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Copyright Proof

Are there any modern digital methods of proving that you are the orginal copyright owner of a piece of source code? Or does one still use the old method of copying the code to disk and mailing the disk to yourself via certiified snail mail?

Wayne Hayter
Sunday, May 09, 2004

The old "mail it to myself" technique isn't foolproof.  Anyone could mail himself a blank, unsealed envelope and then stick something in it later.  Using this technique would provide some evidence that you actually created this code when you say you did, but it would be easy to challenge in court.

One electronic option is to upload your code to a third-party archive or backup service, like XDrive or IBackup.  Then it gets stored on the server with a time/date stamp. 

If you're paranoid, you could find a service that can burn the data to a CD or DVD for you.  Then, have the service do that on a regular basis (weekly or monthly.)  If you can prove that a neutral third party burned your data to disk on a particular date, that's pretty solid proof that the code actually was created before then.

Robert Jacobson
Sunday, May 09, 2004

If we're talking US, then register it with the US Copyright Office. Costs around $100, and you have to register it anyway if you want to file suit for statutory damages (otherwise you're restricted to the actual damages you can prove, which is hard).

Philo

Philo
Sunday, May 09, 2004

in hungary there is the option to put it into an envelope and some institute put a stamp on it, and mark it so you cannot open it.

if later you require to show that this is your you can open it in front of a lawyer,


Monday, May 10, 2004

If all you want to do is demonstrate copyright, then register it and then publish the actual code. Of course, any trade secrets are then revealed.

Coding Shop Lawyer
Monday, May 10, 2004

Run a one-way function like md5 on the source code. Publish the hash that is generated as an ad in some popular newspaper.

Joel Spolsky
Fog Creek Software
Monday, May 10, 2004

Fiendishly clever Joel.

That would be a weird ad and it might even generate some buzz. 

Also, if you are going to use this method, obviously you need to keep a pristine copy of the file you hashed somewhere.

name withheld out of cowardice
Monday, May 10, 2004

The MD5 scheme is technicly good, but can one assume that a court will accept it as evidence? IE. will they get it? 

Eric Debois
Monday, May 10, 2004

"Run a one-way function like md5 on the source code. Publish the hash that is generated as an ad in some popular newspaper."

You should definitely do this, provided you are willing to bet your income on your ability to explain MD5 to either one or twelve average strangers. (Or your ability to find and afford an attorney who can do the same)

Philo

Philo
Monday, May 10, 2004

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