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Re: [Savannah-hackers-public] Two question which I have to pass on

From: Yavor Doganov
Subject: Re: [Savannah-hackers-public] Two question which I have to pass on
Date: Thu, 29 Jan 2009 20:41:46 +0200
User-agent: Wanderlust/2.15.5 (Almost Unreal) SEMI/1.14.6 (Maruoka) FLIM/1.14.9 (Goj┼Ź) APEL/10.7 Emacs/22.3 (i486-pc-linux-gnu) MULE/5.0 (SAKAKI)

I'd like to share my comments regarding this topic; please note that
what I say is entirely based on (now substantially blurred) memories
from earlier discussions/documents/etc.  It is simply my humble
uneducated opinion on how I interpret this complex matter -- no more,
no less.

I beleive the recommendation in maintain.texi was pretty much a result
of the US legislation at that time; probably the US Copyright Act in
the late 70's (1976 or 1979?).  Since most of the free software at the
dawn of the GNU project was FSF-copyrighted, it was inevitable to rely
on the US regulations active at that time.  It is still crucial to
comply with the current US law since the FSF, as a copyright holder,
is a legal entity incorporated in the US.  But it is still important
to take into account the overall picture, and I think that's what this
particular advice is about.

I should underline that while most countries (including US) have
signed several international treaties about "harmonizing" and
"recognizing" copyright law through the years, this is still subject
to be modified/overruled by local laws, and is by no means universal.
For example, an (unofficial) UK resource states:

| What does a notice consist of?
| ...
|    3. Year of publication
|       In case of a dispute of ownership of a work, the date plays an
|       important part. If your work was developed and published before
|       any potential opponents then you can usually expect to win any
|       case which challenges your rights.
|       In the case of work which is continually updated, (for example a
|       web site), the year of publication may be shown as a period from
|       first publication until the most recent update, (i.e. 2000-2004)

There are a bunch of countries who have not signed the Berne
Convention.  For example, in Iran copyright is only applicable if at
least one of the authors is of Iranian origin (and the term is short,
I think 20/30 years).  That's why it was entirely legal to distribute
Windoze there, and worse -- this is one of the places where the GPL
has no effect since every local company can make a distro proprietary.
A bunch of Iranian hackers were trying very hard to prevent that by
submitting (to upstream projects) non-trivial patches.

In general, I agree that listing all copyright years is annoying.  But
if the cost is that free software is not free in Mbabane or Bandar
Abbass, or if a copylefted package may enter earlier the public domain
(and subsequently made proprietary software by a local company, at
least within the citizens of that country), then I think it's not
worth the "editing savings" or the overloaded copyright notice in the
source files.  As annoying as it may be, there is C-v, you know.

The person persuing this (Noah?) should take into account all possible
scenarios; I believe that this particular sentence in maintain.texi
simply follows the principle "better safe than sorry", i.e. the
annoyance resulting from it is worth the trouble.  At least I believe
it was at that time.  Maybe it isn't now, but skimming through US laws
is not the ultimate answer.

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