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Drawing a comparison to software… the CAD company is not claiming that they own the output of compilation per se, but the default templates and components. In a sense, the “standard library” which many projects are linked against.

Perhaps the real solution here is for the templates and components to have their own license.


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    When it’s a quine?

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      Update: the 9th Circuit held today that using the CAD software’s output wasn’t copyright infringement, at least in this case. The relevant part of the opinion (citations omitted):

      The district court, relying on an unpublished district court decision, rejected Design Data’s argument that the SDS/2 copyright could extend to the program’s output. Other authorities, however, suggest that the copyright protection afforded a computer program may extend to the program’s output if the program “does the lion’s share of the work” in creating the output and the user’s role is so “marginal” that the output reflects the program’s contents.

      Assuming, without deciding, that copyright protection does so extend, we nonetheless conclude that Design Data did not raise a question of material fact that the imported SDS/2-generated images and files reflected the contents of its program. Design Data did not present evidence establishing that SDS/2 “does the lion’s share of the work” in creating the steel detailing files or that the user’s input is “marginal.” Thus, the district court correctly rejected Design Data’s argument that the SDS/2 copyright protects the images and files that UE imported and distributed.

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        This seems like a stretch on the part of the plaintiff, They know they can’t possibly prevail if they sue the Chinese contractors (some of whom may use the software illegally) so their lawyers are trying to shift the infringement to a more accessible defendant.

        They mention the shape of comment boxes, fonts, and colors. So does that mean that Microsoft owns a little bit of copyright over every Word document anyone has ever produced? If I distribute Word documents written by people in another country, but I don’t buy a copy of Word, am I committing copyright infringement? I just don’t see how this can possibly go in favor of the plaintiff without creating a huge legal mess.

        But, of course, IANAL, so who knows.

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          I don’t know about Word, but Photoshop at least has explicit terms around this, granting you a royalty-free license to use derivatives of various included things like clip-art, with the exception that you can’t distribute them standalone (so you can use Adobe clip-art as part of your product design, but not resell it as a clip-art collection). Clip-art maybe is obvious enough of a case of a derivative work that they felt the need to mention it explicitly, though. I notice the Photoshop EULA doesn’t feel the need to mention, say, the photo filters.

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            but Photoshop at least has explicit terms around this

            Maybe we should start thinking about modifying open-source licenses to add something similar to anything about creating content saying the author(s) stake no claim over derivative content produced with it. Not just code but anything.

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              Clip-art is an interesting case. My immediate reaction is that clip-art should obviously be subject to copyright since it is, itself a substantial, creative work. Therefore a special license of some sort would be necessary. But the shape of a comment box or the color of a line? Those don’t seem like things that should be subject to copyright at all, let alone some kind of weird, transitive copyright.

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            This is such a mess! Software is complicated as it is, and when you bring the mushy mess that is law into this, there’s a geometric explosion of messyness. I guess it’s best to avoid all this trouble by selling your products as a service, so that the software never leaves your building. Then you can enforce your business model through physical constraints and not through the expensive and unreliable legal system.