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pacman
12-14-2009, 12:34 PM
If I take some GPL code (a C implementation of a protocol) and compile it as an object for use in a propeller project is that allowed?

My understanding is that GPL licence would preclude the MIT licence, but I am not a lawyer (nor do I want to be one) and don't understand the complexities.. And yes I have read the FAQ.

I'm not planning on locking away any code so can the two pieces (the master program and the object) exist side-by-side with different licences?

Could the master code be on the OBEX as MIT, but the object be hosted elsewhere as GPL?

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Post Edited (pacman) : 12/14/2009 4:41:18 AM GMT

Phil Pilgrim (PhiPi)
12-14-2009, 12:37 PM
GPL, being more restrictive, trumps MIT. But are you sure the code is GPL and not LGPL? It could make a difference.

-Phil

BradC
12-14-2009, 12:38 PM
pacman said...
If I take some GPL code (a C implementation of a protocol) and compile it as an object for use in a propeller project is that allowed?

My understanding is that GPL licence would preclude the MIT licence, but I am not a lawyer (nor do I want to be one) and don't understand the complexities..

I'm not planning on locking away any code so can the two pieces (the master program and the object) exist side-by-side with different licences?


The MIT license is compatible with the GPL license. If you used some GPL and some MIT code in your project you would be required to give the source to the project in its entirety to any person you supplied a device containing that code to. Optionally you could make it available to everybody, but you don't have to. You can't prevent someone you've given the code to from giving it away however.

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Rayman
12-14-2009, 11:55 PM
My understanding is that if you add even a tiny subroutine of GPL to your code, the whole code becomes GPL...
That's the main reason I avoid GPL, when possible...

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potatohead
12-15-2009, 12:07 AM
That is the deal, unless it's LGPL, then you can compile a binary for your target, and make sure it's not packaged as part of the core project, and make sure code is available. That way, what is open stays open, but can be utilized in tandem with close, where needed.

Rayman, I was contacted by a German company who used my GPL 3D Stereo Lithography file viewer code in their commercial product. A developer there just went and pulled stuff down from the net and ran with it!! They were concerned about that, and rightfully so. What I did for them was issue them a license that allowed closed use, provided patches and improvements were returned to me, so the pool of code and it's users would improve. That was the original reason for the GPL, that and I wanted to give something back to the excellent pool of always known open code.

That worked out just fine, with me seeing several nice patches over the years.

Really, if people bump into something GPL, they need to consider that before incorporating it into their own works. That part is well known. What isn't so well known, and I think should be, is the fact that one can just ask about alternative arrangements too! It's nothing for a rights holder to issue another license. Well, maybe nothing. Depends on the scenario as to whether or not legal needs to be a part of the picture. I used the FSF to consult. They were not pleased about that kind of license, for ideological reasons, but for practical ones, they told me what to do, and it was not difficult.

In their case, I simply said make sure my name ends up on the box, and we are good. So, lesson there is, ask early and ask often, and it's highly likely 'ye shall receive!

The other lesson here is that if one does author GPL code, it's wise to keep contact info out there, or assign it to an organization, such as the FSF, so that contacts can be made and the disposition of works known without risk. IMHO, it's rude to not be available, given the need to sort out licenses is a fact of life.

Finally, if there is no contact info, and you cannot find where it was assigned to either a more friendly license, or the governing organization, avoid it if you need your work product to be closed. Risk is too high in that scenario.

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Post Edited (potatohead) : 12/14/2009 4:14:37 PM GMT

David Carrier
12-15-2009, 12:45 AM
Code licensed under the MIT license can be included an a project that is otherwise licensed under the GPL, without affecting distribution rights and requirements. Conversely, code licensed under the GPL license may affect the distribution rights and requirements of a project that is otherwise licensed under the MIT license. Because of this, and since the object exchange requires an MIT license, GPL code cannot be used in projects that are hosted on the object exchange. See obex.parallax.com/license/ (http://obex.parallax.com/license/) for more information about licensing objects in the Propeller Object Excange.

-- David Carrier

RossH
12-15-2009, 06:16 AM
@potatohead,

Thanks for a nice summary of the GPL and LGPL, and of the reasons they exist - and also a concise explanation of why they are not intrinsically 'anti-commercial' in nature - which is the way they are often portrayed.

