I’m listening to an episode of The FOSS Pod right now and they are talkig about open source licensing, how the licensing part of Open Source is the real, fundamentally important thing:

The FOSS Pod: Open Source 101

So the secret of open source is the license, and this is a thing that I didn’t really appreciate until fairly recently. Licensing is important because of copyright. And I think a lot of people don’t realize that copyright happens automatically by default, whether you do anything or not. So that was a thing, in the course of us planning this episode that I had no idea about, I thought that I thought that you copyright your work, you had to actively go through some kind of legal process to instate that. But apparently that’s not the case. Can you help demystify that?

I think this is an important thing that I see people misunderstand all the time, copyright applies to things that you create unless you specify otherwise. This is spelled out in pretty plain language on copyright.gov:

What is Copyright?

Copyright is a type of intellectual property that protects original works of authorship as soon as an author fixes the work in a tangible form of expression.

I took a music composition course in undergrad, and that is where I learned about this concept. I was told that a good way to be able to prove (in court) that you were the copyright owner of a piece of music you wrote was to print off your composition, put it in an envelope and mail it to yourself so that it would be postmarked. Then you would simply never open it.

Anyway, the whole episode is really good, even if you know some of these concepts already. I think it’s valuable to hear explanations like this, not only to clarify my own understanding, but to help me describe this stuff to other people too.