Category Archives: Law: IP

Funniest Software License Ever?

There have been funny terms of service and software licenses in the past, like the TOS that demanded your first-born son, and the one that offered $10,000 to the first person to read it and get in touch, but I think this, via BoingBoing might be my favorite:

Voynix recently wrote something he calls The Spite License. They say it is, “in essence, a trapdoor — it allows potential licensees to use the software under the terms of the secondary license (as shown here, the standard MIT license) if and only if they do not read the license file itself.”


Permission is hereby granted to any person obtaining a copy of this software and associated materials to make use of the software and associated materials according to the terms of the MIT License (see included file `LICENSE_MIT`) IF AND ONLY IF they have not read any portion of this file.

Any person who has read any portion of this file may not make any use of the software and associated materials for any purpose whatsoever. Any permissions previously granted to any person to use this software and associated materials terminate and are revoked with immediate effect upon their reading of any portion of this file.

Why did they create this? Voynix offers two reasons:

  • Because it’s funny
  • Because you want randos on the Internet but not big companies with lawyers who make their engineers actually read licenses to use your software
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Big Win for EFF and Everyone

The 11th Circuit ruled on Friday that law, and critical annotations to it, cannot be copyrighted. This bit is particularly good:

The general rule that legislative codifications are uncopyrightable derives from an understanding of the nature of law and the basic idea that the People, as the reservoir of all sovereignty, are the source of our law. For purposes of the Copyright Act, this means that the People are the constructive authors of those official legal promulgations of government that represent an exercise of sovereign authority. And because they are the authors, the People are the owners of these works, meaning that the works are intrinsically public domain material and, therefore, uncopyrightable.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, of which I’m an Advisory Board member, represented Public.Resource.Org and continues to represent them in their ongoing struggle to open access to privately drafted standards incorporated by reference in statutes and regulations.

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Petition White House for Open Access to Taxpayer-Funded Research

Michael Carroll sends this worthy request, for a small piece of activism that anyone (13+ years old)1 reading this can help with:

After years of work on promoting policy change to make federally-funded research available on the Internet, and after winning the battle to implement a public access policy at NIH, it has become clear that being on the right side of the issue is necessary but not sufficient. We’ve had the meetings, done the hearings, replied to the requests for information.

But we’re opposed in our work by a small set of publishers who profit enormously from the existing system, even though there is no evidence that the NIH policy has had any measurable impact on their business models. They can – and do – outspend those of us who have chosen to make a huge part of our daily work the expansion of access to knowledge. This puts the idea of access at a disadvantage. We know there is a serious debate about the extension of public access to taxpayer funded research going on right now in the White House, but we also know that we need more than our current approaches to get that extension made into federal policy.

The best approach that we have yet to try is to make a broad public appeal for support, straight to the people. The Obama Administration has created a web platform to petition the White House directly called We The People. Any petition receiving more than 25,000 digital signatures is placed on the desk of the President’s Chief of Staff and must be integrated into policy and political discussions. But there’s a catch – a petition only has 30 days to gather the required number of signatures to qualify.

We can get 25,000 signatures. And if we not only get 25,000, but an order of magnitude more, we can change the debate happening right now.

Here’s the text of the petition (complying with an 800 word cap):


Require free, timely access over the Internet to journal articles arising from taxpayer-funded research.

We believe in the power of the Internet to foster innovation, research, and education. Requiring the published results of taxpayer-funded research to be posted on the Internet in human and machine readable form would provide access to patients and caregivers, students and their teachers, researchers, entrepreneurs, and other taxpayers who paid for the research. Expanding access would speed the research process and increase the return on our investment in scientific research.

The highly successful Public Access Policy of the National Institutes of Health proves that this can be done without disrupting the research process, and we urge President Obama to act now to implement open access policies for all federal agencies that fund scientific research.

To sign the petition you:

Looks like a good cause to me. The petition will be open for signature for 30 days, but don’t delay — you might forget.

  1. Oddly, the Terms of Participation for the White House’s online petition site say only that you have to be at last 13 years old. They do not say that participation is limited to US citizens and permanent residents. []
Posted in Law: IP, Politics, Science/Medicine | 3 Comments

He’s Mad (Updated)

At Scrivener's Error, C.E. Petit rants about an attempt by John Wiley & Sons (a publisher) to trick writers into accepting unfavorable contract changes.

Back in the day, Scrivener's Error used to be impossible to read due to weird colors. Now it looks nice. And I like a bit of a rant now and then. Don't neglect footnote two.

Update (6/14): It gets better.

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Knowledge Ecology International

!='s KEI FOIAs USTR ACTA NDAs points us to a really great blog post by Jamie Love on what appears to be a really good blog called Knowledge Ecology International (“Attending and mending the knowledge ecosystem”).

Recommended for anyone interested in the intersection between intellectual property law and, well, freedom and development.

Posted in Law: IP | 1 Comment