A lot of people complain about the GPL without understanding why it exists in the first place (your case is a good example of why!), and also without realizing that the same software can always be dual-licensed at the discretion of the author (again, your case is a good example).

By the way - dual licensing can also get a bad rap - from die-hard GPL-fanatics!. As many people tend to say these days (although I'm never sure it really makes sense) - if you're getting flack from both ends of the spectrum, it usually means you've got the balance about right.

A small point - I don't think the LGPL requires YOU to make source code is available for any LGPL components you use - I think that responsibility still falls to the creator of the LGPL components (but of course it would make sense for you to do so for the sake of your own product).

Ross.

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evanh
12-15-2009, 06:26 AM
potatohead said...
... it's wise to keep contact info out there, or assign it to an organization, such as the FSF, so that contacts can be made and the disposition of works known without risk. ...

Pacman:
That is prolly a good measure of how to choose a license. If you intend to be involved in the future of the code then providing this info is no problem, particularly for a company, and the GPL becomes a good choice. But if you are just throwing the code out in the pool of public domain and aren't particularly interested in what happens to it then the MIT License would be the better choice.

As for the OBEX, you'll have to write your own version of what you've found GPL'd. Actually, you have to do that anyway if you are converting it to Spin.

pacman
12-15-2009, 06:47 AM
evanh said...

As for the OBEX, you'll have to write your own version of what you've found GPL'd. Actually, you have to do that anyway if you are converting it to Spin.


I always thought spin could call objects written in another language. I must have been mistaken.

{note to self} re-read prop manual again...

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Which way to the future?
=================

Harrison.
12-15-2009, 07:08 AM
LGPL and GPL seem to be pretty much the same when it comes to 'statically linked' binaries, such as those created for the Propeller. From what I understand, LGPL means that you must give the user the ability to swap in another API-compatible version of the LGPL'd code. This means you have to release as much source/object code as required for the user to recompile/link your project with another version of the LGPL'd code.

To get around this issue, a number of projects with LGPL'd code have added in an extra licensing condition stating that static linking falls under the same rules as dynamically loaded libraries. This means that you only have to release the source code for the library, not your entire application.

This is one of the reasons why I decided to just MIT license all my code. If the Propeller Toolchain supported relocatable object code / linking then LGPL would be a nice fit since all you would have to do would be to distribute the object code for your application, effectively protecting your source code while also letting users link it to libraries of their choice.

RossH
12-15-2009, 08:25 AM
Hi Harrison,

You are corrrect - the LGPL and GPL would be equivalent for SPIN/PASM programs since proprietary software cannot be released in a form that is dynamically linkable with LGPL components - at least not without releasing the source code to your proprietary software!

But they are not equivalent for Catalina, even though Catalina uses a dynamically linkable form which is essentially just PASM. Catalina links at the PASM level precisely to get around the problem you point out - i.e. the lack of a relocatable object format on the Propeller. But the proprietary version of the software you are trying to protect is presumably embodied in the C version of the software - and you can therefore release the compiled PASM version and allow your customers to use the Catalina binder (Catalina's PASM-level equivalent to a linker) to combine that program with LGPL'd components.

I have not seen any instances of the exclusion you mention to allow 'static' linking with LGPL components, but it seems a bit strange to make such an exception. If customers can't re-link then they can't take advantage of improved versions of the LGPL components - so such a license seems to degenerate into a simple MIT-type license - i.e. all you are really doing is asking the developers of proprietary software to acknowledge the source of the LGPL'd components they used. No-one can even check that they haven't modified the LGPL'd components.

Ross.

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BradC
12-15-2009, 08:29 AM
RossH said...

I have not seen any instances of the exclusion you mention to allow 'static' linking with LGPL components, but it seems a bit strange to make such an exception. If customers can't re-link then they can't take advantage of improved versions of the LGPL components - so such a license seems to degenerate into a simple MIT-type license - i.e. all you are really doing is asking the developers of proprietary software to acknowledge the source of the LGPL'd components they used. No-one can even check that they haven't modified the LGPL'd components.


No, you are requiring that all modifications are properly fed back. People seem pretty good at picking apart binaries to verify violations when they are suspected. Improvements in code and components tend to be fairly easy to spot from the outside if you are familiar with the original code.

The FreePascal and Lazarus projects both use LGPL with the binary link exception in their run time library code.

