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Questions tagged [law]

For questions about the legal aspects of open source. Questions asking for legal advice are off-topic. You should consider mentioning the relevant legal jurisdiction in your question.

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128 votes
5 answers
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How can a "crayon" license be a problem?

Bruce Perens (co-founder of OSI) has coined the term "crayon license": I've been calling these "crayon licenses", taking a line from an old Monty Python sketch about a dog license ...
Free Radical's user avatar
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49 votes
4 answers
8k views

What can/should I do when I see a violation to GPL restrictions?

Some years ago, I was working on a software company that used some copyrighted JAR dependencies that they had bought from a medium-size obscure private company for a very expensive price. After some ...
Victor Stafusa - BozoNaCadeia's user avatar
48 votes
9 answers
5k views

Does open source qualify as being part of the public domain?

According to Google, Open Source is... denoting software for which the original source code is made freely available and may be redistributed and modified. It seems to be that the product seems to ...
Zizouz212's user avatar
  • 6,469
40 votes
3 answers
1k views

Can I change the caps to lowercase in licenses?

The well-known MIT (or "X11/MIT" license reads): Permission is hereby granted, free of charge, to any person obtaining a copy of this software and associated documentation files (the "...
user avatar
33 votes
5 answers
8k views

Is illegally obtained GPLv2 software still subject to the terms and conditions of the GPL?

Let's say some company is developing a software component licensed under GPLv2. The company never intends to release the software to the public because they are only installing it on their internal ...
airfishey's user avatar
  • 1,904
28 votes
7 answers
5k views

Embedding GPL code in proprietary software

Here's a tricky situation that I didn't encounter before: My company embeds a piece of slightly modified GPLv3 code into their otherwise proprietary application. They don't link a library or ...
Rody Oldenhuis's user avatar
27 votes
4 answers
1k views

What happens if I share code online without any licence declaration?

What will the licence of the code be? If this is jurisdiction / country based what is relevant in this case? The place of origin of the poster, the host where the code lives, or the one who tries to ...
SztupY's user avatar
  • 765
27 votes
1 answer
7k views

How much is "substantial portion" in MIT licence?

MIT license says: The above copyright notice and this permission notice shall be included in all copies or substantial portions of the Software. How much is that substantial portion? For ...
Marqin's user avatar
  • 455
26 votes
10 answers
5k views

Are open source developers at risk of being scammed?

Suppose your client asks you to build open source software for them. You begin doing the work and publishing updates on GitHub, but when you finish they tell you they don't like it and won't pay for ...
Trevor Clarke's user avatar
26 votes
2 answers
5k views

Why doesn't this GPL loophole work?

Suppose Alice makes some proprietary software. The source is available, but under a proprietary license which prohibits derivative works and sublicensing. Bob writes some GPLv3 code. Carol prepares ...
Kevin's user avatar
  • 5,347
26 votes
2 answers
4k views

How is Oracle suing Google for copyright infringement when Java is Open Source?

There is a case between Google and Oracle over the use of Java and it's standard library on the Google Android operating system. From [this article]: To recap: Oracle accused Google of ...
xenoterracide's user avatar
26 votes
4 answers
2k views

What are the implications of the Google vs. Oracle case on the state of public APIs?

There is a case between Google and Oracle over the use of Java and it's standard library on the Google Android operating system. From this article: To recap: Oracle accused Google of copying some of ...
CinchBlue's user avatar
  • 363
24 votes
2 answers
1k views

Theseus' Paradox applied to code copyright

Assuming a copyright license (I'll reference Apache 2.0, but that's an example only) that allows derivations, at what point are those derivations so extensive that the Apache license no longer applies?...
Azuaron's user avatar
  • 343
23 votes
2 answers
2k views

What happens if very common code is released under GPL?

I know GPL can be used as an open-source license for source code etc. But what if the source code released has very few lines and has a lot of probability that it might also have been written already ...
Aditya ultra's user avatar
22 votes
2 answers
2k views

Borrowing ideas rather than code from open source projects

I work in a field where people (competitors?) reverse engineer things, and for this reason, there are many implementations around, all of which are open source. Sometimes in order to save time, I look ...
rr-'s user avatar
  • 331
21 votes
4 answers
3k views

Hypothetical conflict - incorrectly licensed code

There's a scenario that's been rattling around in my brain for a while. Consider the following example. Josh, at Widgets Tech, goes to the internet and finds some code (GizmoLibrary) licensed MIT, ...
Erhannis's user avatar
  • 313
20 votes
1 answer
1k views

Why are you obliged to comply with the license of an anonymous project?

