Subject: Re: Exploring the limits of free software: Cygnus, and GPL
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <>
Date: Mon, 24 May 1999 17:56:23 +0900 (JST)

>>>>> "rn" == Russell Nelson <> writes:

    rn> If I take a piece of unowned code (which is what BSD-licensed
    rn> code effectively is) and mix my labor with it, it becomes my
    rn> property.  Proprietary property.

If you call the police they will arrest and prosecute somebody on your
land; but it is you who would be liable for a jail term for false
arrest if you convinced the police to do the same with users of the
original BSD-licensed code.

The BSD code incorporated in your program is _not_ your property in
any normal sense.  Rather, it provides a strong nonexclusive
externality that enhances _your_ property (which can be as little as a
label that you slap on a CD-ROM containing precompiled binaries).

As for "unowned," should you not acknowledge the BSD license on that
very same box and your source should leak, I suspect that the trustees 
of the great University of California would soon advise you of your
error.  Just because they license nearly all the rights in perpetuity
doesn't mean that you have any ethical grounds for disregarding the
few they retain.

Furthermore, the "Doomsday scenario" with truly unowned (public
domain) text, that someone will take it, alter it slightly, copyright
it, and then be in a position to enforce copyright against future
users of the original text, is surely not possible precisely because
BSD-licensed code is owned.  (I don't know that the Doomsday scenario
is actually a legal possibility, it's just what I was told was the
reason why BSD-like licenses are needed.  Seems more likely that the
advantages are (a) they provide convenient documentation against the
Doomsday scenario for the legitimate users (== everybody) and (b)
require attribution to the owner.  Any lawyers out there know?)

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