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Can languages still be copyrighted?

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P.M.

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Jan 28, 2003, 1:30:54 AM1/28/03
to
I remember several years ago that there were attempts to enforce
copyright on programming languages. Does anyone know if this is still
the case? To complicate things, what about library API's (e.g. could
something like the Java or .NET class libraries be copyrighted,
restricting 3rd party implementations)?

If a vendor created a specific language and claimed copyright on it,
would a 3rd party be restricted from implementing a parser, compiler
or compatible library for that language?

Thanks,
Peter

Isaac

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Jan 28, 2003, 1:58:06 AM1/28/03
to
On 27 Jan 2003 22:30:54 -0800, P.M. <p...@cpugrid.net> wrote:
> I remember several years ago that there were attempts to enforce
> copyright on programming languages. Does anyone know if this is still
> the case? To complicate things, what about library API's (e.g. could
> something like the Java or .NET class libraries be copyrighted,
> restricting 3rd party implementations)?

I don't believe it's possible to copyright a programming language.
Can you give cite an example of a language that is so protected.

Under US law, you cannot protect a method of operation or functionality
by copyright. I don't think individual key words could be protected by
copyright either.

Isaac

Fergus Henderson

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Jan 28, 2003, 4:16:16 AM1/28/03
to
p...@cpugrid.net (P.M.) writes:

>I remember several years ago that there were attempts to enforce
>copyright on programming languages. Does anyone know if this is still
>the case?

Yes, it is still the case that there were once attempts to enforce
copyright on programming languages... as far as I know, it is also
still the case that such attempts have not been very successful.

--
Fergus Henderson <f...@cs.mu.oz.au> | "I have always known that the pursuit
The University of Melbourne | of excellence is a lethal habit"
WWW: <http://www.cs.mu.oz.au/~fjh> | -- the last words of T. S. Garp.

P.M.

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Jan 28, 2003, 7:10:37 AM1/28/03
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Isaac <is...@latveria.castledoom.org> wrote in message news:<slrnb3caf...@latveria.castledoom.org>...

...

>
> I don't believe it's possible to copyright a programming language.
> Can you give cite an example of a language that is so protected.
>
> Under US law, you cannot protect a method of operation or functionality
> by copyright. I don't think individual key words could be protected by
> copyright either.
>
> Isaac

There is some sort of copyright on the PostScript language:

"Adobe Systems owns the copyright to the list of operators and written
specification for Adobe's Postscript language. Thus, these elements
of the PostScript language may not be copied without Adobe's
permission".

But the most clearly stated language copyright I have found is on the
Mathematica language:

"Wolfram Research is the holder of the copyright to the Mathematica
software system described in this book, including without limitation
such aspects of the system as its code, structure, sequence,
organization, "look and feel", programming language and compilation of
command names."

(Which reminds me, was the "look'n'feel" copyright issues ever
resolved?)

And beyond the language syntax, are the language libraries and APIs
names copyrightable?

> Under US law, you cannot protect a method of operation or functionality
> by copyright. I don't think individual key words could be protected by

Unless there is a clear precedent, I'm sure large companies have
enough monetary resources to circumvent US law via forms of legal
harrasment. The question is, is it unambiguously clear that
programming languages are not copyrightable?

Joachim Durchholz

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Jan 28, 2003, 8:49:41 AM1/28/03
to
P.M. wrote:
> The question is, is it unambiguously clear that
> programming languages are not copyrightable?

Under German law, you cannot copyright a programming language. There's
an (automatic) copyright on any documents on the language, such as
tutorials, the language reference itself, but not on the language itself.
In other words: nobody can unfairly copy the language reference, but you
cannot prevent others from writing a compiler it.

Sun has come closest to control over language. The language itself isn't
protected, but if you wanted to use Sun's source code to implement a
JVM, you had to sign a license that placed obligations on you.
They also registered the Java name as trademark (or something similar),
so that nobody was allowed to place a competing product with a similar
name on the market. (That's what the legal battles between Sun and
Microsoft were about: MS had signed such a license but started to modify
the language and the APIs.)

No need to say that the attempt to retain control over the language was
largely unsuccessful. Not only because it is legally difficult (in the
end, MS wrote their own cleanroom variant of the VM, gave it another
name, and were free to do as they pleased), but also because the market
wouldn't fully accept the language unless Sun gave up direct control.
I'm not sure how things finally worked out (if they did at all). I'm
pretty sure that paying attention to the details of Java will reveal a
lot about what's possible and what isn't: it IS the precedent that was
being asked for.

Regards,
Joachim
--
This is not an official statement from my employer.

Fergus Henderson

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Jan 28, 2003, 9:56:12 AM1/28/03
to
p...@cpugrid.net (P.M.) writes:

>Isaac <is...@latveria.castledoom.org> wrote in message news:<slrnb3caf...@latveria.castledoom.org>...
>...
>>
>> I don't believe it's possible to copyright a programming language.
>> Can you give cite an example of a language that is so protected.
>>
>> Under US law, you cannot protect a method of operation or functionality
>> by copyright. I don't think individual key words could be protected by
>> copyright either.
>

>There is some sort of copyright on the PostScript language:
>
>"Adobe Systems owns the copyright to the list of operators and written
>specification for Adobe's Postscript language. Thus, these elements
>of the PostScript language may not be copied without Adobe's
>permission".

Adobe can make that claim. But it's definitely not true.
At very least, those elements can be copied under the "fair use"
provisions of copyright law.

>But the most clearly stated language copyright I have found is on the
>Mathematica language:
>
>"Wolfram Research is the holder of the copyright to the Mathematica
>software system described in this book, including without limitation
>such aspects of the system as its code, structure, sequence,
>organization, "look and feel", programming language and compilation of
>command names."

Wolfram Research may claim that.
But that doesn't mean it will all hold up in court.

Liz

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Jan 28, 2003, 11:01:17 AM1/28/03
to

"P.M." <p...@cpugrid.net> wrote in message
news:6db3f637.03012...@posting.google.com...

if there were such a restriction could anyone write a parser for ANY
document protected by copyright ? seems to me Google might be in big
trouble ...


