A brief legal notice

The contents of this page are

Copyright 1996, 1997 J.F.Cuff

1990 -- [Missing Ephemera]



However since you must download a copy of this page in order to read it, I propose that the remainder of this page be dedicated to an examination of the nature of intellectual property. It really means that if you exploit the contents commercially or act to damage the commercial value of it, I have the right to demand several ounces of flesh. Other than that, by all means review it, link to it (as if I could object to that) even make fair use copies of it.

A detailed discussion of copyright will follow...

Okay let's get more serious about this essay. Outline time.

inherent inalienablilty of the public domain

Many of the "copyleft" notices which seem to be proliferating these days have as a prominent stated objective, either:

The case of seeking to prohibit commercial exploitation is clear only in regard to unrelabeled resale, for even a natural individual using a software artifact is likely to be doing so is some fashion expected to benefit that individual, difficult to distinguish from commercial behaviour unless the exchange of instruments of value is taken to be the defining event of commercial activity.

This amounts to a prohibition to profitablity.

The problem is further compounded by the common legal fiction of natural and corporate persons and the assumption that the law should apply equally to all persons. Furthermore, the practice of perceiving all persons as equal is extended in law to the practice of perceiving all corporate persons as equal.

While the presumed equality of natural persons is a boon to civilization, it is debatable whether the presumed equality of corporate persons should follow from this, and, if so, if it is in fact beneficial to insist that e.g. a corporate person consisting of a couple operating out of their home should be held to the same standards of accountability as a multinational.

The GNU copyleft, sidesteps the question of commercial exploitation by explicitly allowing it and addresses itself to the question of commercial encroachment.

That it should be felt necessary to do so is an indication of how poorly protected the public domain is from commercial encroachment.

An example of commercial encroachment into the public domain is Disney's taking of fairly tales, adding new elements, and then claiming the derivative item as intellectual property. While clearly it is allowable and beneficial to allow derivative works to receive protection, the resultant displacement of the public domain item from the societal mindspace, and the lack of compensation payable by Disney to the public domain for "licenced use" of the public's property constitutes a case of encroachment.

If there is any area in which copyright needs to be strengthed it is in the area of a strengthed and enforceble concept of a inter-national public domain which is both inalienable and posessing of the same rights as a corporate person re the protection of its (jointly held) property.

In any case, to require that individuals specifically disclaim commercial encroachment on items they are essentially yielding to the species as a whole should not be necessary -- mere ceding to the public domain of an item of intellectual property should be sufficient to ensure encroachment does not occur.

interesting lacunae, trivia, and fun

Testimonial antiwaver

Occasionally I say I like or dislike something about a product, be it hardware, software, or tinned tomatoes. Under no circumstances is such a comment to be taken as testimonial for advertising purposes without permission in writing from the author.

The right to quote a public utterance is presumably pretty inviolable, but quotation (whether in context or out) for purposes of commercial exploitation is another matter. Otherwise all Sunkist would have to do is snap a picture of OJ drinking to claim "OJ drinks OJ".

self-protective instinct as intellectual property

This copyright notice in its entirety is itself copyright by the author.

Obviously copyright law must contain a provision to explicity disallow such a statement, otherwise each individual could claim exclusive rights to the wording of their own copyright notices. While this might be an interesting loophole to exploit, I'd rather see it filled. When someone eventually comes up with an ironclad boilerplate it would be nice to ensure it could be shared verbatim.

"In my youth," said the Sage, "I took to the Law
And argued each case with my wife
And the muscular strength which it gave to my jaw
Has lasted the rest of my life."


"I have answered three questions and that is enough,"
He said, "Don't give yourself airs.
Do you think I can listen all day to such stuff?
Be off, or I'll kick you downstairs!"

1997 -- Refining the Discourse

As the computer makes the transition from new technology to established technolgy, my legal perspective on Intellectual Property continues to evolve: