Old Software rights (was content rights)
Paul_Koning at Dell.com
Thu Jan 15 11:40:32 CST 2009
>>>>> "Dan" == Dan Gahlinger <dgahling at hotmail.com> writes:
Dan> In an unrelated topic,
Dan> I have a bunch of old programs from my University days, back in
Dan> the late 70's, early 80's all Vax/VMS code, in various
Dan> languages, etc.
Dan> In those days we never put "(C)" or copyright notices on code.
Dan> I'm just wondering if it's generally "ok" to release this code
Dan> to the public?
First of all, IANAL. So apply salt to what follows.
There's a lot of good stuff in
It depends on the date. It used to be the case that a "work"
published without copyright notice was in the public domain. That is
no longer true. Also, I'm pretty sure the rules are different for
unpublished works. Some early commercial software products tripped
over this -- CDC's COS and IBM OS/360 apparently are examples of
public domain works.
Dan> It's been 30 some years (longer than copyright would apply
Dan> anyhow). I have searched for 20 years for some of the authors
Dan> and never found anyone.
Copyright these days is a LOT longer than 30 years. And even back in
the 1940s, it was 28 years initially plus another 28 years if renewed
(and if the copyright was still in effect in 1976 then the new long
terms would into play, if I understood right) -- so if you have a
copyrighted work from 1940, it's in the public domain today if it
wasn't renewed, but it's still copyrighted if it WAS renewed.
Dan> But another age old question, who has rights to code developed
Dan> on the universities equipment? I know it's a common question
Dan> these days, but "back in the day" such considerations never
Dan> occurred, it was a different era.
If the author was an employee, it would be "work for hire" and belong
to the employer. Otherwise, it would belong to the author. For
example, if you wrote it as a student for a class (as opposed to
writing it as a research assistant in exchange for a pay check) it's
your property, not the university's. That assumes there wasn't some
explicit contract in effect assigning copyright to the university.
(That happened occasionally; I remember the University of Illinois did
this with PLATO -- but not in any other area that I ran into.)
Dan> Everyone from that era has also vanished with the wind, I know,
Dan> I've looked.
Dan> So is it fairly safely abandoned? Another way to look at it -
Dan> If it was your code, some small silly thing you wrote, would you
Almost certainly not. But I find it's worth working hard to ask;
people are often very willing to say yes, but if blind-sided by
someone publishing their work without asking first will get annoyed.
(That's particularly true if the publication is without correct
credit; it sounds to me like you're careful to avoid that mistake...)
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