Liz

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Jan 28, 2003, 11:16:57 AM1/28/03
to

"Joachim Durchholz" <joac...@gmx.de> wrote in message
news:3E368A75...@gmx.de...

> P.M. wrote:
> > The question is, is it unambiguously clear that
> > programming languages are not copyrightable?
>
>
> Sun has come closest to control over language. The language itself isn't
> protected, but if you wanted to use Sun's source code to implement a
> JVM, you had to sign a license that placed obligations on you.

the source code for a compiler or interpreter will always be protected by
copyright unless place in the public domain by the author(s)

Christopher Green

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Jan 28, 2003, 2:30:08 PM1/28/03
to
> On 27 Jan 2003 22:30:54 -0800, P.M. <p...@cpugrid.net> wrote:
> > I remember several years ago that there were attempts to enforce
> > copyright on programming languages. Does anyone know if this is still
> > the case? To complicate things, what about library API's (e.g. could
> > something like the Java or .NET class libraries be copyrighted,
> > restricting 3rd party implementations)?
>
> I don't believe it's possible to copyright a programming language.
> Can you give cite an example of a language that is so protected.

A famous example is the Intel copyright on the opcodes of the 8080. It
forced Zilog to devise an assembly language with different opcodes and
syntax for the Z80.

--
Chris Green

John Slimick

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Jan 28, 2003, 3:44:42 PM1/28/03
to
It is my understanding that IBM copyrighted the first
hundred possible PL/n variations -- PL/I, PL/2 or PL/II,
PL/3 or PL/III, etc. There was a PL360 written by Klaus Wirth
and a PL440 (?) from Telefunken, but no others less than
100. Apparently IBM copyrighted PL/S,
since very little material on that language seems to
have become available.

john slimick
sli...@pitt.edu

David Kastrup

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Jan 28, 2003, 4:32:34 PM1/28/03
to
cj.g...@worldnet.att.net (Christopher Green) writes:

Different opcodes? Hardly. The mnemonics for them were different,
and bloody well that they were! There was some Z80 assembly variant,
TDL or something, which was mnemonically upwards compatible to Intel.
What a mess to write in. The chess program Sargon (version 1 or 2)
was written and published in that form.

--
David Kastrup, Kriemhildstr. 15, 44793 Bochum

Isaac

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Jan 28, 2003, 4:40:26 PM1/28/03
to
On 28 Jan 2003 04:10:37 -0800, P.M. <p...@cpugrid.net> wrote:
> Isaac <is...@latveria.castledoom.org> wrote in message news:<slrnb3caf...@latveria.castledoom.org>...
>
> ...
>
>>
>> I don't believe it's possible to copyright a programming language.
>> Can you give cite an example of a language that is so protected.
>>
>> Under US law, you cannot protect a method of operation or functionality
>> by copyright. I don't think individual key words could be protected by
>> copyright either.
>>
>> Isaac
>
> There is some sort of copyright on the PostScript language:
>
> "Adobe Systems owns the copyright to the list of operators and written
> specification for Adobe's Postscript language. Thus, these elements
> of the PostScript language may not be copied without Adobe's
> permission".

The copyright covers lists of operators and the written specification.

It's possible to implement the language without infringing the
copyright on those things. The individual operators arranged in a
purely logical (non creative) order are probably not copyrightable
either.

>
> But the most clearly stated language copyright I have found is on the
> Mathematica language:
>
> "Wolfram Research is the holder of the copyright to the Mathematica
> software system described in this book, including without limitation
> such aspects of the system as its code, structure, sequence,
> organization, "look and feel", programming language and compilation of
> command names."

IMO that's simply an over reaching claim. In amongst the things that
are copyrightable they've dumped some things that may not be.

>
> (Which reminds me, was the "look'n'feel" copyright issues ever
> resolved?)

Some of them were. Look'n'feel covers a lot of ground.


>
> And beyond the language syntax, are the language libraries and APIs
> names copyrightable?

Names probably can't be copyrighted. I don't think that APIs can be
protected if they are necessary for interoperation. The libraries
are copyrightable, but that wouldn't protect them from being
cloned using "clean room" methods.

> Unless there is a clear precedent, I'm sure large companies have
> enough monetary resources to circumvent US law via forms of legal
> harrasment. The question is, is it unambiguously clear that
> programming languages are not copyrightable?

Most things are not so ambiguous that you can guarantee that a
law suit would be immediately dismissed. There is case law
supporting the contention that programming languages are not
copyrightable but it may be possible to distinguish some given
case with past precedent.

Isaac

Isaac

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Jan 28, 2003, 4:44:06 PM1/28/03
to
On 28 Jan 2003 11:30:08 -0800, Christopher Green <cj.g...@worldnet.att.net>
wrote:

I vaguely remember this. I'll look into it.

Isaac

Barry Margolin

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Jan 28, 2003, 5:05:28 PM1/28/03
to
In article <slrnb3dr02....@jcs.upb.pitt.edu>,

John Slimick <sli...@jcs.upb.pitt.edu> wrote:
>It is my understanding that IBM copyrighted the first
>hundred possible PL/n variations -- PL/I, PL/2 or PL/II,
>PL/3 or PL/III, etc. There was a PL360 written by Klaus Wirth
>and a PL440 (?) from Telefunken, but no others less than
>100. Apparently IBM copyrighted PL/S,
>since very little material on that language seems to
>have become available.

I believe IBM *trademarked* those names, they didn't copyright the
languages. They couldn't, since they didn't even exist.

Language names can definitely be trademarked -- IIRC, the Pentagon
trademarked Ada to prevent anyone from using this name to refer to their
implementation unless it had been certified (but I think they eventually
dropped this practice).

--
Barry Margolin, bar...@genuity.net
Genuity, Woburn, MA
*** DON'T SEND TECHNICAL QUESTIONS DIRECTLY TO ME, post them to newsgroups.
Please DON'T copy followups to me -- I'll assume it wasn't posted to the group.

