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RE: Copyright years

<<The law changed in this area recently and I believe the answer now is "no, if
you can prove the year by some other method".  But the copyright notice
is the best way to establish copyright.

The last statement is most definitely incorrect. The best way to establish
copyright is to register the copyright. Such registration is required to
file any course of copyright action. Furthermore, failure to register a
copyright can have unfortunate consequences. Yes, you can register it
later than the date of copyright, but if you wait more than five years,
then the presumption of originality is lost (i.e. the burden of proof that
something is original shifts -- if you register in five years, the defendant
in a copyright action must prove non-originality, if you delay, then the
plaintiff must prove originality). 

I assume that most GPL'ed software does NOT have registered copyrights,
and that is unfortunate (the cost of registering copyrights is minimal).

However, Richard is certainly right that it is better to have a copyright
notice than not in any document.

As for the range vs enumeration issue

1995,96,98  vs 1995-1998

The important issue in any copyright action is the year in which copyright
was established by auhorship. The first notation implies that copyrightable
elements were created in the year mentioned (by the way, there is absolutely
nothing in the copyright law that would require release of a gcc version to
make something copyrightable). 

The range implies that copyrightable elements were created starting in
1995 and ending in 1998.

If a course of copyright action were litigated, then the issue would be
the exact year in which the copied piece of the system was authored.

If there is an issue as to whether this occurred in 1996 vs 1998 (pretty
unlikely, since this could not be an issue until the year 2070 or something
like that), then neither form creates any presumption. The only function of
the list of dates form is to clearly declare that no copyrightable elements
were created in 1997, but of what use is that to the copyright holder?
Answer -- none at all.

By the way, we have found it useful in the GNAT context to have our checkin
mechanism verify that the copyright notice includes the current year, and
reject any checkins where this is not the case.

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