Subject: Re: What to do when 3rd party BSD/MIT software doesn't include a copyright notice or license text?
From: verdy_p <verdy_p@wanadoo.fr>
Date: Mon, 17 Aug 2009 18:00:19 +0200 (CEST)

"Cinly Ooi" 
> What you cannot do is to claim copyright on behalf of the original
> author.

That's plain wrong ! And there has been countless examples about that in the very bad
history of "interllectual 
property" rights protection (not just in softwares, but with agressive patents that
were granted and accepted, and 
then extremely difficult or impossible to rule out by the original designers, even if
they could prove that they 
were the authors). Here the rule is extremely often "first claimed, first served", unless
you can really prove that 
the products were obtained illegally from you by the offending claimer.

That's why you need a proof of authorship by an explicit statement in everything you
create and distribute: that 
claim is a proof unless someone can prove that you have lied with a proof of prior art
effectively claimed by 
someone else.

What you cannot claim in this case is authorship. But if you are not the author and
want to claim the copyright, you 
may need to exhibit a proof for the transfer of copyright, to protect you from further
claims by the authors. But if 
you don't have an explicit licence with the package, it will be difficult for you to
exhibit this proof, and you'll 
have to make it yourself, to justify that you got the product legally, including the
copyrights on it.

Authorship is independant of copyright, it is not transferable like copyrights in many
countries, and sometimes 
remains protected even if the author no longer has the copyright (or has sold it). The
exception to authorship is 
when a software is made by someone for a company or someone else as part of a contract
job during periods where he 
is paid: the employer can claim all rights (but this is not true in all countries, notably
those that recognize the 
moral rights).

Authorship is not transferable by licences (including non-exclusively, which would make
absolutely no sense in wide 
distributions to uncounted people). Licences do not necessarily cover authorship, unless
this is stated explicitly 
by a separate statement of claim or within the text of the licence itself. However authors/creators
can be added to 
a piece of art if they modify it or add elements in it. If you don't add yourself to
the list of authors in a 
distribution that you have modified, you still cannot claim that the initial author
is the author of your 
modifications (because he might not endorse it and the responsability in case of damages).

The copyright indicates only who owns the rights (including derived rights) for use,
distribution or licencing, i.e. 
those that are certainly the most critical for you to see if your use or redistribution
is legal.