Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 30th Jan 2012 14:10 UTC
General Unix "One of the fun examples among all the copyright fuss is the extreme example of copyright claims made by AT&T some time in the 1980s. It's the /bin/true program. This is a dummy' library program whose main function is to make it easy to write infinite loops (while true do ...) in shells scripts. The 'true' program does nothing; it merely exits with a zero exit status. This can be done with an empty file that's marked executable, and that's what it was in the earliest unix system libraries. Such an empty file will be interpreted as a shell script that does nothing, and since it does this successfully, the shell exits with a zero exit status. But AT&T's lawyers decided that this was worthy of copyright protection." Three blank lines. Copyrighted. You can't make this stuff up.
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Nothing to see here, move along.
by spudley99 on Mon 30th Jan 2012 14:26 UTC
spudley99
Member since:
2009-03-25

Okay, fair enough, this is worthy of a small chuckle. But it certainly isn't worthy of the anti-copyright rhetoric in this article.

What's happened here? It's obvious: They've simply run a script that appends their copyright message to the begining of every file in their source code.

Hardly an unusual thing to do.

The fact that it results in oddities like this is fairly irrelevant. And it certainly doesn't imply anything about the concept of copyright.

Reply Score: 1

Earl C Pottinger Member since:
2008-07-12

Except the idea of a copyright on a empty file suggest THEY were not doing their due diligence on what they slapped their copyright onto.

This is the sort of thing you expect from SCO not AT&T. Plus it raises questions about how valid their other copyright statements are and companies like SCO can cause you to waste a ton of money because of a careless slip like this.

Reply Score: 6

Excellent!
by Drunkula on Mon 30th Jan 2012 14:26 UTC
Drunkula
Member since:
2009-09-03

I love it...

;-)

Reply Score: 2

1984
by Earl C Pottinger on Mon 30th Jan 2012 14:29 UTC
Earl C Pottinger
Member since:
2008-07-12

How can they copyright this in 1984 when the Amiga had this command also at that time frame?

Also while I don't have my Micro magazines with me to check - did not OS9 also have this feature?

Reply Score: 1

RE: 1984
by raboof on Mon 30th Jan 2012 14:37 UTC in reply to "1984"
raboof Member since:
2005-07-24

How can they copyright this in 1984 when the Amiga had this command also at that time frame?

Also while I don't have my Micro magazines with me to check - did not OS9 also have this feature?


It's a copyright, not a patent.

If you re-implement an existing program, you're free to copyright your implementation. Obviously that copyright does not prevent others from re-implementing the same software, again.

Reply Score: 7

RE[2]: 1984
by bryhhh on Tue 31st Jan 2012 11:10 UTC in reply to "RE: 1984"
bryhhh Member since:
2005-07-22

IANAL, but as I recall (in the UK), a prosecution for breach of copyright won't be upheld, if the accused can prove their work predates the copyright.

Reply Score: 1

This is silly.
by Timmmm on Mon 30th Jan 2012 14:34 UTC
Timmmm
Member since:
2006-07-25

I'm pretty sure they just blanket applied the copyright header to all their files.

It's not like they thought "Hey, we should copyright true".

Reply Score: 2

RE: This is silly.
by jackastor on Mon 30th Jan 2012 14:41 UTC in reply to "This is silly."
jackastor Member since:
2009-05-05
RE: This is silly.
by phoudoin on Mon 30th Jan 2012 15:50 UTC in reply to "This is silly."
phoudoin Member since:
2006-06-09

It's not like they thought "Hey, we should copyright true".


But I'm sure someone once said "Hey, we should copyright more", another well-known Unix command :-)

Ironically, the FSF answer was to copyleft "less"! ;-)

Reply Score: 10

from 'man true'
by raboof on Mon 30th Jan 2012 14:40 UTC
raboof
Member since:
2005-07-24

On my system, 'true' is a 16K ELF executable. From 'man true':

Copyright © 2010 Free Software Foundation, Inc. License GPLv3+:
GNU GPL version 3 or later <http://gnu.org/licenses/gpl.html>.
This is free software: you are free to change and redistribute it.
There is NO WARRANTY, to the extent permitted by law.

Reply Score: 2

RE: from 'man true'
by aargh on Mon 30th Jan 2012 14:47 UTC in reply to "from 'man true'"
aargh Member since:
2009-10-12

I'm confused now, who holds the copyright for truth? AT&T or FSF?

Reply Score: 5

RE[2]: from 'man true'
by kokara4a on Mon 30th Jan 2012 14:57 UTC in reply to "RE: from 'man true'"
kokara4a Member since:
2005-09-16

I'm sure false is copyrighted too.

