Hot answers tagged

95

There are several issues: License proliferation - The more licenses we have floating around, the more work everyone has to do to understand them. Case law for one license will not necessarily apply to a differently-worded license, even if they're both intended to achieve the same effect. And if everyone starts writing their own licenses, this becomes ...


47

The Free Software Foundation thinks not. From the GPL FAQ: If someone steals a CD containing a version of a GPL-covered program, does the GPL give the thief the right to redistribute that version? If the version has been released elsewhere, then the thief probably does have the right to make copies and redistribute them under the GPL, but if the ...


44

In a copyright context, public domain is a term which means the set of creative works not under copyright, because the work's copyright has either expired, never existed (such as U.S. government works), or been forfeited1. Generally, no special restrictions apply to the reuse of public domain works, and they can be freely modified and redistributed without ...


34

The usual caveat: IANAL/IANYL. That said, a statement of intent is not usually considered a binding undertaking, and stolen goods are stolen goods. A licence does not inhere in software, it is associated with it through the act of conveyance (as defined in GNU GPL v3). One receives a piece of code under GPLv3, or MIT, or CDDL, or whatever licence it is ...


33

When your code contains (or links to) GPL licensed code, then the GPL license requires that you distribute your application under the GPL license. The GPL does not require that you distribute your application to the general public. It is entirely legal to sell the application to select customers only, and you only have to distribute your source code only to ...


30

The Public Domain in the US means the copyright of something is owned by nobody, and cannot be owned by anybody. Open source is a license model. The creator of the software holds the copyright, and grants others a license to use it, under some conditions. The differences are Ownership. When something is in the Public Domain, nobody has intellectual ...


30

I am not aware of this "scam" and am not aware of the issue being raised with the Open Source Initiative or other organizations promoting Free and Open Source Software (Free Software Foundation, Software Conservancy, EFF, etc.), nor other related areas such as the open content movement, and the Creative Commons. Of course this does not mean that dubious ...


30

ArtOfCode's answer correctly describes Carol's situation relative to Alice's code: violation of Alice's original license (which is not the GPL) and therefore infringement of Alice's copyright. The terms of the GPL are not relevant except in that they are incompatible with Alice's license. However, Bob's code is originally licensed under the GPL, and the ...


27

In addition to the excellent (and accepted) answer posted by Kevin, I want to point out the following: It is sometimes argued that having license behaving predictable in a court of law only matters if you want to restrict somebody. With the possible exception of a disclaimer of warranty (which may or may not be legal, depending on jurisdiction), there is ...


26

Programmers.SE has a similar question: Can I remove all-caps and shorten the disclaimer on my License? Tim Post's answer (which he says was derived from advice from a lawyer) says: The caps allow you to say 'no way could they have missed the disclaimer, it is hardly fine print!' This is important in a license or EULA that non-lawyers must read and ...


25

If you do not own the copyright on the software whose license is being infringed: It is not up to you to prove there was a GPL violation. It is not up to you to enforce the license of software for which you do not own the copyright. None of your rights are being infringed, so you have no standing to take legal action against the copyright infringement. As a ...


22

In that case copyright applies. In most countries, certainly in Europe, this is an automatic process: you publish something, and even without you adding the copyright symbol, you get the copyright. Software is no different than literature. As a developer, you are considered being the author of your work. When you publish, you are the copyright owner. ...


18

German law has something named 'Schöpfungshöhe', which Wikipedia refers to as 'Threshold of originality'. If no sufficient level of originality or effort is reached for the works, it cannot be copyrighted. That means, everyone can probably implement a copy-command, even if it will look pretty similar as the underlying mechanic is simple enough. Still, you ...


18

The important thing to know is that they (almost certainly (*)) cannot retroactively change the license of the version that you are using. They can change the license to new versions they release. So, if you want to keep using what you took when it was marked MIT, you are fine. You can even make a fork and invite other like-minded people to enhance and ...


18

In order to sue you for copyright infringement, the authors need to reveal their identity. But just because they prefer to stay anonymous now doesn't necessarily mean that they will stay anonymous in the future. They might get deanonymized against their will. Then they have nothing to lose anymore by going after you. When you annoy them enough, they might ...