Christopher Browne

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Jan 28, 2003, 10:03:50 PM1/28/03
to
Centuries ago, Nostradamus foresaw when Isaac <is...@latveria.castledoom.org> would write:
> On 27 Jan 2003 22:30:54 -0800, P.M. <p...@cpugrid.net> wrote:
>> I remember several years ago that there were attempts to enforce
>> copyright on programming languages. Does anyone know if this is still
>> the case? To complicate things, what about library API's (e.g. could
>> something like the Java or .NET class libraries be copyrighted,
>> restricting 3rd party implementations)?
>
> I don't believe it's possible to copyright a programming language.
> Can you give cite an example of a language that is so protected.

Actually, there's a bigger issue that lurks.

If the language is encumbered in such a way that people need special
licenses to use it, that means that /any/ use of it, of /any/ kind,
has giant dragons looming behind it.

If code written in FooPL may "belong to Foo Inc" due to the choice of
language, what organization would be so extravagantly idiotic as to
put their intellectual property ("their code") thus in jeapordy?

A language that /was/ thus encumbered will cause all the lawyers to
run off screaming "Leper! Leper!" and anyone proposing the use of
such a language would get ridiculed out whatever organization they
might be in.
--
(concatenate 'string "cbbrowne" "@ntlug.org")
http://www3.sympatico.ca/cbbrowne/lisp.html
"There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home".
-- Ken Olson, Pres. and founder of Digital Equipment Corp. 1977

Christopher Browne

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Jan 28, 2003, 10:03:51 PM1/28/03
to
After a long battle with technology,sli...@jcs.upb.pitt.edu (John Slimick), an earthling, wrote:
> It is my understanding that IBM copyrighted the first
> hundred possible PL/n variations -- PL/I, PL/2 or PL/II,
> PL/3 or PL/III, etc. There was a PL360 written by Klaus Wirth
> and a PL440 (?) from Telefunken, but no others less than
> 100. Apparently IBM copyrighted PL/S,
> since very little material on that language seems to
> have become available.

Somehow I suspect that you may not know the difference between the
legal notions of "copyright," which has to do with the rights
surrounding making copies of things, and "trademark," which has to do
with the rights surrounding the use of _names_.

Copyright and trademark are not at all the same thing.

The /name/ of a language is something that would be encumbered by
trademark, not copyright.
--
(reverse (concatenate 'string "gro.mca@" "enworbbc"))
http://www.ntlug.org/~cbbrowne/sap.html
"Tooltips are the proof that icons don't work."
-- Stefaan A. Eeckels

Liz

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Jan 29, 2003, 12:48:34 AM1/29/03
to

"Christopher Browne" <cbbr...@acm.org> wrote in message
news:b17gam$10c4h6$2...@ID-125932.news.dfncis.de...

> After a long battle with technology,sli...@jcs.upb.pitt.edu (John
Slimick), an earthling, wrote:

> > It is my understanding that IBM copyrighted the first
> > hundred possible PL/n variations -- PL/I, PL/2 or PL/II,
> > PL/3 or PL/III, etc. There was a PL360 written by Klaus Wirth
> > and a PL440 (?) from Telefunken, but no others less than
> > 100. Apparently IBM copyrighted PL/S,
> > since very little material on that language seems to
> > have become available.
>
> Somehow I suspect that you may not know the difference between the
> legal notions of "copyright," which has to do with the rights
> surrounding making copies of things, and "trademark," which has to do
> with the rights surrounding the use of _names_.
>
> Copyright and trademark are not at all the same thing.

I don't think he mentioned or alluded to trademark protection .. IBM almost
certainly did register its source code with the Copyright office .. which is
not the same as saying that they had legally perfected rights in the various
languages ... I believe the state of the law is that you cannot appropriate
keywords, operator symbols, data structures, logical structures and the like
.. but that does not mean that you can rip someone's compiler source

But I don't think copyright has anything to do with why there is
[apparently] "very little material on" PL/x ...


P.M.

unread,
Jan 29, 2003, 1:03:45 AM1/29/03
to
Isaac <is...@latveria.castledoom.org> wrote in message news:<slrnb3du6...@latveria.castledoom.org>...

> On 28 Jan 2003 04:10:37 -0800, P.M. <p...@cpugrid.net> wrote:
> > Isaac <is...@latveria.castledoom.org> wrote in message news:<slrnb3caf...@latveria.castledoom.org>...

...


> The copyright covers lists of operators and the written specification.

That's interesting. I wonder if this covers operators such as + * / !
etc.

And Wolfram's copyright does seem too extensive. A strict
interpreation of their claim would cover elements of mathematics such
as cos, tan, etc since they are part of the Mathematica language.

Isaac

unread,
Jan 29, 2003, 1:11:09 AM1/29/03
to
On Wed, 29 Jan 2003 05:48:34 GMT, Liz <lizs...@swbell.net> wrote:

> ... I believe the state of the law is that you cannot appropriate
> keywords, operator symbols, data structures, logical structures and the like
> .. but that does not mean that you can rip someone's compiler source
>

I'm a little confused here. Did you mean to say "you cannot protect
keywords, operator symbols..."

Otherwise the sentence construction doesn't make sense.

Isaac

gr...@cs.uwa.edu.au

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Jan 29, 2003, 1:30:37 AM1/29/03
to
In comp.lang.misc Isaac <is...@latveria.castledoom.org> wrote:

No, appropriate can be a verb, too. Look it up.

-Greg

Isaac

unread,
Jan 29, 2003, 3:16:38 AM1/29/03
to

I know it can be a verb, but it didn't seem to make sense to say
that although you cannot appropriate keywords, you still cannot
rip off someone's compiler code. It made more sense to say that although
you keywords are unprotectable, you cannot rip off compiler source
code.

The sentence seemed to set up a you can do this but not that, but instead
stated a you cannot do this, but you cannot do that.

