MOO-cows Mailing List Archive


Re: copyright for LambdaCore

At 02:02 PM 8/30/96 PDT, Maddog's Studio wrote:
>I think the confusion is license, not copyright.  The server code
>is clearly copyrighted and clearly licensed.

Yes, the issue is LambdaCore licensing rights, but a copyright statement
tells you where to go to GET such rights.  Frank correctly points out that
LambdaCore is indeed copyrighted, as all written works are at the moment
they're created.  However, in the absence of any other arrangements,
LambdaCore is (legally) either a jointly authored work or a collective work.
If it's a jointly authored work then, in the absence of any other agreement,
each contributor jointly owns the ENTIRE work but none can act on that
without the consent of the others.  A very, very bad place to be in without
contracts that specify who can do what.  If it's a collective work, than
each author owns that part of LambdaCore they wrote, which makes things
easier to assign, but still sticks people who want a license with contacting
every contributor.  Unfortunately, enough parts of LambdaCore have been
tinkered with by multiple authors, that I suspect it would have trouble
qualifying as a collective work, meaning ANY contributor can block its use,
and only a court could untangle it.  This is very yucky.

The best thing to do, in my opinion, would be to contact all the people who
contributed, and have them agree that their contrbution to the LambdaCore is
free for public use.  Note that in many countries other than the U.S. there
is no legal way for something to become public domain except through the
aging mechanism (typically takes several decades), so you need language
like, "Author relinquishes all copyright and other rights and declares their
portions of the Work to be public domain, or in jurisdictions where such a
declaration is invalid, does declare the Work to be free for public use with
no compensation or remuneration expected or required."  Cleaning up legal
aspects after the fact is always more of a pain than dealing with it ahead
of time, but how many people thought MOO was going to become so powerful and

>But since this topic has been kicked around more than once, 
>why don't we hear from the legal owners of LCore and find out
>what it would take to make a legal LCore with the same license
>as the server.

And there's the rub.  No matter if it's a jointly authored work or a
collective work, the "legal owners" are every person who contributed code
that is now found in LambdaCore.  The only way out is for the current
LambdaMOO wizards to set out to establish what licensing rights LambdaCore
will be under and then make it so, contacting all contributors.  My personal
goal is to see MOOs in use by every college and K12 school in North America,
with students learning by exploring knowledge spaces instead of listening to
a teacher's droning lecture.  And I want them to get the software (server
and database) for free.  I'm afraid that teachers and administrators will
not want to invest the huge time needed to develop MOO-based curricula if
they know that it could all be taken away from them by any former LambdaMOO
wizard.  That is scary.

So all I can do is beg the LambdaMOO wizards, past and present, to take on
what I admit is a difficult task, and set us free.  Please.

Eric Mercer
wizard at Diversity University MOO and BioMOO

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