Back in 1976, Steve Wozniak of Apple fame published a computer program library in volume 1, issue 7 of Dr Dobbs Journal of Computer Calisthenics and Orthodontia (Running Light Without Overbyte), a well respected journal for computer hobbyists of the era. See page 207 here:
- neither the article nor the individual journals have any kind of copyright notice or license. However, volume 5 (page 120) does state that the journal is copyrighted, and refers to a section on Reprint Privileges which is apparently inside the front page... which is not included in the compilation!
- I did eventually track down a copy of the Reprint Privileges, and it looks like a license:
Articles herein that are copyrighted by individual authors or otherwise explicitly marked as having restricted reproduction rights may not be reprinted or copied without permission from People's Computer Company. All other articles may be reprinted for any non-commercial purpose, provided a credit-line is included. The credit-line should incidate that it was reprinted from DR DOBB'S JOURNAL OF COMPUTER CALISTHENICS & ORTHODONTIA, and include our address
- as the article in question doesn't have a copyright notice attached, this suggests that it's covered by a non-commercial-use-only license. But:
- if the article is copyrighted, then by its own rules, the license doesn't apply.
- if the article isn't copyrighted, it's in the public domain and the license is irrelevant, surely?
- the article was published in the United States in 1976, which is before the Copyright Act of 1976.
- my understanding of pre-1976 US copyright law is that to have a work copyrighted, you needed to have registered the work and include a copyright notice with a literal © in it when publishing. I don't know whether you're allowed to register after publishing. Some basic searches hasn't shown up a registration card for this version.
- a later version of the same piece of code was published in an Apple reference manual in 1977: this one did have a copyright notice and an 'all rights reserved' statement. http://6502.org/source/floats/wozfp3.txt And I did find a registration card for it (attached). Is this at all relevant to the 1976 version?
- but of course, there's a difference between using the program and reprinting the article. It seems that 1980's CONTU was when computer programs were first explicitly covered by copyright in the US. The status of whether they were copyrightable at all prior to then appears vague, and quite honestly, at this point my brain is melting. (See also US Copyright Status of Software Source Code Created Prior to 1980?, which has one answer, and that with a negative score.)
So, is the code and/or article public domain or not?