Isaac

gr...@cs.uwa.edu.au

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Jan 29, 2003, 3:37:02 AM1/29/03
to
In comp.lang.misc Isaac <is...@latveria.castledoom.org> wrote:
: On Wed, 29 Jan 2003 06:30:37 +0000 (UTC), gr...@cs.uwa.edu.au
: <gr...@cs.uwa.edu.au> wrote:
:> In comp.lang.misc Isaac <is...@latveria.castledoom.org> wrote:
:>: On Wed, 29 Jan 2003 05:48:34 GMT, Liz <lizs...@swbell.net> wrote:
:>:> ... I believe the state of the law is that you cannot appropriate
:>:> keywords, operator symbols, data structures, logical structures and the like
:>:> .. but that does not mean that you can rip someone's compiler source

: it didn't seem to make sense to say that although you cannot appropriate


: keywords, you still cannot rip off someone's compiler code. It made
: more sense to say that although you keywords are unprotectable, you
: cannot rip off compiler source code.

The only difference between "keywords are unprotectable" and
"you cannot appropriate keywords" is that "appropriate" gives
a more accurate description of what one is doing when one tries
to apply copyright restrictions to keywords.

Unless of course you meant "protection" as in "protection racket".

The confusion is because the same kind of language is being used to
refer both to taking something away from the public domain and to
taking something back that has previously been taken from it.

-Greg

Isaac

unread,
Jan 29, 2003, 6:54:16 AM1/29/03
to
On Wed, 29 Jan 2003 08:37:02 +0000 (UTC), gr...@cs.uwa.edu.au
<gr...@cs.uwa.edu.au> wrote:
> In comp.lang.misc Isaac <is...@latveria.castledoom.org> wrote:
>: On Wed, 29 Jan 2003 06:30:37 +0000 (UTC), gr...@cs.uwa.edu.au
>: <gr...@cs.uwa.edu.au> wrote:
>:> In comp.lang.misc Isaac <is...@latveria.castledoom.org> wrote:
>:>: On Wed, 29 Jan 2003 05:48:34 GMT, Liz <lizs...@swbell.net> wrote:
>:>:> ... I believe the state of the law is that you cannot appropriate
>:>:> keywords, operator symbols, data structures, logical structures and the like
>:>:> .. but that does not mean that you can rip someone's compiler source
>
>: it didn't seem to make sense to say that although you cannot appropriate
>: keywords, you still cannot rip off someone's compiler code. It made
>: more sense to say that although you keywords are unprotectable, you
>: cannot rip off compiler source code.
>
> The only difference between "keywords are unprotectable" and
> "you cannot appropriate keywords" is that "appropriate" gives
> a more accurate description of what one is doing when one tries
> to apply copyright restrictions to keywords.

That's correct. But the use of the conjunction "but" implies that
you are about to express a contrary idea and not that you
are about to express the same idea again.

I think Liz meant to suggest that keywords are not protectable.

Isaac

Jonathan Thornburg

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Jan 29, 2003, 7:09:17 AM1/29/03
to
In article <6db3f637.03012...@posting.google.com>,

P.M. <p...@cpugrid.net> wrote:
>And Wolfram's copyright does seem too extensive. A strict
>interpreation of their claim would cover elements of mathematics such
>as cos, tan, etc since they are part of the Mathematica language.

Yup. Wolfram has in fact had their lawyers send threatening letters
to Richard Fateman concerning his Lisp program which used names like
Sin, Cos, Tan, in an attempt to be similar to Mathematica. Here's a
sample letter:

From: fat...@peoplesparc.Berkeley.EDU (Richard Fateman)
Newsgroups: sci.math.symbolic
Subject: Who owns Sin, Tan, Expand?
Summary: Is Mock Mathematica(r) Illegal?
Message-ID: <1991Oct2.0...@agate.berkeley.edu>
Date: 2 Oct 91 00:03:43 GMT
Sender: use...@agate.berkeley.edu (USENET Administrator)
Organization: University of California at Berkeley
Lines: 90


From my mail, quoted without comment.
(I tried to send this once before, but I think the mailer was broken
somehow.)

-- Richard Fateman
.........

(letterhead of
Brown & Bain
A partnership associated with a law
corporation
600 Hansen Way
Palo Alto California 94306
Telephone (415) 856 9411)
September 20, 1991


Wolfram Research, Inc.
Mathematica (r)

Dear Dr. Fateman:

Brown & Bain represents Wolfram Research, Inc. in the pro-
tection of its intellectual property rights. Wolfram Research
is concerned that you are violating those rights in the Common
Lisp program you have identified as "L-Mathematica."

Accepting the old saw that imitation is the sincerest form
of flattery, especially from one who has been a highly vocal
critic in the past, your imitation of Masthematica(r) appears to
have gone beyond flattery into more perilous areas of infringe-
ment and misappropriation. We note in particular the following
problems:

(1) The name of the program, L-Mathematica, infringes
on the "Mathematica" registered trademark. The
name suggests an association with the Mathematica
system and appropriates the good will that has
been developed by Wolfram Research in the
Mathematica program. (Although the treatment
of the term "Mathematica" is inconsistent
throughout the Common Lisp program, it appears
that you are claiming a trademark in the term
"Mock Mathematica" and some other interpolations.
If this is incorrect, I would appreciate your
informing me that we are in error.)

(2) In addition to the confusing use of the trademark
"Mathematica", you have made a wholesale adoption of
the Mathematica command names in an attempt to make the
Common Lisp program look as much like the Mathematica
system as possible. These names were selected by
Wolfram Research from a wide range of possiblities and
their compilation is the original creation of Wolfram
Research. The command names, among other things, are
protected by copyright: your use of them infringes the
copyright. (Apparently you claim a copyright in the
Common Lisp program. However, in some instances the
copyright holder is identified as Richard J. Fateman,
either individually or in connection with Pak W. Yan [sic]
and other individuals, while in other instances the
copyright holder is identified as U.C. Berkeley.
Again I would appreciate your clarifying the status
of the copyright claimed.)


