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Re: Does GNUstep infringe on Apple's Intellectual Property?

From: Jason Clouse
Subject: Re: Does GNUstep infringe on Apple's Intellectual Property?
Date: Mon, 25 Aug 2003 23:29:59 -0400

<<I think that Apple's copyrights on OpenStep and Cocoa>>

No, there is no copyright on OpenStep or Cocoa.  The names are trademarked but 
that has nothing to do with copyright.  And we're not using the names to refer 
to our code.  We only use them in passing to refer to the NeXT and Apple 
documentation.  You can't copyright names and you can't copyright an API.  You 
can only copyright documents (books, music, articles, source code, etc.).

So the *document* containing the OpenStep spec is copyrighted.  So long as 
you're not redistributing the *document* (or parts thereof exceeding the 
percentage allowed for fair use) you're fine.  And if you've been granted 
permission to redistribute the document, you can do that.  But it has nothing 
to do with any information you've gained from the document.

This is like a doctor performing an operation he learned about from a 
copyrighted textbook.  He's not violating copyright by using his knowledge.  If 
he photocopied more than a small portion of the book and gave it to the 
patient, that would be a violation of copyright.

<<give it, at least, owner of the all the object names and methods under the "NS" 

No, there's no copyright on prefixes.  And just as a refresher, copyright isn't 
about 'owning' anything.  You 'hold' a copyright for a limited period of time.  
Ownership is in perpetuity.

<<More importantly,  Apple's copyright also extends indirectly to specific 

No, functionality is not something on which you can hold a copyright.

<<For example, let's say I wanted to rip off McDonald's, with a chain of fast-food hamburger restaurants 
called JackDonald's.  McDonald's would have me shut down before I served my first "BigJack" (for 
those Europeans who do not know, McDonald's is famous for its' "BigMac").  However, I am mixing 
trademark and copyright law here to make this easier to understand.>>

Trademark and copyright serve entirely different purposes and work in 
completely different ways.

<<More clearly, GNUstep is exactly (and indeed supposed to be) a copy of the OpenStep 
interface.  Therefore, what are the legal implications?>>

As others have noted, this has been decided in some large court cases.  Legal 
precedent is strong and well defined with respect to APIs.

<<Here is a better analogy.

Copyright law clearly protects songs.  The copyright holder is protected against any 
coding scheme: analog records & tapes, digital CDs and any compressed format: MP3, 
AAC ...>>

Nope, still getting it wrong.  The format doesn't matter because the offense is 
distribution of copyrighted material.  The analog in our case would be 
redistributing the OpenStep reference documentation in RTF, MS Word, PDF, HTML, 

<<Therefore, copyright law covers the interface, not just the implementation of 
OpenStep / Cocoa.>>

These are not 'interfaces'.  They are ways of distributing a copyrighted 

You really have nothing to worry about.  I know copyright can be confusing and 
scary--especially with some of the stuff going on with SCO right now.  And I'm 
sure you're simply worried about getting yourself into a situtation where 
you're going to be in trouble.  But you're agonizing over a non-problem here.

I'd be a whole lot more worried about getting struck by lightening and a lava 
flow at the same time than I would about this.

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