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RossH
12-15-2009, 08:54 AM
@Brad,

Ok - good point, although I'm not sure you'd spot violations all that easily.

You know, it occurs to me that someone could write a tool that scans software binaries looking just for such GPL and LGPL violations. That wouldn't be much harder than the type of virus scanner that looks for code signatures known to represent malicious software - i.e. you could register your L/GPL'd software with a body who could either routinely scan all proprietary software, or periodically issue a 'signature' file that would allow others to do the same. They could even offer this a service - i.e. an approval that basically means the proprietary software is 'certified L/GPL compliant' - and then make money out of taking a percentage of the compensation extracted from any L/GPL voilations discovered (and I'll bet they would find a surprising number in some well known products!).

We could generate a whole new industry here!

Ross.

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Drone
12-16-2009, 04:06 AM
Copy-right and how it sort-of "encapsulates" licensing (GPL, etc.) should be included in this discussion; the two are inseparable IMHO.

David

potatohead
12-16-2009, 03:24 PM
Yes, the legal foundation for software licenses is actually copyright. Use rights, performance rights, distribution rights, and other rights that govern derivative works all have their basis in simple copyright. On occasion one will run into a "keep it open" type, who is also against copyright. That's really goofy. We need both, though if I were king, I would reduce the current term to encourage a greater volume of works. Those come from either the public domain, or are licensed. Too many things are licensed for too long and this hobbles innovation and the simple production of new works.

(another thread there)

Don't confuse this with patents. Patents are absolutely toxic to software. Whole means and methods end up being denied to people, even if they write original code. Consider regular political support to either reform these, or eliminate them entirely. Copyright is the foundation for that, not patents, as the implications of regulation with the two are very, very different.

It's worth a bit of discussion on use and derivatives as well. It is well known that it is impractical to prevent some uses from occurring. These are fair uses, and include quotation, critical works, and perhaps just loaning a work you purchased to a friend. Technically that's distribution, but it's deemed fair. Why it's fair is a whole other thread. Just know that is is, largely because it's not practical to enforce, and the rights holder suffers no harm from the infringement act that is fair.

"Fair use" is not codified in law, and exists only through precedent, and many consider that a risky omission, myself included.

With creative works that are to be consumed or performed, there is fair use. Interestingly, this concept seems to be largely absent in software, with use occurring with a single line of code. IMHO, there is significant risk here, which is why some people avoid even looking at open code. This is, of course, silly, but a reality, sadly.

With computer code, this comes down to distribution, which is the case whereby an unauthorized copy ends up made and in the hands of somebody without permission. Handing a CD to your friend is distribution. Posting code on the net is distribution, and shipping your project code is distribution.

Copies are just that, copies. There is considerable legal angst about "fair" copies in this context, which gets back to the silly part. To execute code, it is copied. Consider the Propeller MOV instruction!

Does it move anything? No. It makes a copy, which is what computers just do. If they didn't do this, we would find them rather useless. I follow these cases with great interest to see where "fair" will end up. If the media companies have their say, there will be no fair, and every bit copied would be done with authorization. Ugh... On the other hand, a growing body of case law is calling this fair. So far so good there.

It is this property of computers that puts even executing a program under copyright, as a copy is made, and often distributed to be "used"in the sense most of us think about using.

Derivatives are of keen interest to us here, and that is where a work is composed of parts of other works. Truth is, that always happens as we all must build from some common works, or we have no basis for communication. Talking to an alien would be like an original work. This is why the public domain is important, and why I stated above that terms are probably too long, and why that limits things.

One thing about copy -vs- original and derivative works, and why patents are toxic. Say I learn how to code something from some example on the net. I then later apply the techniques to my problem, writing original code. A patent would deny me this, and as code is really instructions on how to do things, or can be considered math, this is a very, very bad slope as people simply cannot do things with computers, where patents exist, without some license.

eg: x := x + (x > 5) if x is < 5, 0 will be added, if > 5, then the value of true will be added. Code and math right there.

In copyright land, learning how to do something is ok. Cutting and pasting that code into your own, is a copy, and that project becomes a derivative. Learning a technique, then authoring your own code to solve a problem does not make a derivative from a copyright perspective, as that's "in your own words", but does from a patent perspective.

