapsed copyright, isn't subject to copyright in the
first place (e.g.:  works of the US Federal Government), or has had
copyright stripped of it by court order or other legal means.  A work
may be *licensed freely*, but it is still subject to copyright status --
absent the license, it *is* covered by copyright law, and isn't freely
available for use.

Copyright ownership can be assigned.  I'm not sure what entities a
copyright may be assigned to to place it in the public domain --
"assigned to all persons for any use"?  Or if a registration indicating
same would be accepted by the US Library of Congress.  Such an
assignment would seem to be non controversial, but....

> The default state, legally, is that a work is copyright as soon as
> someone creates it.  And if your program is held to be illegal in some
> way, then you could be charged (at least as an accomplice) for
> creating and distributing the program, copyright issues aside.
> This demonstrates, I think, some of the problems that arise when a
> work is held itself to be illegal in some way, as opposed to just its
> use.

I think we're in some agreement here, though I'll amplify the point.
There are specific legal obligations which come about as a result of
copyright, largely under the DMCA, but also other liabilities.  Dmitry
may well be a victim of this contingent liability.  These are
obligations of ownership, and simply stating that a work is "public
domain" may not be sufficient to transfer these liabilities to the
public at large without consideration or affirmation, or it may not be
possible to transfer them from the author at all.  The latter situation
creates a distinction between "copyright holder" (including "public at
large") and "author", as concerns liability.


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