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Something which boggled my mind is the following: After a while, copyrighted work gets into the public domain. This while is several decenia afaik, i'm not sure on the specific numbers. It differs per country as well. Now, if you released your software in binary-only form while you keep your source secret then only that binary gets in the public domain. Change a (huge) part of the source, release new binaries, and the binary itself is again copyrighted. I wrote (huge) part because if there is not enough difference between the new version and the old, public domain version changes are lower customers won't bother to pay anything for this.

One key question i've been wondering about is: are NDAs and EULAs able to prevent the above from happening?

By now you might be wondering "how does this relate to open source? Well, if source got released (GPL, LGPL, shared source via the Microsoft oligarchy system among others) the standard public domain rules apply on that as well and with that one is able to put that "restricted open source code" into ay proprietary or other "restricted open source code". One thing which could happen because of this, is that X years after a time in which a lot of source code was available to the public (under a free, restrictive license such as GPL) the same could result precisely because that source is now public domain.

However, the question is if that source code is actually useful, and that depends on a lot of circumstances. Think about it. Who says we'll be using C in X years? Our software is backwards compatibility to it? What about other languages, such as C#, C++, Java? Or the less popular ones? What if a 2D experience -or some other radical change- doesn't exist anymore, rendering lots of current applications and source useless?

What you can conclude from this is:

  • It proves how valuable sourcecode is for development and innovation. In this case, "BSD/MIT"-style (similar to PD).
  • It goes against the viral GPL arguments because it proofs "BSD/MIT"-style (similar to PD) code will always exist unless the copyright laws are going to be changed regarding copyright expiration.

But since i don't know the timespan of the copyright expiration, this is also based on lose grounds. Anyway, food for thought i guess. -- dpi

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