Lotsa laughs

John Cowan cowan at locke.ccil.org
Tue May 25 23:36:07 BST 1999

Chris Lilley wrote:

> Of course. Otherwise, we have no recourse if some third party takes, for
> example, the XML spec; chages it; copyrights it, and pursues W3C for
> copyright infringement.

This is a widespread erroneous belief.

If something is placed in the public domain by its author (which
requires an affirmative act such as "This work is dedicated to the
public domain"), then *no one* can claim ownership of it.
Anyone who modifies it can copyright only the modifications,
and cannot claim infringement by reason of the use of the original
document by its author or anyone else.

The reason to copyright standards (and to forbid changes) is to prevent
the creation of variant forms which might confuse the public.
For example, the GNU General Public License may be used by anyone,
but no changes are allowed, to prevent the proliferation of
subtly incompatible GPLs.

Neither can anyone but the author (or the author's employer, under
restricted circumstances) claim copyright on any document.
The Hill sisters *wrote* "Happy Birthday" (the words, not the melody);
they didn't just (despite the legend) copyright it.  (The copyright
has now expired.)

John Cowan	http://www.ccil.org/~cowan		cowan at ccil.org
	You tollerday donsk?  N.  You tolkatiff scowegian?  Nn.
	You spigotty anglease?  Nnn.  You phonio saxo?  Nnnn.
		Clear all so!  'Tis a Jute.... (Finnegans Wake 16.5)

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