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

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 Parent Score: 4

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

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 Parent Score: 2

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

Surely this is valid!

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

Does the empty set mean NOTHING anymore?

Reply Parent Score: 2