ethics / copyright / collaboration
Also, here's a 4-per-page version of the
Here are two excerpts that I think are informative. [Note
that they both are products of the U. S. Government and thus
in the public domain!]
I think this is illuminating because it says something concise
and authoritative about what cannot be copyrighted. The next
quotation is from a a leagal ruling, and I think
it sheds some light on Fair Use and its limits.
"Copyright protects the particular way authors have expressed
themselves. It does not extend to any ideas, systems, or factual
information conveyed in a work."
"[A] reviewer may fairly cite largely from the original work,
if his design be really and truly to use the passages for
the purposes of fair and reasonable criticism. On the other
hand, it is as clear, that if he thus cites the most
important parts of the work, with a view, not to criticize,
but to supersede the use of the original work, and
substitute the review for it, such a use will be deemed in
law a piracy ... "
— Judge in Joseph Story in Folsom v. Marsh
A few extra notes about copyright and programs
It's worth making a few remarks specifically about programs and
copyright. These are just some general observations, and I sure
wouldn't rely on them as expert legal advice, but none-the-less
they hopefully help provide some big picture view of programs
Copyright genarally applies to programs. If a program is in the
public domain, copyright does not apply. Otherwise, what privileges
the copyright holder grants others is usually spelled out in a license.
(This is also true for many other kinds of electronic media, photos
or example.) If you write software and want to release it to the world,
you might want to look at some of the common software licenses, like the
Apache License, The Gnu Public License, or the Free BSD license.
An algorithm --- distinct from a particular embodiment of the algorithm
as a program --- would not seem to be copyrightable, but rather patentable.
That means that unless the authors/inventors of an algorithm have
a patent, you can freely use that algorithm.
Functionality, interface, look-and-feel:
There was a famous court-case in the 90's in which Apple claimed that
Microsoft infringed on Apple's copyright by imitating the look and feel
of its graphical user interface in Windows. They lost!
Note: They did win one small part of the suit, because the folder and trash
can icon in an HP application running on Windows was deemed to infringe.
So, look-and-feel, interface, functionality ... these are not copyrightable.
Something like an icon is --- which makes sense, since it is on its own
copyrightable like a normal work of art.
An example of as question you should be able to answer
Answer the following questions according to Copyright Law as applied to online materials.
- On some other school's website, you find the online notes
for a course similar to IC210. They are publically available
on that website, and you find them helpful. Can you legally
download these notes and then bundle them into a
pseudo-textbook for your own personal use?
- Can you make multiple copies of the pseudo-textbook
described in 1 above at Kinkos and then sell these copies on
- Would your answer to 2 change if you didn't charge folks
money for the copies?
- Please read this brief that describes some of the
opportunities here at USNA and beyond for continuing to learn
and develop as a computer scientist.
& Graduate School
- This link talks about graduate school possibilities for USNA
students after (and in some cases even before) graduation.