Boost logo

Boost :

From: Sean Parent (sparent_at_[hidden])
Date: 2002-11-25 11:36:50

Sorry to not jump back into this thread sooner - there is too much traffic
on boost for me to keep track.

I'm going to be spending my time in early December primarily focusing on
boost licensing issues and have a IP lawyer within Adobe assisting me.

I've been through this numerous times with pieces of software (I act as
Adobe's legal/engineering liaison on the engineering side - I'm not a lawyer
I just spend way too much time talking with them).

It's important to understand the basic rights that are covered by


A copyright notice need not appear with or in each file, under US law a work
is copyrighted upon creation.

Placing an item in the "public domain", if not a work by the government or
one for which the copyright has expired, must be done explicitly be
relinquishing those rights granted by copyright law.

Copyrights are also not the only way to protect software. Patents also come
into play.

Dealing with copyright and patent issues in IP is all about risk management
for a corporation and limiting their exposure. The deeper the corporate
pockets the more conservative a stance the organization will tend to take.

What Adobe looks for is that:

1. The rights granted with any piece of IP be clearly stated with each
"unit." Practically, this means we need to know what the copyright notice /
license agreement is for each file. This is easiest to determine if the
notice is within the file (and clearly demarcated for automatic extraction).
But that isn't a requirement.

2. That the terms of the license state clearly what the rights granted are
with respect to:

Producing Derivative Works
Perform Publicly
Display Publicly

Note that the last two do apply to software which doesn't have a clear
categorization under copyright law and frequently must be considered a
literary work. Executing software is considered a "performance".

3. Any known patents must also be clearly declared and must be accompanied
by a license granting use.

4. Any requirements that must be met for the license must also be clearly
stated. Such as terms of payment, or credit. One tricky issue that comes up
frequently with software is whether a term applies to the source only, or to
the compiled work. This most frequently comes up with requirements stated as
"All copies must display this copyright notice." - Was the intension that a
compiled work be considered a copy and if so, how should the term
"displayed" be read? It is best if requirements are stated clearly for
software for both the source and compiled works.

5. Disclaimers such as "AS IS" are strongly discouraged - they are viewed as
a statement that the file may or may not contain other copyrighted or
patented work. Disclaimers weaken the copyrights granted. 90% of the time
this is where I get involved in a review - usually reviewing the authors
history and the specific material to determine if this is something the
author just threw in thinking it protected them or is specifically intended
to mislead. I've had pieces of code that I've reviewed that are under the
GPL that are handed off "AS IS".

What this all boils down to is that I need to be able to keep track of what
the notices are for every file in boost. I need to review them all with
legal. I need to update this list for each release of boost and review any
changes. Where there are "fuzzy areas" - either items are explicitly stated,
or there are disclaimers, I need to assess the risk to Adobe. This means
reviewing the history of the author as well as reviewing the work. Then I
need to make sure that we can meet any requirements and we have the systems
in place to track this.

I hope this helps clarify some issues and what work goes one of our legal
audits - there are no hard and fast rules here and the law is not clear in
all areas. Adobe's position is that we want to limit our risk and make a
solid, good faith effort, to meet the requirements as stated and in spirit.


Sean Parent
Sr. Computer Scientist II
Advanced Technology Group
Adobe Systems Incorporated

Boost list run by bdawes at, gregod at, cpdaniel at, john at