It might be useful to discuss the steps that can be taken to
assure both that your program remains available for use by anyone
who wishes to use it, and at the same time that the intellectual
rights that Wolfram Research has in Mathematica(r) are protected.
Absent such discussions, however, Wolfram Research will have to
take appropriate action to protect its intellectual property.

Very truly yours,
/s/
Lois W. Abraham



--
Richard J. Fateman
fat...@cs.berkeley.edu 510 642-1879




--
Richard J. Fateman
fat...@cs.berkeley.edu 510 642-1879

--
-- Jonathan Thornburg <jth...@aei.mpg.de>
Max-Planck-Institut fuer Gravitationsphysik (Albert-Einstein-Institut),
Golm, Germany http://www.aei.mpg.de/~jthorn/home.html
"The first strike in the American Colonies was in 1776 in Philadelphia,
when [...] carpenters demanded a 72-hour week." -- Anatole Beck

Barry Margolin

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Jan 29, 2003, 11:07:29 AM1/29/03
to
In article <6db3f637.03012...@posting.google.com>,

P.M. <p...@cpugrid.net> wrote:
>Isaac <is...@latveria.castledoom.org> wrote in message
>news:<slrnb3du6...@latveria.castledoom.org>...
>> On 28 Jan 2003 04:10:37 -0800, P.M. <p...@cpugrid.net> wrote:
>> > Isaac <is...@latveria.castledoom.org> wrote in message
>news:<slrnb3caf...@latveria.castledoom.org>...
>
>...
>
>> The copyright covers lists of operators and the written specification.
>
>That's interesting. I wonder if this covers operators such as + * / !
>etc.

He's presumably not claiming the individual operators, but the list as a
whole. The use of "+" for addition is clearly not original to him, but he
created the collection of all the operators that his language provides.

Liz

unread,
Jan 29, 2003, 11:09:07 AM1/29/03
to

"Isaac" <is...@latveria.castledoom.org> wrote in message
news:slrnb3fg78...@latveria.castledoom.org...

> >
> > The only difference between "keywords are unprotectable" and
> > "you cannot appropriate keywords" is that "appropriate" gives
> > a more accurate description of what one is doing when one tries
> > to apply copyright restrictions to keywords.
>
> That's correct. But the use of the conjunction "but" implies that
> you are about to express a contrary idea and not that you
> are about to express the same idea again.
>
> I think Liz meant to suggest that keywords are not protectable.

yes, I think I was reasonably clear in saying :

"I believe the state of the law is that you cannot appropriate keywords,
operator symbols, data structures, logical structures and the like"

now, having noted that key elements of computer languages are NOT
protectable, and NOT wanting to give the impression that it's open season on
all expression connected with the creation of such languages, I said :

"BUT [emphasis added now] that does not mean that you can rip someone's
compiler source" (because that IS protected)

--------

Greg: thank you for clarifying some of my expression

Barry Margolin

unread,
Jan 29, 2003, 11:11:23 AM1/29/03
to
In article <SWJZ9.2017055$%W4.2...@news.easynews.com>,

Liz <lizs...@swbell.net> wrote:
>
>"Christopher Browne" <cbbr...@acm.org> wrote in message
>news:b17gam$10c4h6$2...@ID-125932.news.dfncis.de...
>> After a long battle with technology,sli...@jcs.upb.pitt.edu (John
>Slimick), an earthling, wrote:
>
>> > It is my understanding that IBM copyrighted the first
>> > hundred possible PL/n variations -- PL/I, PL/2 or PL/II,
>> > PL/3 or PL/III, etc. There was a PL360 written by Klaus Wirth
>> > and a PL440 (?) from Telefunken, but no others less than
>> > 100. Apparently IBM copyrighted PL/S,
>> > since very little material on that language seems to
>> > have become available.
>>
>> Somehow I suspect that you may not know the difference between the
>> legal notions of "copyright," which has to do with the rights
>> surrounding making copies of things, and "trademark," which has to do
>> with the rights surrounding the use of _names_.
>>
>> Copyright and trademark are not at all the same thing.
>
>I don't think he mentioned or alluded to trademark protection .. IBM almost
>certainly did register its source code with the Copyright office

He talked about IBM protecting lots of PL/<n> variations. Most of them
didn't correspond to actual languages (and in fact were never actually
used). How could they have registered the source code for programs that
didn't exist?

Liz

unread,
Jan 29, 2003, 12:14:57 PM1/29/03
to

"Barry Margolin" <bar...@genuity.net> wrote in message
news:L2TZ9.14$m94...@paloalto-snr1.gtei.net...

> >>
> >> Somehow I suspect that you may not know the difference between the
> >> legal notions of "copyright," which has to do with the rights
> >> surrounding making copies of things, and "trademark," which has to do
> >> with the rights surrounding the use of _names_.
> >>
> >> Copyright and trademark are not at all the same thing.
> >
> >I don't think he mentioned or alluded to trademark protection .. IBM
almost
> >certainly did register its source code with the Copyright office
>
> He talked about IBM protecting lots of PL/<n> variations. Most of them
> didn't correspond to actual languages (and in fact were never actually
> used). How could they have registered the source code for programs that
> didn't exist?

Barry, I don't give a damn what IBM actually did .. it's the principles here
that are of interest

Arthur J. O'Dwyer

unread,
Jan 29, 2003, 1:14:49 PM1/29/03
to

On Wed, 29 Jan 2003 gr...@cs.uwa.edu.au wrote:
>
> In comp.lang.misc Isaac <is...@latveria.castledoom.org> wrote:
> : On Wed, 29 Jan 2003 06:30:37 +0000 (UTC), gr...@cs.uwa.edu.au
> : <gr...@cs.uwa.edu.au> wrote:
> :> In comp.lang.misc Isaac <is...@latveria.castledoom.org> wrote:
> :>: On Wed, 29 Jan 2003 05:48:34 GMT, Liz <lizs...@swbell.net> wrote:
> :>:> ... I believe the state of the law is that you cannot appropriate
> :>:> keywords, operator symbols, data structures, logical structures and the like
> :>:> .. but that does not mean that you can rip someone's compiler source
>
> : it didn't seem to make sense to say that although you cannot appropriate
> : keywords, you still cannot rip off someone's compiler code. It made
> : more sense to say that although you keywords are unprotectable, you
> : cannot rip off compiler source code.