Is there any point in complying with the licence which comes with a project published anonymously (like the initial Bitcoin source code)? If so, in case of breaking the rules of your license, who has ...
kenorb's user avatar
  • 1,091
19 votes
4 answers
3k views

Legal wording to exempt bug fixes to open-source framework from NDA?

Attempting to hire contractors to develop code using open-source framework with Apache 2.0 license. In reviewing our legal contract, the contractors are hesitant to sign because they want to donate ...
user46688's user avatar
  • 475
16 votes
1 answer
15k views

What are the practical differences between MIT, Apache and BSD licenses?

Non-copy-left licenses are popular. AFAIK their point is mostly to protect the developers from being sued over loss of money or life (compared to no license at all). But I am neither a lawyer nor have ...
Vorac's user avatar
  • 279
15 votes
3 answers
3k views

Is it OK to remove the license terms for a code snippet?

A while ago, I encountered an edit suggestion on Stack Overflow. The OP had posted a snippet that was under the GPL, and included the GPL in the snippet. The editor tried to remove the GPL as it was ...
S.L. Barth is on codidact.com's user avatar
15 votes
4 answers
3k views

If you distribute GPL-code as non-GPL, can the receiver redistribute it as GPL?

Let's say I have written a proprietary program called MyProprietaryTool. The code has clear licenses on top of each file stating that it is proprietary code. (It's Python, so the code is what will be ...
Opifex's user avatar
  • 261
13 votes
1 answer
3k views

MariaDB: How can the license being held by a foundation forbid Oracle from buying MariaDB?

I was looking though : Learning MySQL and MariaDB [ Russell J.T. Dyer / O’Reilly / 2015 ] where I came across a licensing Issue. It says [ Preface Section ] : "The software license, though, is ...
Prem's user avatar
  • 233
13 votes
1 answer
2k views

Has the MIT license been "Battle tested" in court?

The GPL has been pertinent to several court cases. We know it is strong because it has been "battle-tested". Can the same be said to be true for the MIT license?
Frames Catherine White's user avatar
13 votes
1 answer
1k views

What exactly is the issue in Microsoft-Novell agreement?

I'm trying to understand what constitutes the issue in Microsoft-Novell agreement, and why is it so important that GPLv3 has a special clause to address such agreements in the future. So far I ...
Dmitry Grigoryev's user avatar
12 votes
3 answers
1k views

Am I in danger if a project component is relicensed?

I am currently managing a project, which includes a library that is licensed under the MIT license. My current project is licensed under the Apache 2.0 license. The maintainers of the library that I ...
Zizouz212's user avatar
  • 6,469
12 votes
3 answers
2k views

Can you open source firmware for closed hardware?

Can you publish open source firmware for closed/commercial hardware (such as routers, motherboards or basically any device) without asking the manufacturer? A few examples which seem to indicate that ...
kenorb's user avatar
  • 1,091
12 votes
1 answer
858 views

Proprietary Software + GPL: A case study with OctaneRender and Blender

Background: I currently stumbled across an interesting case of a combination between a proprietary software and a GPL software, which I am trying to understand: There is the GPL software Blender - a ...
reg.cs's user avatar
  • 297
12 votes
1 answer
3k views

What is the purpose of "or (at your option) any later version"? What if I don't want this?

Firstly, what is the exact purpose of the phrase "or (at your option) any later version" that usually accompanies GPL-licensed software? I get that it's supposed to be to allow future freedoms to be ...
micheal65536's user avatar
12 votes
2 answers
371 views

Am I free to distribute a software for a file format that was reverse engineered?

The scenario is the following: a proprietary software can save files in its own file format. I want to build a free/open-source software capable of decoding those files for further processing. Given ...
Andrea Corbellini's user avatar
11 votes
2 answers
697 views

Is it legal to remove a dependency with a copyleft license from a proprietary project?

Imagine you have a proprietary project (non open source), and by mistake you added a dependency to a library with a strong copyleft license. You have already distributed your code. And you realize ...
Jean-Michael's user avatar
11 votes
1 answer
420 views

Accidently commited plagiarism, what now?

I maintain an open-source project. Somebody made a pull-request two days ago, and I accepted it. Now I realized, that a large portion of the pull-request is just a copy-pasted from another project (...
Jakube's user avatar
  • 229
10 votes
4 answers
3k views

Why does the GPL not specify a jurisdiction or choice of law clause?

tl;dr version Unlike most software licenses, the GPL (at least version 3.0) does not contain a choice of law provision. Why is this, and what provisions are in place to adjudicate disputes in the ...
Robert Columbia's user avatar
10 votes
3 answers
5k views

Am I legally obliged to honor requests made outside the license file?