Reply Score: 4

RE[3]: from 'man true'
by phoudoin on Mon 30th Jan 2012 15:51 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: from 'man true'"
phoudoin Member since:
2006-06-09

Even the cp copy command is copyrighted :-p

Reply Score: 5

RE[4]: from 'man true'
by Bill Shooter of Bul on Mon 30th Jan 2012 17:27 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: from 'man true'"
Bill Shooter of Bul Member since:
2006-07-14

I'd love to respond to this in a humorous, tongue and cheek fashion, but I'm afraid recent events have made me too aware that what I think is funny and absurd, others might think is a good idea to maximize revenue streams.

Reply Score: 5

RE[5]: from 'man true'
by phoudoin on Tue 31st Jan 2012 10:44 UTC in reply to "RE[4]: from 'man true'"
phoudoin Member since:
2006-06-09

Sorry Sir, but I fear your comment re-used some patented expressions without express permission from their holders.

Please contact our lawyer with no delay.

PS: Welcome in 21th century. It sucks, you will love it!

Reply Score: 3

RE[6]: from 'man true'
by zima on Sun 5th Feb 2012 13:05 UTC in reply to "RE[5]: from 'man true'"
zima Member since:
2005-07-06

So far, it still looks like it might suck much less than ~all centuries before it...

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: from 'man true'
by phoudoin on Mon 30th Jan 2012 15:53 UTC in reply to "RE: from 'man true'"
phoudoin Member since:
2006-06-09

I was told that Justice hold truth copyright, but I could be getting too old...

Reply Score: 2

Gpl?
by vtolkov on Mon 30th Jan 2012 18:09 UTC
vtolkov
Member since:
2006-07-26

Intersting, does adding text to the file make it derivative work? Should any text be considered to be derivative from it then? So protecting empty file with GPL automatically makes everything in the world GPL'ed?

Reply Score: 4

RE: Gpl?
by raboof on Mon 30th Jan 2012 18:25 UTC in reply to "Gpl?"
raboof Member since:
2005-07-24

Intersting, does adding text to the file make it derivative work?


If you take a file and add text to it, the resulting file is a derivative of the original file, yes.

Should any text be considered to be derivative from it then? So protecting empty file with GPL automatically makes everything in the world GPL'ed?


No, copyright does not work like that: copyright protects against copying, but (unlike patents) not against others who independently come up with the same thing.

Reply Score: 4

RE[2]: Gpl?
by vtolkov on Mon 30th Jan 2012 18:34 UTC in reply to "RE: Gpl?"
vtolkov Member since:
2006-07-26

No, copyright does not work like that: copyright protects against copying, but (unlike patents) not against others who independently come up with the same thing.

Can someone come up with the same empty file independently?

Reply Score: 4

RE[3]: Gpl?
by kristoph on Mon 30th Jan 2012 23:35 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Gpl?"
kristoph Member since:
2006-01-01

You can't copyright an empty file. You can put a copyright header on an empty file but that means nothing.

In US Copyright law defines a computer program as ...

"A “computer program” is a set of statements or instructions to be used directly or indirectly in a computer in order to bring about a certain result."

Obviously, there are no statements or instructions in an empty file and even if there was just a single line copyright law would probably not protect the work because I could obviously come up with that line independently (which is perfectly ok to do under copyright law).

Edited 2012-01-30 23:38 UTC

Reply Score: 2

RE[4]: Gpl?
by shawnlower on Wed 1st Feb 2012 18:00 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Gpl?"
shawnlower Member since:
2011-02-16

Surely this is valid!

"...a set of statements or instructions..."

Does the empty set mean NOTHING anymore?

Reply Score: 2

that's easy
by Risthel on Mon 30th Jan 2012 19:38 UTC
Risthel
Member since:
2010-12-22

it's just rename the GNU true to /bin/not_false or /bin/success ;)

ln -s /bin/success /bin/true

tum dum tsss

Reply Score: 2

umm
by kristoph on Mon 30th Jan 2012 23:31 UTC
kristoph
Member since:
2006-01-01

1) /bin/true is copyright on all systems, including gnu/linux systems

2) you can't copyright nothing (an old /bin/true script) so this is likely a doc bug in the old systems

3) your just making shit up to rant about - why don't you just save the rage for ACTA which deserves it

Reply Score: 2

RE: umm
by zima on Sun 5th Feb 2012 13:06 UTC in reply to "umm"
zima Member since:
2005-07-06

I don't see much ranting there, not from anybody you'd be probably addressing as "your just making shit up" - OTOH, when it comes to the larger quotation, I see it comes from an URL containing "humor"...

Reply Score: 2

hmm
by arsipaani on Wed 1st Feb 2012 05:38 UTC
arsipaani
Member since:
2010-06-13

publishing whole copyrighted program source code in internets... lawers will like this ;)

Reply Score: 1