> The confusion is because the same kind of language is being used to


> refer both to taking something away from the public domain and to
> taking something back that has previously been taken from it.

Hmm. Poor word choice, then. "Appropriate" as a verb means "to take
away" or (roughly) "to steal", which is the opposite of "to protect",
and an approximate _synonym_ of "to rip off".

Liz probably meant: You cannot _legally protect_ keywords, et cetera,
but you can _legally protect_ compiler source code.

-Arthur


Barry Margolin

unread,
Jan 29, 2003, 1:41:02 PM1/29/03
to
In article <l_TZ9.151934$TJ.2...@post-02.news.easynews.com>,

But you were responding to a post that specifically talked about what IBM
did regarding PL/2, PL/3, PL/4, etc. He claimed that the copyrighted it,
and we corrected him to say that all they did was trademark the name,
because names cannot be copyrighted, and the code didn't exist to be
copyrighted.

The fact that they also copyrighted their compiler for PL/I is beside the
point.

Liz

unread,
Jan 29, 2003, 2:34:54 PM1/29/03
to

"Barry Margolin" <bar...@genuity.net> wrote in message
news:2fVZ9.23$m94...@paloalto-snr1.gtei.net...

> >
> >Barry, I don't give a damn what IBM actually did .. it's the principles
here
> >that are of interest
>
> But you were responding to a post that specifically talked about what IBM
> did regarding PL/2, PL/3, PL/4, etc. He claimed that the copyrighted it,
> and we corrected him to say that all they did was trademark the name,
> because names cannot be copyrighted, and the code didn't exist to be
> copyrighted.
>
> The fact that they also copyrighted their compiler for PL/I is beside the
> point.

Have you read the SUBJECT line ? YOU attempted to divert the discussion
away from whether computer languages can be protected by copyright to a
collateral discussion about trademarks; that's NOT what we're talking about

Here is the ORIGINAL POST:

<< I remember several years ago that there were attempts to enforce
copyright on programming languages. Does anyone know if this is still
the case? To complicate things, what about library API's (e.g. could
something like the Java or .NET class libraries be copyrighted,
restricting 3rd party implementations)?

If a vendor created a specific language and claimed copyright on it,


would a 3rd party be restricted from implementing a parser, compiler
or compatible library for that language?

Thanks,
Peter >>


Liz

unread,
Jan 29, 2003, 2:37:29 PM1/29/03
to

"Arthur J. O'Dwyer" <a...@andrew.cmu.edu> wrote in message
news:Pine.LNX.4.44L-027.030...@unix49.andrew.cmu.edu...

> > : it didn't seem to make sense to say that although you cannot
appropriate
> > : keywords, you still cannot rip off someone's compiler code. It made
> > : more sense to say that although you keywords are unprotectable, you
> > : cannot rip off compiler source code.
>
> > The confusion is because the same kind of language is being used to
> > refer both to taking something away from the public domain and to
> > taking something back that has previously been taken from it.
>
> Hmm. Poor word choice, then. "Appropriate" as a verb means "to take
> away" or (roughly) "to steal", which is the opposite of "to protect",
> and an approximate _synonym_ of "to rip off".
>
> Liz probably meant: You cannot _legally protect_ keywords, et cetera,
> but you can _legally protect_ compiler source code.

Liz meant exactly what Liz said and has explained it thoroughly

Barry Margolin

unread,
Jan 29, 2003, 3:01:32 PM1/29/03
to
In article <y1WZ9.2080383$%W4.3...@news.easynews.com>,

Liz <lizs...@swbell.net> wrote:
>
>"Barry Margolin" <bar...@genuity.net> wrote in message
>news:2fVZ9.23$m94...@paloalto-snr1.gtei.net...
>
>> >
>> >Barry, I don't give a damn what IBM actually did .. it's the principles
>here
>> >that are of interest
>>
>> But you were responding to a post that specifically talked about what IBM
>> did regarding PL/2, PL/3, PL/4, etc. He claimed that the copyrighted it,
>> and we corrected him to say that all they did was trademark the name,
>> because names cannot be copyrighted, and the code didn't exist to be
>> copyrighted.
>>
>> The fact that they also copyrighted their compiler for PL/I is beside the
>> point.
>
>Have you read the SUBJECT line ? YOU attempted to divert the discussion
>away from whether computer languages can be protected by copyright to a
>collateral discussion about trademarks; that's NOT what we're talking about

Yes, I've read the subject line. However, this subthread is not about what
the OP wrote.

I didn't divert the discussion, someone else did. He wrote that IBM had
copyrighted all the PL/<n> variants. Someone else responded that they
hadn't copyrighted them, they just trademarked the names, and that poster
was confusing the two types of protection. Then you responded to that,
saying that they *had* registered the source code.

Your message may have been apropos to the original post, but it was not
relevant to the message that you were specifically replying to.

Isaac

unread,
Jan 29, 2003, 2:48:06 PM1/29/03
to
On Wed, 29 Jan 2003 13:14:49 -0500 (EST), Arthur J. O'Dwyer <a...@andrew.cmu.edu>
wrote:

>
>
> Hmm. Poor word choice, then. "Appropriate" as a verb means "to take
> away" or (roughly) "to steal", which is the opposite of "to protect",
> and an approximate _synonym_ of "to rip off".

I guess you cannot steal something that cannot be protected under law.
So you do not appropriate (or misappropriate) keywords when you copy
them.

Seems a rather circuitous way of indicating that keywords are not
protectable, but ...

Isaac

Christopher Browne

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Jan 29, 2003, 3:53:26 PM1/29/03
to

.. And the "principle" is that what IBM was registering was
/trademarks/ on the /names/ of languages.

