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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88
votes
5answers
9k views

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 with the word "...
43
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9answers
2k 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 ...
38
votes
3answers
3k 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 ...
34
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2answers
795 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 "Software"), ...
31
votes
5answers
7k 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 ...
28
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7answers
4k 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 ...
25
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10answers
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 ...
24
votes
2answers
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 ...
24
votes
3answers
515 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 ...
23
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2answers
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 ...
21
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4answers
1k 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 ...
19
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2answers
2k 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 ...
19
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2answers
465 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?...
18
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2answers
1k 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 ...
18
votes
1answer
886 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 ...
16
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1answer
3k 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 ...
14
votes
3answers
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 ...
12
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3answers
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 ...
12
votes
1answer
583 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 ...
11
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3answers
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 ...
11
votes
1answer
560 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?
10
votes
1answer
148 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 (...
10
votes
2answers
174 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 ...
9
votes
2answers
358 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 ...
9
votes
1answer
674 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 ...
9
votes
1answer
244 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: ...
8
votes
2answers
180 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 ...
8
votes
2answers
501 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 ...
8
votes
3answers
2k 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?
8
votes
1answer
662 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 ...
8
votes
4answers
80 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.
8
votes
2answers
201 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 ...
8
votes
1answer
175 views

What issue does the Mozilla Public License have with the European Legal System?

I was quite surprised to see the following in an answer: (emphasis mine) For new projects, you should avoid the MPL as it has issues with the European law system. For this reason, the CDDL can be ...
8
votes
1answer
161 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 ...
8
votes
1answer
199 views

Can I apply an open source license if I referenced copyright documentation during development?

I am working on python library that wraps a non-free C library. In order to develop this, I referenced the C library's copyrighted documentation. Because of that my function and variable names are the ...
7
votes
2answers
251 views

Is it legal to use code from Microsoft Knowledge Base Article in an open source software?

In an open-source software project, GPL2 or 3, is it legal to use code snippets from Microsoft Knowledge Base articles - the ones that used to be called something like Q1234567, nowadays called just ...
7
votes
2answers
436 views

Interference of Software Patents with Free & Open Source Software

While visiting wikipedia page on Free and open-source software, I noticed the challenges from the template at bottom: In which Digital rights management and Software patents seems considerable to me....
7
votes
4answers
538 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 ...
7
votes
1answer
457 views

GPL Violation - What is our legal exposure to third parties (not our contributors)?

I am a contributor to a very old project presently in violation of the GPL. Our project is a plugin for a closed-source program, but the GPL does not permit this kind of linking. The project should ...
7
votes
1answer
551 views

Examples of companies undercutting smaller companies using FOSS?

When speaking to my friends about FOSS, a common concern comes up that if they release their code under a free and open source license, this might encourage companies to 'steal' their hard work ...
7
votes
1answer
561 views

Commercial software using open source library: legal notice

Is there any legal constraint saying that a commercial software must quote the open source libraries and public domain libraries regardless of the open source license type? For example, let's say I ...
7
votes
1answer
240 views

What's the status of CC0 under the eyes of German law?

In another question I asked Tim Malone suggested that Creative Commons CC0 Public Domain Dedication might be incompatible with German law. What's the exact status of CC0 under the eyes of German law? ...
7
votes
2answers
180 views

Offering exceptions to the GNU GPL as an employee

I find myself in the following situation; I have a software project under GPL license, which is a good fit for usage in the company I am currently employed at. Now I am happy to dual license it to ...
6
votes
1answer
344 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.). ...
6
votes
1answer
98 views

Is there a legal definintion of a file?

The MIT, GPL, and Apache Licenses all make references to "files". Here are example of such references: (all emphasis added) MIT: Permission is hereby granted, free of charge, to any person ...
6
votes
1answer
96 views

What is the difference between a ported and non-ported licenses?

What I know: From what I have read ported licenses are for specific locations while non-ported licenses have been customized to work in as many places as possible. Question: Even though I license ...
6
votes
2answers
173 views

Ethical Open Source Protection

I saw this post concerning the ethical use of software and it brought another question to mind. If I were to release software with an open source license, and someone were to use it in a manner that ...
5
votes
2answers
240 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 ...
5
votes
1answer
463 views

Have open source licenses been shut down in court?

There was a lawsuit between Mattell regarding CPHack. As I remember, Mattell bought a company who made a product under the GPL, rescinded the license and sued all those who redistributed original or ...
5
votes
2answers
94 views

Can I open source a piece of software that I am already licensing to someone?

I have written a piece of software, which I am licensing to a company, moreover the license is exclusive in some specific fields of use. I am currently thinking about publishing the said piece of ...