[TOS] Copyright assignment considered harmful?

Marmorstein, Robert marmorsteinrm at longwood.edu
Sat Aug 20 06:35:59 UTC 2011

Great topic, Mel.  I'm interested to see what folks have to say.

My experience is that because copyright applies to a particular work rather than to a particular idea (that's what patents are for), I can publish a paper on a topic at a conference and still use the same concept, algorithm, or teaching strategy in my open source work.  Most of my publications have been at Usenix conferences and their copyright policy is a little more liberal, so perhaps that's not true of ACM and IEEE.  I'm looking forward to hearing from the rest of the list.

Thanks for bringing this up!

Robert M. Marmorstein
Assistant Professor of Computer Science
Longwood University, Ruffner 329
marmorsteinrm at longwood.edu

From: tos-bounces at teachingopensource.org [tos-bounces at teachingopensource.org] On Behalf Of Mel Chua [mel at redhat.com]
Sent: Saturday, August 20, 2011 2:12 AM
To: 'TOS List'
Subject: [TOS] Copyright assignment considered harmful?

(The subject line is an allusion to

As some of you know, I started grad school this week. And... culture
shock. Ohhhh boy, culture shock. (Yes, I know every professor who's had
me for POSSE is now chortling with we-told-you-so glee.) One incident
came today, when at the urging of Karl Fogel, who runs
http://questioncopyright.org, I looked into academic copyright --
specifically, what's the deal for the places TOS typically submits to

A few hours and a quietly dawning horror later, I... think I've screwed
up. My first couple co-submissions of work on teaching open source are,
ironically, *unable* to be open-licensed. I've documented my naive
findings here:

Please tell me that I'm missing something. How can we get
academically-published TOS output released under open licenses? Why do
we put up with this? Yes, I understand the publishing industry needs to
make money and this "way of doing things" was well-intentioned at the
time they were designed, but... but... why?


PS: This isn't the only thing I've written about academic culture shock,
btw -- for instance,
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