There certainly /is/ a vital principle there, namely that trademark is
not the same thing as copyright.
--
(reverse (concatenate 'string "ac.notelrac.teneerf@" "454aa"))
http://www3.sympatico.ca/cbbrowne/linuxdistributions.html
Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall!
All the king's horses,
And all the king's men,
Had scrambled eggs for breakfast again!

Shayne Wissler

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Jan 29, 2003, 4:09:52 PM1/29/03
to

"Isaac" <is...@latveria.castledoom.org> wrote in message
news:slrnb3gbvm...@latveria.castledoom.org...

> On Wed, 29 Jan 2003 13:14:49 -0500 (EST), Arthur J. O'Dwyer
<a...@andrew.cmu.edu>
> wrote:

> > Hmm. Poor word choice, then. "Appropriate" as a verb means "to take
> > away" or (roughly) "to steal", which is the opposite of "to protect",
> > and an approximate _synonym_ of "to rip off".
>
> I guess you cannot steal something that cannot be protected under law.
> So you do not appropriate (or misappropriate) keywords when you copy
> them.

Moral concepts are not defined by the government. They are in fact more
fundamental and prior to the government. Otherwise there would be no such
thing as claiming that one government was relatively good (America's) and
one was evil (Nazi Germany's).

Stealing is, quite simply, taking the unearned. It means taking what someone
else produced and using it as your own.

I know--this is an extremely difficult concept for some programmers to
grasp, because they just want that code so badly, it's so easy to steal, and
if you block out your moral faculty just a little bit, you can get away with
it with yourself by claiming "but it's not hurting anyone!"

Should someone be able to create a language and have it be protected as
intellectual property? Absolutely. It is obviously a form of intellectual
property--it would not exist if it were not for the particular individuals
involved in creating it. A language and its semantics is a very particular,
unique creation, not unlike a work of art in this regard. Therefore it seems
that copyright is the appropriate form in which the government should uphold
the property rights.

Does the US government happen to protect intellectual property rights when
it comes to languages? I'm not sure.


Shayne Wissler

Liz

unread,
Jan 29, 2003, 4:22:52 PM1/29/03
to

"Christopher Browne" <cbbr...@acm.org> wrote in message
news:b19f06$1076fd$1...@ID-125932.news.dfncis.de...

> A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, "Liz" <lizs...@swbell.net>
wrote:

> > Barry, I don't give a damn what IBM actually did .. it's the


> > principles here that are of interest
>
> .. And the "principle" is that what IBM was registering was
> /trademarks/ on the /names/ of languages.
>
> There certainly /is/ a vital principle there, namely that trademark is
> not the same thing as copyright.

I don't recall arguing that they were the same .. I don't know what the
confusion is over trademark/copyright in this thread; Mr. Durcholz
commented, in passing, that "[Sun] also registered the Java name as
trademark (or something similar), so that nobody was allowed to place a
competing product with a similar name on the market."

That's it .. nobody's pushing this issue except for a couple of posters who
want to accuse others of being confused.

Ben Pfaff

unread,
Jan 29, 2003, 4:34:55 PM1/29/03
to
"Shayne Wissler" <thal...@yahoo.com> writes:

> Should someone be able to create a language and have it be protected as
> intellectual property? Absolutely. It is obviously a form of intellectual
> property--it would not exist if it were not for the particular individuals

> involved in creating it. [..]

Now you just need to show that allowing an "intellectual
property" interest in a created language is of benefit to
society. Just because someone creates something new and unique
does not automatically mean that he or she should have exclusive
proprietary rights to it, regardless of the amount of effort put
into it.

Shayne Wissler

unread,
Jan 29, 2003, 4:48:42 PM1/29/03
to

"Ben Pfaff" <b...@cs.stanford.edu> wrote in message
news:87d6mfd...@pfaff.Stanford.EDU...

Well, if you want to act like a barbaric caveman and take things just
because you want them (with the crude rationalization "but it benefits
socieity") that's your choice. Just as the Germans chose to gas the Jews
(and as Hitler said, because *that* benefited his society).


Shayne Wissler

Paul Dietz

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Jan 29, 2003, 4:58:00 PM1/29/03
to
Shayne Wissler wrote:

> Well, if you want to act like a barbaric caveman and take things just
> because you want them (with the crude rationalization "but it benefits
> socieity") that's your choice. Just as the Germans chose to gas the Jews
> (and as Hitler said, because *that* benefited his society).


Godwin!

Paul

Mike Smith

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Jan 29, 2003, 5:35:18 PM1/29/03
to
"Ben Pfaff" <b...@cs.stanford.edu> wrote in message
news:87d6mfd...@pfaff.Stanford.EDU...
> "Shayne Wissler" <thal...@yahoo.com> writes:
>
> > Should someone be able to create a language and have it be protected as
> > intellectual property? Absolutely. It is obviously a form of
intellectual
> > property--it would not exist if it were not for the particular
individuals
> > involved in creating it. [..]
>
> Now you just need to show that allowing an "intellectual
> property" interest in a created language is of benefit to
> society.

Why? A porno movie can be copyrighted. A music video can be copyrighted.
What "benefit to society" do they bring?

> Just because someone creates something new and unique
> does not automatically mean that he or she should have exclusive
> proprietary rights to it, regardless of the amount of effort put
> into it.

Sure it does. *Particularly* if it is indeed new and unique. And
particularly if a significant amount of effort went into it.

--
Mike Smith


Shayne Wissler

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Jan 29, 2003, 5:37:28 PM1/29/03
to
Paul Dietz wrote:

There is no such rule of reasoning or debate that says you shouldn't refer
to certain facts of history. Godwin's "law" is just a lame attempt by moral
cowards to escape the responsibility of thinking about the principles
involved, as principles are best demonstrated by pointing to extreme
instances.


