[sf-lug] need advice: GPL licensing question

Catherine Jones cathjone at eskimo.com
Thu Sep 13 13:43:37 PDT 2007

Thanks, Rick and Jeff, for the clear position:

>Collections of data thus are not considered creative works, and do not
>give rise to copyright title. [not-a-lawyer legal disclaimer snipped]

That makes sense to me, and I'm proceeding on that assumption.

But there may be, down the road, an interesting question having to do
with the definition of creative work.

Within the quilt-making community it's a common practice for people to
put copyright notices on schemata for making quilts. These aren't
pictures of physical quilts or even artist's renderings of hypothetical
quilts; they're instructions (in the form of line drawings and/or
text) for assembling patches of fabric into a quilt.

Some of the XML data files that I (and others, I hope) will be writing
and distributing for use with the program will be the equivalent of
these quilt schemata. In other words, an end-user will be able to feed
one of these XML data files into the program and - without any
creative input at all - have the program spit out schematic quilt
drawings of the sort that, in the textile community, often carry a
copyright notice.

Presumably the end-user won't try to treat this output as his/her
original copyrightable creation. But what if the end-user supplies
some minuscule amount of creative input and then wants to lay claim to
the whole drawing or drawings contained implicitly in the XML data
file. I see this as a potential problem because (1) people make money
selling quilt patterns under restrictive licenses, (2) the threshhold
for considering work original is not high in the quilt-pattern
community, and (3) there's not much overlap yet between the textile
community and people concerned with creative freedom and licensing

Anyway, thanks much. I'll worry about the subtleties later on.


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