16

Copyright protection only comes into play when an actual copy has been made of a work. If two people write a "hello world" program independently of each other, then both programs are protected by copyright and can be published with any license that the author wants. But as both worked independently of each other, neither can claim that the other infringed ...


16

The fact that the software is open source doesn't change anything about the contract that the developer has with their client. If the developer has done the work, the client owes the money. Contracts to deliver custom software (or many other services) often specify several stages of payments and delivery, and allow one party to suspend the contract if the ...


16

Just for the record: Mattel didn't buy CPHack, CPHack was not released under GPL (but under an home-made variation based upon the GPL - a so-called "crayon" license), and no attempt to "unlicense" the code was ever made. Here is a brief rundown of what happened: Mattel claimed CPHack infringed on the copyright of Cyber Patrol 4, and threatened to sue. The ...


16

If the code snippet is is authored by user, then adding the GPL just means that it is dual licensed under the GNU GPL as well as CC BY-SA (the default licence applied to all content posted on SE). This was mighty helpful of the user, as it would otherwise not be possible to reuse that snippet in any program not licensed under CC BY-SA without finding it ...


16

If you have not copied the code directly, this sort of thing is usually OK, and exempt from copyright laws. Specifically, mathematical formulae, ideas, inventions, recipes and facts cannot be protected by copyright. So just the knowledge that a format is handled in a particular way is not a copyright issue. Clever shortcuts and time-saving algorithms are not ...


16

I think the problem here is at a more fundamental level than the GPL. The GPL does not force you to publish your code under the GPL. It is still the right of the copyright holder to decide whether the software shall be published at all. But if the software is published, it can only be under the GPL. The intruder never lawfully obtained a license to the GPL ...


15

The first step in any legal issues is to notify relevant people. Initially, you should notify the copied project's owner. Since you weren't part of the team, you don't know whether the owner made an exception for this case or not. The theory is that the owner should deal with their own copyright. If the owner completely ignores you, then after a reasonable ...


15

Developers inside big corporations (and perhaps even smaller ones) have lawyers and managers dictating them conditions for using (professionally) external free software. A "crayon license" is very likely to be forbidden in such contexts (probably such developers have a list of acceptable licenses). So if you want your code to be widely used, I suggest to ...


14

Substantial portion is a legal term. Its exact definition will depend on jurisdiction, be subject to interpretation and possibly including subjective analyses. When in doubt, ask a lawyer. To err on the safe side, assume that it applies to any portion, no matter the size. To give you a random example, here's what Wikipedia has to say for Canadian copyright ...


13

You claim most licenses don't carry any legal weight. But I'm not so sure about this being true. Naturally it is hard to say, how good licenses can be enforced in court, until it happens... And it happened already and courts enforced open source licenses. Some examples. GPL-Violations The popularity and flexibility of Linux lead to the wide usage of the ...


13

Carol hasn't violated the GPL, she's violated Alice's copyright and in doing so invalidated her use of the GPL. In simple terms, because Alice's code wasn't Carol's to release, she can't apply the GPL to it. There is no violation of the GPL, because it never applied to Alice's code in the first place. As to why companies don't do this, it's because it's ...


13

To answer your question with a question: "Can you build the firmware without needing to violate the copyright or trade secret protection of the target hardware?' The answer to this question is the answer to your question. So, if the target hardware is 'just an ARM chip with a conventional boot process', sure, you can write new code for it. One tricky part ...


13

If you distribute your propriatiery code combined with GPL licensed code without following the GPL rules, then you commit copyright infringement, and the copyright holder or copyright holders of the GPL licensed code can sue you for damages, and can make you stop distributing your software. Your contract that the receiving company cannot see or distribute ...


13

Anyone may use the software for any purpose they choose ... However, no one may place any type of restrictions on my software Your basic problem is that these are self-contradictory aims. In the context of modern copyright law, the receipt of freedoms doesn't automatically require you to extend them to others. If you don't want to allow people to take ...


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