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Re: EU court rules languages not copyrightable

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  • David McCann
    On Fri, 1 Jun 2012 11:17:53 -0400 ... Only in the USA and Japan. In Europe and most of the world, patents are specifically limited to physical devices.
    Message 1 of 10 , Jun 2, 2012
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      On Fri, 1 Jun 2012 11:17:53 -0400
      Sai <sai@...> wrote:
      > Note though that copyright ≠ patent; copyright covers fixed creative
      > expressions, whereas patents cover techniques. A sufficiently
      > innovative language could in theory be patentable ...

      Only in the USA and Japan. In Europe and most of the world, patents are
      specifically limited to physical devices.
    • Logan Kearsley
      ... A similar ruling has come out of a US court: http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20120531173633275 In this case relating specifically to APIs rather
      Message 2 of 10 , Jun 4, 2012
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        On 1 June 2012 09:17, Sai <sai@...> wrote:
        > … well, programming languages at least:

        A similar ruling has come out of a US court:
        http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20120531173633275

        In this case relating specifically to APIs rather than languages, but
        the ruling notes that there is no clear line between an API and a
        language. Bringing it into the domain of natural languages, it's like
        saying that you can't copyright a lexicon (or maybe a jargon would be
        a better metaphor), because there's no clear line between a lexicon
        and a language.

        > I do think it's applicable to our craft as well, though — nearer at
        > least than anything else I've seen before, since programming languages
        > are likewise creative works in themselves. This falls pretty well in
        > line with what I've said before: a language can't be subject of
        > copyright because it is not an expression, but rather a technique for
        > expression.

        The US ruling agrees with that point of view rather well. It also says
        that if there is only one correct way to express something, then that
        expression is also not copyrightable, because that would monopolize
        the idea, which is the domain of patents.

        I don't know how applicable this would turn out to be if a case
        regarding conlangs were to come up in court, though. Some of the
        discussion surrounding the US ruling was that law lags behind reality
        because lawyers and judges aren't experts in the topics they have to
        litigate, and we have to wait for people who are experts in certain
        topics to grow up and become lawyers and judges for sanity to prevail
        (the judge for this case was actually a programmer). So, are there any
        US judges who are also linguists and/or conlangers? I dunno.

        -l.
      • George Corley
        Thinking of laws pertaining to human languages, wasn t there a South American tribe who sued Microsoft for localizing Windows into their language? From what I
        Message 3 of 10 , Jun 5, 2012
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          Thinking of laws pertaining to human languages, wasn't there a South
          American tribe who sued Microsoft for localizing Windows into their
          language? From what I understand, their reason for doing it was that MS
          used a writing system the elders didn't approve of.
        • Philip Newton
          ... A summary I had read said that programming languages are not, general, very creative -- they are typically created based on functional criteria (easy to
          Message 4 of 10 , Jun 6, 2012
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            On Fri, Jun 1, 2012 at 5:17 PM, Sai <sai@...> wrote:
            > … well, programming languages at least:
            >
            > http://news.cnet.com/8301-1001_3-57426822-92/programming-languages-do-not-enjoy-copyright-protection-eu-court-says/
            > http://curia.europa.eu/juris/document/document.jsf?text=&docid=122362&pageIndex=0&doclang=EN&mode=req&dir=&occ=first&part=1&cid=160675
            >
            > I do think it's applicable to our craft as well, though — nearer at
            > least than anything else I've seen before, since programming languages
            > are likewise creative works in themselves.

            A summary I had read said that programming languages are not, general,
            very creative -- they are typically created based on functional
            criteria (easy to parse, easy to learn, etc.) rather than allowing a
            language creator full creative/artistic rein, and that this was a
            reason for not making them copyrightable.

            This ties in with the "only one correct way to express something"
            thing Logan mentioned.

            So I think this would apply more to engelangs, auxlangs, and
            a-posteriori historical bogolangs than to full-blown a-priori
            artlangs. (It's a continuum, of course.)

