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Re: LYNX-DEV Copyrights, UKans et al.

From: Foteos Macrides
Subject: Re: LYNX-DEV Copyrights, UKans et al.
Date: Fri, 07 Mar 1997 16:14:31 -0500 (EST)

Subir Grewal <address@hidden> wrote:
>Thought I'd add my bit to this, drawing on my incomplete knowledge of
>Lynx's development.  My understanding is that the early work on Lynx was
>done as "work for hire" by UKans employees for the Computing Center at
>Ukans.  So UKans definitely has the copyright for the early versions and I
>believe that should be accurately reflected in any copyright statement we
>come up with.  I believe the copyright line was changed because at this
>point Lynx has much more code contributed by independent developers, which
>is also, quite reasonable.  So I think the copyright statement should
>reflect that UKans has the copyright for 1992-1994/5 and the amorphous
>entity called "Lynx Developers group" has the copyright from then on till
>the present.  Part of the reason Lynx was GPL'd is because a transition
>was taking place from an institutional framework to something quite
>different.  I understand the concerns over what exactly the "Lynx
>Developer's group" is, but I think that the environment we're working in
>is sufficiently novel for the idea of a copyright being "owned" by an
>identifiable entity to be suspect, especially when we're dealing with a
>project like Lynx, with the sort of collaboration it has seen.  I see no
>harm in the "Lynx Developers group" holding the copyright to Lynx as it
>currently stands. 
>I respect Richard Stallman as much as the next guy, but on many issues he
>has fixed ideas that may not apply very well to Lynx's position so I'd
>suggest we take anything from that quarter with a grain of salt.  As for
>the UKans relationship, I've been in touch with Michael Grobe regularly
>and he's been very gentlemanly about everything.  I suggest we discuss
>this issue with him as well, if possible since he would have a grasp of
>the issues involved.
>What I'd really like though, is Fote's comments on this whole discourse
>since I believe he was one of the forces behind getting Lynx GPL'd and I
>suspect this stemmed from a concern as to the future of Lynx and the Lynx
>Developers group's legal standing as far as the code/documentation goes. 

        I'm not keen to comment on the whole discourse, because my
personal opinion is that it is seriously misguided.  I can only
reiterate what I wrote on this subject in the discussion preceding
release of v2.7, which I believe still applies to the v2.7 distribution,
plus bug fix replacements.

        A good deal of what is in the libwwwFM is encompassed by the
CERN copyright on the v2.14 libwww, and everything else is encompassed
by the 1995 UKans copyright, which explicitly states that it does not
override institutional or personal copyrights held by contributors
who were not employed at UKans.  I.e. two academic institutions, and
everyone who has ever contributed to Lynx, collectively hold copyrights
on the distribution.  By virtue of inclusion in the distribution, it
is all encompassed by the GNU General Public License, i.e., can be
redistributed, used, and further modified, without license fees.

        I don't know what the "Lynx Development Group" actually is,
and there is no reference to it in any of the Lynx distributions.  I
also doubt that by further modifying Lynx, any person or group could
acquire the right to override the copyrights held by CERN, UKans, and
all other contributors through v2.7 + bug fixes, nor could they override
the GNU GPL, which applies both to the existing, and any subsequently
derived, code and support documents.

        The CHANGES (and BUGFIX) files, indicate the people directly
or indirectly responsible for the modifications and new code, and thus
also are records of copyright holders.

        There *are* references in the distribution to the "Lynx User
Community", many of whom are copyright holders.

        For a copyright to have "teeth", the copyright holder(s) must
be willing to put forth the legal expenses associated with reversing
a copyright or associated GNU GPL infringement.  Let's hope a copyright
or GNU GPL infringement never actually happens.


 Foteos Macrides            Worcester Foundation for Biomedical Research
 address@hidden         222 Maple Avenue, Shrewsbury, MA 01545
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