Old Software rights (was content rights)

Vernon Wright vern4wright at yahoo.com
Thu Jan 15 14:41:01 CST 2009


My first comment is - watch your back!

--- On Thu, 1/15/09, Dan Gahlinger <dgahling at hotmail.com> wrote:

> From: Dan Gahlinger <dgahling at hotmail.com>
> Subject: Old Software rights (was content rights)
> To: cctalk at classiccmp.org
> Date: Thursday, January 15, 2009, 8:48 AM
> In an unrelated topic,
> I have a bunch of old programs from my University days,
> back in the late 70's, early 80's
> all Vax/VMS code, in various languages, etc.
> In those days we never put "(C)" or copyright
> notices on code.
> I'm just wondering if it's generally "ok"
> to release this code to the public?
> It's been 30 some years (longer than copyright would
> apply anyhow).
> I have searched for 20 years for some of the authors and
> never found anyone.
> 14 years ago I posted pieces of it, and said "if
> anyone objects to this, please contact me"
> and never got any response from anyone.

Just an experience I recall observing.

A guy was posting old games on USENET (don't recall which group), from the CP/M to early IBM PC era - games for which no owner could he could find, games that seemed to be abandoned.

And then one day he announced that he would no longer be doing this, having been warned by his ISP and having received a cease and desist notice from a law firm.
> The system and associated parts used for the development
> are long gone.

Copyright is a can of worms, particularly with the obscenely long period that has been recently legislated. And there will always be someone willing to threaten action.

Your examples seem safe, but I would be quick to be responsive to any request to "desist". 
> But another age old question, who has rights to code
> developed on the universities equipment?
> I know it's a common question these days, but
> "back in the day" such considerations never
> occurred,
> it was a different era.

I well recall those days when software was free, included in the rental of the mainframe. Until unbundling and the "Program Product" which would rent or sell independently from the machine. IIRC, IBM's H Assembler for OS/360, first NEW product issued under the unbundling agreement, rented for $250/mo. in 1970 - which would be something more significant these days.

Those days really ended around 1970.

It's particularly annoying in the area of OS's for our classic computers, which remain under copyright to companies which may have gone belly-up, been absorbed and forgotten by their buyers, etc. Getting an old CP/M machine without the OS, and not having a legal source for it, makes 'criminals' of us all. 

And it's damned unfair!
> Everyone from that era has also vanished with the wind, I
> know, I've looked.
> So is it fairly safely abandoned?
> Another way to look at it - If it was your code, some small
> silly thing you wrote, would you care?

Now that is a very GOOD question. There are a lot of things I've written that I would NEVER want seen - by ANYONE; guess they're in the class of 'silly'.

Most of my serious software belongs to entities (alive or dead), under 'work for hire'. If it were distributed with their blessings, it wouldn't bother me; I've been paid - though never enough :)

OTOH, I have several proprietary systems I have written for the use of my own business AND I WOULD EXPRESS SERIOUS ANNOYANCE if they were somehow obtained and distributed. But they have never been shared, and the likelihood of it happening seems small.

That said, good fortune.

Vern Wright

> Dan.
> _________________________________________________________________


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