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Re: [Savannah-hackers-public] legal entities

From: Karl Berry
Subject: Re: [Savannah-hackers-public] legal entities
Date: Sat, 3 Apr 2010 00:16:44 GMT

    > Re the "legal entity" question that was raised on

    On this task the developer did not use the "generic" project name, but
    the names of two departments inside institutions.

In that case, it definitely makes sense to use the institution name in
the copyright line instead of the departments.

The department name could/should still be included in the README or
elsewhere, as the developer likes, as it's useful information ...

    Just to clarify (I'm a bit thicker than usual today): 

Not at all, it's a good question.

    are you saying random entities (informal groups as well as
    departments) are OK in copyright statements? 

In essence, What Brett said (Sylvain forwarded the msg) is that if
project foobar says
  Copyright 2010 Project Foobar
even when "Project Foobar" has no legal status, we (Savannah) don't need
to be worried about it.  It is a valid copyright line, if suboptimal.
The reason it's suboptimal is that using such a form could make it
harder for the project to get damages if they ever wanted to defend
their copyright in court.
    I'm perfectly fine with that, but then I don't know where to draw
    the line: are aliases (such as nicknames -- a special form of
    "informal groups") still invalid or not?

Hmm.  What the lawyer actually said is:

  Copyright law allows the notice to include "a generally known
  alternative designation of the owner," and we believe the project
  name should qualify for that.

So the question would be whether the alias or nickname is a "generally
known alternative designation".  Some are, some aren't.  But I don't see
how we could make that (legal) judgement -- if the project owner(s) want
to take the risk and use a project name, an alias, or anything except
the actual legal entities involved, it seems to me that is up to them.
We don't need to be (and cannot be) the law here.

What we can do, if we want to, is explain the above: using aliases of
whatever sort can make it harder to get damages in court, so we do not
recommend the practice (for the project's sake).

Sylvain, do you agree?

Hope this helps rather than confuses :),

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