That's the ugly part, and also useful to sort out whether or not you are actually making something original, just FYI.

Moving on...

The beauty of the OBEX and the MIT license is simply that people do not have to worry about derivatives, where works found there are embodied in their own, nor do they worry about distribution. It's a pool of stuff that is a lot like the public domain, but where the ownership isn't public, but is retained by the contributor. As users of the Propeller, this pool of code adds a lot of value to the Propeller.

Public Domain works are intended to be consumed, mixed, mashed and end up new copyrighted works. Licensed works may be intended this way, but it's clear the author is maintaining an interest. That's the difference. With the MIT, we know who did what, and who owns what, and that's cool. With the PD, that can be erased, just leaving code, though it's very bad form to do so.

One final thing to know. All works, at least in the US, are copyrighted at the moment of creation, and from that time on, require a license to use, distribute, copy. The product of that is essentially ALL computer software, other than the software we personally author, operates under a license. You, yourself operate with your own code under an intrinsic license, in that you grant de-facto permission to use your work products.

Oh crap... That brings up "works for hire", where you produce something for compensation. You don't really own those, others do. Watch for this, and consider carefully what "work for hire" means in terms of your work output. Poorly written contracts can make broad claims to your works causing trouble... Better to author solutions, then sell those than do works for hire as the boundaries between personal "inventions" and work "inventions" can be really murky. It is completely possible to end up paying somebody to use your code in this scenario, even when that was not the intent. Good works and money do funny things to people. Just know this and read what you sign.

Finally, for any project that will end up outside your own private environment, it is important that you document where you derived your entitlement to code you are using, period. Copyright requires this, and is why licenses exist. It is good form to do this, so others can be clear too. The wiki has some info on that http:\\propeller.wikispaces.com

If I mangled that, sorry...

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Post Edited (potatohead) : 12/16/2009 7:45:18 AM GMT

potatohead
12-16-2009, 03:48 PM
One other thing. A code released under Public Domain, or some license like MIT, GPL, BSD, is out there, and licensed for good. There is no putting the genie back in the bottle at that point. This is true, even if the original source of the code is pulled, those that acquired the code, acquired the license, and have the rights embodied within it, given they do the work to source that stuff at the time of code acquisition. If those rights include distribution, and or derivative works, they can actually post their archive and continue to develop the project in competition with your own efforts.

Lesson there is to record enough to meet your burden in the future, and as an author, it's good form to give people enough to meet that burden so life is as easy as it can be.

A subsequent release can be licensed differently however.

I didn't know where to fit that into the above, but it seemed like something that should be on this thread, just in case.

Edit: My intent with these posts was not to advise. Really, it's important to know what is what, and I think they do that. If I've hosed it, then the discussion to follow will do that, and we all learn something. (cool) A simple understanding of these basic ideas (some consider not so basic) is just useful, if you are to deal with code at any level, that's all. Hope that makes good sense.

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Post Edited (potatohead) : 12/16/2009 7:58:20 AM GMT

heater
12-16-2009, 04:27 PM
This idea that as a software developer you should not be reading others source code is completely insane. I think it was Roy who mentioned not wanting to take the risk of looking at GPLed code.

By that logic, Roy, I hope you are also not reading any books. You may one day find yourself sitting down and writing a smash hit novel, so better not to fill your mind with phrases you may accidentally put into it. Is it so that an author should not read the works of his peers? Absurd. Engineers should not learn from each other !

By the same argument be sure you are not watching any films or listening to any music.

I think that allowing copyright protection on binary blobs is all wrong anyway. Copyright is intended to give protection, for a limited time, to an author for publishing a work. With the intention of encouraging creators.

My contention is that putting out a binary blob, some executable code say, is not actually publishing at all. Certainly it is not published in anyway that I can sensibly read it.

Further, if the creator of said code is enjoying the protection of copyright they should have no problem delivering the source code as well. We out here are not allowed to just copy it, due to the copyright protection it has, so why not? After all that's the regime the authors of books operate under.

Further, I think it should be required that if you want the luxury copyright protection for your binary blobs it should be required that you do actually publish the source.

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potatohead
12-17-2009, 12:29 AM
Excellent positions taken Heater! I agree strongly with your looking at position, but do not agree with the copyright on blobs one.