It's common for projects to state a particular license and then attempt to apply some caveats that remove some of the freedoms offered by that license. I'm wondering if there is any legal basis for ...
stripybadger's user avatar
10 votes
1 answer
1k views

How do I deal with authorship after a fork?

I've forked the protpy package into propy3 in order to make it usable for Python 3 users. I'm not a user of that package myself and have no clue of protein computations. However, in order to make it ...
Martin Thoma's user avatar
10 votes
2 answers
1k views

Excluding open-source contributions from work-for-hire

I'm doing contract work. I'm being asked to sign a standard (AFAICT) agreement that assigns all intellectual property I create to the employer. The context of this work is typical Python and Go ...
jmerc's user avatar
  • 101
9 votes
3 answers
5k views

Can I make my own license? [duplicate]

I was getting frustrated because I really wanted to use a GPL Family license for a piece of software I am developing. However, some of my target audience, OS Developers, are closed source (looking at ...
IntegralPilot's user avatar
9 votes
2 answers
1k views

Telemetry in open source software?

Is it OK to embed some telemetry functions in an open source project or is it considered spying or privacy violating? I would like to connect my open source app to Microsoft Application Insights to ...
romanoza's user avatar
  • 225
9 votes
1 answer
1k views

Who owns the copyright to code which the author was paid to write?

For example, the repository owner owns the app, publishes the partial source code, and creates few tasks supported by some bounty to write some new components (such as new functions, classes, etc.). ...
kenorb's user avatar
  • 1,091
9 votes
4 answers
1k views

Distribution of open source software between different legal entities

At the company I work for we are developing an app for use within the company. The company consists of numerous branches across the world, all other legal entities. For testing we would like to send a ...
Milan van Dijck's user avatar
9 votes
3 answers
4k views

Can I develop closed source software with an open source development environment? [closed]

Are there any legal consequences that I could encounter with? If it's possible, what should I keep a close attention to while I'm doing it?
r3bl's user avatar
  • 1,397
9 votes
2 answers
678 views

Does contributing to software project make it joint authorship or a collective work?

From the legal point of view there are two types of work done by multiple authors: Joint authorship - when the authors create inseparable work, and the contributions of the authors are interdependent....
anton_rh's user avatar
  • 315
9 votes
2 answers
379 views

Can Heartbleed have legal implications?

The Heartbleed-bug of the software OpenSSL was a security-nightmare for IT around the world. We already know the bug was caused by a patch from a german programmer named Robin Seggelmann. While he ...
Mnementh's user avatar
  • 11.2k
9 votes
1 answer
1k views

Including untouched LGPL library in a MIT-licenced project

Can I include a library licenced under LGPL 2.1 in an MIT-licenced project without any legal problems? Since it's not a compiled language, I would provide the full untouched source code of the ...
Vinícius's user avatar
9 votes
1 answer
461 views

Copyright assignments in Germany

When contributing to some of their projects, the FSF requires you to assign the copyright to your work to the FSF. As I'm German, I'm interested in whether this is compatible with German law. German ...
UTF-8's user avatar
  • 193
9 votes
1 answer
414 views

GPL interpretation - What is our legal exposure if we include another project's code?

I am a contributor to a very old project presently licensed under the GPL. Our project is a plugin for a closed-source program, but the GPL does not permit this kind of linking. The GPL FAQ states: ...
Daniel Seagraves's user avatar
8 votes
3 answers
1k views

Is there a good license for a libertarian programmer who's against intellectual property?

I know, I know, you're probably thinking CC0 or WTFPL or something along those lines. But the thing is, the way I see it, people have a right to redistribute anything, even if the author doesn't want ...
Sparkette's user avatar
  • 207
8 votes
4 answers
2k views

Can someone other than the original author contribute downstream changes to an upstream repo?

Let's say we have repo A with a copyleft license like GPL. Let's say someone forks repo A to repo B and creates some modifications. Let's say the owner of B had no intention of contributing their ...
micahmo's user avatar
  • 83
8 votes
2 answers
198 views

Can I serve open cola in proprietary glasses?

I've just acquired the Hypothetical Cafe (come and visit, we serve great hypothetical food and drinks), and some fancy posh glasses*. They're so posh that an international designer did a special ...
ArtOfCode's user avatar
  • 9,416
8 votes
4 answers
90 views

Legal pitfalls when (re)selling OS solutions?

What legal pitfalls should be considered when (re)selling OS bases solutions? As you can't ask any fee for the Open Source code itself this seems a sensitive area to me.
7ochem's user avatar
  • 467
8 votes
2 answers
293 views

Does an employee have the right to use a CTA?

Most people who work in software development have signed an Intellectual Property Rights Assignment notice whenever they start a new job. The purpose of these assignments is to ensure the employer ...
kdopen's user avatar
  • 6,967