            Cheers,
            Philip
            --
            Philip Newton <philip.newton@...>
          • Lee
            A summary I had read said that programming languages are not, general, creative -- they are typically created based on functional criteria (easy to
            Message 5 of 10 , Jun 6, 2012
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              <snip>
              A summary I had read said that programming languages are not, general, creative -- they are typically created based on functional
              criteria (easy to parse, easy to learn, etc.) rather than allowing a
              language creator full creative/artistic rein
              </snip>

              A reason only someone who doesn't code (i.e., lawyer) would say. Guess they couldn't come up with a better one. ;)

              Lee
              ________________________________
              From: Philip Newton
              Sent: 6/6/2012 2:11 AM
              To: CONLANG@...
              Subject: Re: EU court rules languages not copyrightable

              On Fri, Jun 1, 2012 at 5:17 PM, Sai <sai@...> wrote:
              > … well, programming languages at least:
              >
              > http://news.cnet.com/8301-1001_3-57426822-92/programming-languages-do-not-enjoy-copyright-protection-eu-court-says/
              > http://curia.europa.eu/juris/document/document.jsf?text=&docid=122362&pageIndex=0&doclang=EN&mode=req&dir=&occ=first&part=1&cid=160675
              >
              > I do think it's applicable to our craft as well, though — nearer at
              > least than anything else I've seen before, since programming languages
              > are likewise creative works in themselves.

              A summary I had read said that programming languages are not, general,
              very creative -- they are typically created based on functional
              criteria (easy to parse, easy to learn, etc.) rather than allowing a
              language creator full creative/artistic rein, and that this was a
              reason for not making them copyrightable.

              This ties in with the "only one correct way to express something"
              thing Logan mentioned.

              So I think this would apply more to engelangs, auxlangs, and
              a-posteriori historical bogolangs than to full-blown a-priori
              artlangs. (It's a continuum, of course.)

              Cheers,
              Philip
              --
              Philip Newton <philip.newton@...>
            • Daniel Burgener
              ... Indeed! It s rather simple to see how this is false. Criteria such as easy to parse and easy to learn are in fact subjective to a great degree. As a
              Message 6 of 10 , Jun 6, 2012
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                On Wed, Jun 6, 2012 at 7:19 AM, Lee <lee@...> wrote:

                > <snip>
                > A summary I had read said that programming languages are not, general,
                > creative -- they are typically created based on functional
                > criteria (easy to parse, easy to learn, etc.) rather than allowing a
                > language creator full creative/artistic rein
                > </snip>
                >
                > A reason only someone who doesn't code (i.e., lawyer) would say. Guess
                > they couldn't come up with a better one. ;)
                >
                > Lee
                >

                Indeed! It's rather simple to see how this is false. Criteria such as
                "easy to parse" and "easy to learn" are in fact subjective to a great
                degree. As a simple example, in the programming language perl (which is an
                example of great creativity), you might write something like:

                print "Welcome to the bar!" if age >= 21;

                Whereas in C you'd write:

                if(age >= 21){
                printf("Welcome to the bar!");
                }

                Functionally identical, but very different in terms of how they're parsed
                by a human (It's sort of like the difference between being head-final or
                head-initial) and I've heard arguments been made both ways in terms of
                which one is "easier to read". (Perl in particular tends to be very
                polarizing, people either love it or hate it).

                This isn't even getting in to the whole "lexicon" area of things where one
                has to decide exactly what keyword to use to express particular concepts.
                Scheme and Lisp have these magical words "car" and "cdr" which refer to the
                first element in a list and the rest of the list, respectively. Surely
                there's not "one right way" to name such things, otherwise I'm pretty sure
                we'd have to say that both of these extremely widely used languages are
                somehow "wrong", since "first" and "rest" are most likely more intuitive
                and easier to learn.

                Tying this in to engelangs and auxlangs, the fact that such things are a
                creative endeavor are the reason there are so many of them and the reason
                there are arguments over on the auxlang list. I imagine most auxlangers
                roughly agree on a general set of criteria (easy to learn for some subset
                of people, culturally neutral, etc) but those don't themselves make a
                decision as to whether to use "-s" or "-p" for pluralization. If there
                really was "one correct answer", then all programmers would be writing in a
                small number of programming languages (different languages being optimized
                for different tasks) and the auxlang movement would all be unified behind a
                single language trying to gain universal acceptance.

                -Daniel
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