"Abandonware" and copyright [was Re: WinWorld]

Fred Cisin cisin at xenosoft.com
Wed Mar 30 13:08:21 CDT 2016

On Wed, 30 Mar 2016, Mouse wrote:
> As I understand the term, the rights owner has to be nonexistent or to
> have proved unidentifiable or uncontactable (re which see below).  The
> case where the owner clearly exists but demonstrably does not care
> about the software is, to my mind, a grey area.

Disunirregardless of whether it SHOULD be that way, most property changes 
ownership, rather than be "un-owned" when the original owner is gone.

If the "legal owner" explicitly declares that they don't care, then it can 
become public domain.
But, the legaal owner not responding to inquiries, not still having the 
same address as 30 years ago, and not even necessarily showing up on a 
simple Google search, does NOT take ownership away from them.  When I 
moved my office six blocks down the same street, one outfit declared my 
company to be out of business, and that therefore my work was up for 

>> Copyright law does NOT [...].
> There is no single "copyright law". . . . 
> That said, what you say is true in almost all jursidictions today.

yes, I was speaking generaally, not the specifics, which do vary a lot.

>> Q: To what extent are they making a "good faith" effort to contact
>> the "prior" (actually current) owners of the intellectual property
>> rights?
> Yes.  That.
> To my mind, this is the most critical missing piece of information.
> Since their definition does not mention it, I would be inclined to
> assume they haven't bothered; if so, I consider their abandonware
> definition to be sophistry, rigged in an attempt to make what they
> happen to feel like doing sound a bit less unjustified.

MANY copyright holders really don't care, and would sign off certain 
rights.  When Sellam contacted George Morrow's widow about rights to the 
little red book "Quotations From Chairman Morrow", she gladly signed them 

If a copyright owner doesn't respond to a demand to relinquish the rights, 
that does NOT constitute release, although many wouldn't bother to object.

> Of course, what relation any of this bears to what _should_ be is a
> question for philosophy and much disagreement and has - or at least
> should have! - little-to-nothing with how people handle any software.

A significant shortening of the term of copyright for items with short 
life, such as computer software would make sense.  However, the laws don't 
seem to be heading in that direction.  "Don't mess with the mouse."

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