RE: OFF-TOPIC: License question...

From: Brian Gray (
Date: 07/04/96

On Thu, 4 Jul 1996, Jeff Burrell wrote:

> Unfortunately, it does fall under the Diku/Circle License.  It was made from 
> CircleMUD code.  He didn't just write the code from space.  He used Circle's 
> structures, variables and engine to actually make his code work.  The code was
> written explicitly for addition into CircleMUD's code.  Therefore, it's
> considered a 
> "derivitive work" as far as the Berne Convention and U.S. law are concerned.
> Therefore, it falls under the copyright of CircleMUD, so he has to abide by
> the
> license.  (BTW, it actually falls under the DIKU license since Circle is a
> derivitive
> work of DIKU.)
> 	If he wants to make money selling his patches, he's free to implement them
> without using Circle's structures, variables, or engine in mind.  This kinda
> mitigates the
> usefulness of the code, but it is legal it doesn't have anything to do with
> Circle when he 
> writes it.

  Hmm...this is not exactly right.  You cannot copyright an idea, only 
the expression of the idea.  Using variables and accessing structures 
written by someone else does not negate the copyrightability of an 
original work so long as the expressions (the code) are not taken from 
another work.  In other words, 

  sprintf(buf2, "Resetting %s (rooms %d-%d).",
            zone_table[i].name, (i ? (zone_table[i - 1].top + 1) : 0),

is protected by copyright, but usage of the variable zone_table[] is 
not (BTW, my usage of the code here is protected by fair use laws in that 
I'm using it for illustrative purposes).  The writing of a patch that can 
only be used WITHIN protected code falls within a grey area.  The closest 
statute I can find is a ruling that a Photoshop plug-in was independently 
copyrightable even though it could not be used outside of Adobe's 
product.  Since then, it has been accepted that all patches of a plug-in 
nature are fair game.  This is a bit different since it is meant to be 
compiled in with the core application instead of accessed run-time.
  Of course, I haven't seen the patch.  It could very well be that it is 
a blatant rip-off of previously copyrighted expressions, but if it is all 
original work, I doubt the validity (or wisdom) of an infringement suit.  
  As another example, I myself am currently writing an editor for CircleMud 
areas.  It accesses and parses the exact world format created by the 
original authors.  But every line of code in my editor is original.  I 
know this because I wrote it in a different language, and the file 
accessing functions in this language are different, so it would have been 
impossible even for me to use the original ALGORITHM, much less the 
code.  I've not yet decided if I will charge for the editor, but I know 
both that I have the right to, and that the work was copyrighted by me 
the instant I created it.

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