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Thanks for the response!

I've added a few comments below.

One thing I did not make clear in the original post was that I was
thinking about a situation where the document has no license (at all)
and we can't locate the author.  

Another thing that I want to reiterate is that IANAL!!

I wonder if any lawyers lurk on this list?

Randy Kramer

Don Hansford wrote:
> Randy Kramer wrote:
> > I'm just thinking (or not thinking ;-) ) out loud -- if an author cannot
> > be located after some reasonable efforts, and if his document is
> > unlicensed, could we modify his document but maintain his name as the
> > original author along with a sort of disclaimer statement explaining
> > that we tried the following means of locating <author> but could not
> > contact him, we would still like to find him, so if you know him or can
> > provide any hints we would appreciate it.  In the meantime, we have
> > taken the liberty of updating his document, the current maintainer is
> > _______.  I would then list everything we know about the author and what
> > steps we tried to locate him.
> Why not include in the licence a clause stating that, failing
> "reasonable means" of contact, the author agrees to allow LDP to
> authorise such changes as it (LDP) sees fit, in light of new advances in
> that particular area?

Sounds like a good idea (from now on)!  I don't know if someone from the
LDP will pursue this.  (I consider myself to be a lurker.)

> > If we are polite about this, hopefully we would not offend the author if
> > he does turn up, and our good faith effort to find the original author
> > would seem to provide some sort of defense (or mitigating circumstance)
> > in a possible legal dispute.
> Also include a passage indemnifying LDP from any action if the author
> fails to respond to correspondence sent to his/ her address, as supplied
> with the original document?

Another good idea, assuming that such a passage is legal and can be
enforced.  I've seen other good ideas to address this point (like
maintaining an author email registry, and regularly (once a month)
emailing them to confirm their address still works).

> > Even if the author has died and his heirs show up wishing to assert
> > their rights to his copyright (because it's good for 70 years after his
> > death), I think our good faith efforts to find the author and the
> > "presumed intent" of the author in making the document available to the
> > LDP or freely downloadable from some web source would give us a defense
> > against any sort of claim of "malice aforethought" (if that helps us
> > any).
> Exactly my point - besides, how can his heirs claim rights on the
> original copyright? Doesn't an articcle have to be original (i.e. your
> own work) to be copyrighted in the first place? Do I have any rights to
> the letters my Grandfather sent to his girlfriend from the trenches in
> 1914? No! They were sent to her, therefore they are her property. The
> docs on the LDP site, (by the very act of submission there), are
> "addressed" to interested parties, therefore, they should belong to the
> intended recipients. (The internet community at large).

Well (IANAL), but a copyright is valid until 70 years after the authors
death -- someone presumably owns the copyright, and I assumed it was his
heirs.   Maybe in this case his girlfriend's heirs have a claim to the

> > I suspect a lawyer would point out we could still be sued, and there are
> > lawyers that would take such a case, perhaps even on a contingency
> > basis.  We can offer the remedy of immediately withdrawing the revised
> > document from distribution via our web site (and afterwards create a new
> > document to replace it, not based on the original).  I don't think too
> > many people would force us into that position, or seek to obtain
> > monetary damages, especially if we are not making money.
> Very few lawyers will take on a case against a non-profit organisation
> unless they are paid up front first!
> > Which leads me to this question:  Is the LDP any sort of legal entity
> > (non-profit corporation)?  If not, should we consider incorporating to
> > shield "members" from personal liability in a potential situation like
> > this?
> This would be a good idea!
> > Hope this leads to productive discussion,
> > Randy Kramer
> Hope this adds to it :-)
> --
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> Regards Don Hansford
> SQIT Warwick
> <SuSE Linux 6.4>
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