I wrote what I did on derivatives to emphasize that "looking" at GPL code is no different than "looking" at MIT code. The material elements that define a derivative do not change. Agreed Heater, on all counts. That "don't look at it", imho is either ignorant legal (and that's not a joke) that is risk adverse to a fault, confusion between copyright and patent, or attempts to establish a poor norm for whatever reason.

Now comes the interesting one! No copyright on blobs. (I think binary is part of the definition of "blob" in computer land. making binary blob redundant, imho)

If I take sheet music, parse it, stroke piano keys, and digitize the recording, I have a blob.

A photo taken with my digital camera is a blob.

Compile code and get a blob.

I zip archive numerous things and obtain a blob.

If I choose to write some really bizzare non 7 bit clean language, and author a work, that's technically a blob, from the perspective of one that does not know the language.

An encryption or simple data compression results in blobs.

A Compact Disc is a blob, derived from master tapes, derived from the works of musicians, who were inspired by other musicians, in the way that a coder looked at a great program and was inspired to write their own. There is that "what is a derivative?" bit again, nicely framed.

It's my opinion that the nature of copyright, being attached to blobs, is not the problem. It's the length of the term being too long, and the sometimes bizzare legal conclusions we reach, out of ignorance more than anything else that is the problem. This is why, for example, I emphasized the word infringement for the unauthorized duplication or use of a work in the other thread.

If there is no copyright for a blob, one cannot license a blob as the license derives it's authority from the idea of ownership and that runs through copyright. In that scenario, one then must then resort to other means to regulate use of the blob, or simply render them public, which is absolutely not gonna happen, for the cases I highlighted above.

On that note, we have exactly 4 means to regulate uses: money, physics, norms, law. That's it. It is extremely useful to keep those in mind when considering these things.

An example of each:

Money can impact the acquisition of the blob. Norms means social pressure to be ethical and honorable would impact the duplication and use of the blob. Physics would be making the blob difficult to use, distribute or duplicate. Law is the remedy for cases where unauthorized uses and or duplication, or distribution have occured.

On that last point, it's worth noting that law works just like security does. There is risk reward only, no absolutes in law. A strong law doesn't actually prevent anything, it just makes it unfavorable.

Good regulation that actually works, usually embodies all four of those things, just FYI.

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Post Edited (potatohead) : 12/16/2009 4:44:25 PM GMT

hippy
12-17-2009, 01:00 AM
heater said...
This idea that as a software developer you should not be reading others source code is completely insane. I think it was Roy who mentioned not wanting to take the risk of looking at GPLed code.

By that logic, Roy, I hope you are also not reading any books. You may one day find yourself sitting down and writing a smash hit novel, so better not to fill your mind with phrases you may accidentally put into it. Is it so that an author should not read the works of his peers? Absurd. Engineers should not learn from each other !

By the same argument be sure you are not watching any films or listening to any music.

That's the bottom line and truth of it.

If one does 'accidentally' use something which is covered by a license and not in accordance with that license one can indeed be sued for that infringement and that infringement may be punished and ordered rectified, the original author's rights enforced. That's true of any restrictive license, GPL or any other.

A commercially intended development can be absolutely ruined by 'inadvertently' including GPL code so many commercial companies will dictate that GPL'd code is never viewed to at least give them the defence that there was no knowable infringement. Some companies make it a sackable offence to let GPL'd code into their development environment.

The only safe course is to use others' code in accordance with their licensing or to develop code oneself from first principles ( that doesn't always protect oneself though ). The only code you can take and use however you want with no risk of blow-back is that covered by a non-restrictive licence, Public Domain, MIT etc.

That's why I personally favour MIT et al over any restrictive licensing such as GPL or others. Code which is intended for learning and building upon should IMO be released with non-restrictive licensing. Otherwise one is limiting the extent to which that code can be built upon or used.

If releasing code under a restrictive license one isn't saying, "take this code, learn from it, derive from it, and fare thee well", but saying, "learn from it, and derive from it, but only if willing to comply with my licensing". That's no longer about providing a free and usable resource, but a resource only to those who accept your personal view of how licensing should be.

Post Edited (hippy) : 12/16/2009 5:05:35 PM GMT

heater
12-17-2009, 01:05 AM
potatohead: Normally "blob" implies "binary". However you can have source code "blobs", you should see some of my code sometimes:).