Shayne Wissler

Barry Margolin

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Jan 29, 2003, 6:33:51 PM1/29/03
to
In article <v3glp7b...@news.supernews.com>,

Mike Smith <mike.UNDER...@acm.DOT.org> wrote:
>"Ben Pfaff" <b...@cs.stanford.edu> wrote in message
>news:87d6mfd...@pfaff.Stanford.EDU...
>> Now you just need to show that allowing an "intellectual
>> property" interest in a created language is of benefit to
>> society.
>
>Why? A porno movie can be copyrighted. A music video can be copyrighted.
>What "benefit to society" do they bring?

People enjoy watching them. Isn't making people happy a benefit to
society? What other benefit does most art provide?

As for allowing IP rights to languages, the benefit is that it encourages
people to create and distribute new programming languages, just as allowing
IP rights to literature encourages writing and publishing.

>> Just because someone creates something new and unique
>> does not automatically mean that he or she should have exclusive
>> proprietary rights to it, regardless of the amount of effort put
>> into it.
>
>Sure it does. *Particularly* if it is indeed new and unique. And
>particularly if a significant amount of effort went into it.

True. ISTM that if any form of IP protection should be applicable to
programming languages, it should be patent. A programming language is a
method of controlling a computer, and methods are one of the types of
things that may be patented.

Ben Pfaff

unread,
Jan 29, 2003, 6:30:45 PM1/29/03
to
"Mike Smith" <mike.UNDER...@acm.DOT.org> writes:

> "Ben Pfaff" <b...@cs.stanford.edu> wrote in message
> news:87d6mfd...@pfaff.Stanford.EDU...
> > "Shayne Wissler" <thal...@yahoo.com> writes:
> >
> > > Should someone be able to create a language and have it be protected as
> > > intellectual property? Absolutely. It is obviously a form of
> intellectual
> > > property--it would not exist if it were not for the particular
> individuals
> > > involved in creating it. [..]
> >
> > Now you just need to show that allowing an "intellectual
> > property" interest in a created language is of benefit to
> > society.
>
> Why? A porno movie can be copyrighted. A music video can be copyrighted.
> What "benefit to society" do they bring?

The general idea behind copyright on movies (as with books, etc.)
is that by giving (limited) exclusive rights to their producers
for limited times, we will get more movies, which is considered
in general a benefit to society. There is no distinction made
among types of movies.

You can consider whether the same argument applies to computer
languages. Does society benefit from a profusion of computer
languages? This is a difficult question--compatibility is at
least as important as diversity in languages. Languages are
primarily functional, not primarily artistic. Will designers of
languages benefit? Maybe. Will users benefit from having to
license their languages (not just implementations of languages)?
I doubt it.

In short, I don't see that there is a good parallel between the
situations for movies and for languages.

Ben Pfaff

unread,
Jan 29, 2003, 6:36:18 PM1/29/03
to
Barry Margolin <bar...@genuity.net> writes:

> In article <v3glp7b...@news.supernews.com>,
> Mike Smith <mike.UNDER...@acm.DOT.org> wrote:
> >"Ben Pfaff" <b...@cs.stanford.edu> wrote in message
> >news:87d6mfd...@pfaff.Stanford.EDU...
> >> Now you just need to show that allowing an "intellectual
> >> property" interest in a created language is of benefit to
> >> society.
> >
> >Why? A porno movie can be copyrighted. A music video can be copyrighted.
> >What "benefit to society" do they bring?
>
> People enjoy watching them. Isn't making people happy a benefit to
> society? What other benefit does most art provide?
>
> As for allowing IP rights to languages, the benefit is that it encourages
> people to create and distribute new programming languages, just as allowing
> IP rights to literature encourages writing and publishing.

People create and distribute new programming languages already.
There are many, many programming languages out there. Do you
think that adding proprietary rights to languages would encourage
people to create more of them? Don't you think that adding such
rights would discourage people from creating software that
implements languages? If it were illegal to write a C compiler
(or any C program at all) without a license from K&R, then
software would be a helluva lot different from the way it is
today.
--
Peter Seebach on managing engineers:
"It's like herding cats, only most of the engineers are already
sick of laser pointers."

Barry Margolin

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Jan 29, 2003, 6:26:37 PM1/29/03
to
In article <ACXZ9.160954$TJ.2...@post-02.news.easynews.com>,

Liz <lizs...@swbell.net> wrote:
>I don't recall arguing that they were the same .. I don't know what the
>confusion is over trademark/copyright in this thread; Mr. Durcholz
>commented, in passing, that "[Sun] also registered the Java name as
>trademark (or something similar), so that nobody was allowed to place a
>competing product with a similar name on the market."

The message that started this tangent was
<slrnb3dr02....@jcs.upb.pitt.edu> by John Slimick, in which he
wrote:

]It is my understanding that IBM copyrighted the first
]hundred possible PL/n variations -- PL/I, PL/2 or PL/II,
]PL/3 or PL/III, etc.

--

Shayne Wissler

unread,
Jan 29, 2003, 6:53:26 PM1/29/03
to
Ben Pfaff wrote:

>> > Now you just need to show that allowing an "intellectual
>> > property" interest in a created language is of benefit to
>> > society.
>>
>> Why? A porno movie can be copyrighted. A music video can be
>> copyrighted. What "benefit to society" do they bring?
>
> The general idea behind copyright on movies (as with books, etc.)
> is that by giving (limited) exclusive rights to their producers
> for limited times, we will get more movies, which is considered
> in general a benefit to society. There is no distinction made
> among types of movies.

That is fantastically bizzare. It's like saying: "The general idea behind
making murder illegal is that by giving (limited) rights to an individual
to live, for limited times, we get more individuals which we can then
slaughter at will."

The idea behind copyrights is hinted to in the word: copy*RIGHTS*. Which are
derivative rights from those inalienable individual rights the founder's of
America identified: rights to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.

The reason why you ought to refrain from stealing is the same reason why you
ought to refrain from murdering. No, it's not because that by murdering,
you undermine the "good of society." You ought to refrain because it's THAT
PERSON'S LIFE and he has a RIGHT to it, not you. Likewise, he has a right
to anything he produced using his life.


Shayne Wissler

Barry Margolin

unread,
Jan 29, 2003, 7:17:10 PM1/29/03