I was not really saying there should be no copyright protection for executables. The idea is that if you want copyright for your executable you should have to publish the source. Don't forget back in the early days it was not clear that executables were copyrightable.

Why do I say this?

1) If copyright on the blob satisfies your need to be protected from other people profiting by copying it then copyright on the source does the same. No one is a allowed to derive a work from it, i.e. compile it to run, without your license.

2) Having the source published satisfies the spirit of copyright: "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries."
A binary blob does not "promote the Progress of Science", the source might.

3) The other end of the copyright bargain is that in return for the protection it offers the authors, the work will eventually enter the public domain. Well great, long after I'm dead I get a totally useless blob. In this copyright contract between society and authors society has been ripped off.

Now these are all new thoughts to me, I'm pleased to find others have mulled this over already, like this article: www.freesoftwaremagazine.com/columns/what_if_copyright_didnt_apply_binary_executables (http://www.freesoftwaremagazine.com/columns/what_if_copyright_didnt_apply_binary_executables)

However in that article he makes the wrong assertion that if there were no copyright on executables then software authors would have no protection at all. Missing the point that copyrighting the source would indeed protect them.

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photomankc
12-17-2009, 01:40 AM
heater said...

1) If copyright on the blob satisfies your need to be protected from other people profiting by copying it then copyright on the source does the same. No one is a allowed to derive a work from it, i.e. compile it to run, without your license.

2) Having the source published satisfies the spirit of copyright: "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries."
A binary blob does not "promote the Progress of Science", the source might.

3) The other end of the copyright bargain is that in return for the protection it offers the authors, the work will eventually enter the public domain. Well great, long after I'm dead I get a totally useless blob. In this copyright contract between society and authors society has been ripped off.



1.) We know full well that it doesn't. Before the cryptographic protection that most software now uses to prevent unlicensed use there was quite frequent use of copied software without license and we know good and well that it was near impossible to police that. I don't appreciate it much but I do understand why it's there. I believe it would be foolish to leave my front door open and document the location of all the most important items in my home and then rely on the legal protection from burglary to chase after those that stole. I would use a combination of all the protections I could.

2.) I don't believe that the progress of science and useful arts meant direct access of everyone to the full, detailed, documentation of the work of others. The advancement promoted by this system was the profit motive of being able to make money from bringing new technology to the market and knowing that your effort would be worthwhile with protection from direct copies for some period of time.

3.) I agree. It has been twisted into a perpetual source of revenue and protected for so long that by the time it's public things have advanced to the point of it's near irrelevance. I believe that has less impact in media and entertainment but a major impact in technology arts areas. "Process" patents are actually more detrimental to advancement in my opinion. It actually serves to stifle new development as people who produce nothing other than paper sue those that actually invent and market new products.


I know these many discussions and arguments over the exact effects and meaning of the various GPL licenses are exactly why people shy away. It's not the boogy man that many people make it out to be but it does take time and consideration to figure out just how it affects you. That's not terribly different from other licensing schemes though.

Post Edited (photomankc) : 12/16/2009 5:46:55 PM GMT

Roy Eltham
12-17-2009, 02:55 AM
heater, hippy covered my position very well on the "not even reading GPL code" issue. (Thanks hippy!)

That's my job. For my hobbies and fun, I prefer to not force people into a restrictive license when they use source code I release, and you have to admit that GPL is indeed the most restrictive of the "open source" licenses.
I just don't feel the need to protect my source code like that. I really truly don't care if someone took the source code and used it in a closed commercial project. More power to them.

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heater
12-17-2009, 02:57 AM
photomankc: Taking one point at a time:

1) When I was referring to "protection" under copyright I was meaning in the legal sense rather than actually physically. Protection under the law. Rather like the law says people should nut mug me on the way home. Does not mean that it does not happen. All this cryptographic protection and activation business is is there to fix the practical problem of protection rather like an Americans right to carry a gun to ward off aggressors.

2) I guess we have a different interpretation of "progress of science and useful arts". I've always taken it the academic sense of sharing new discoveries and innovations. For example, James Watt invents the steam engine, him telling the world about it advances science and the useful arts. However James gets no benefit if we all make our own steam engines. So the social contract is made: You tell us about your great idea, James, and we will give you a monopoly on it's exploitation for some time. Copyright and Patents have a similar contract that way.

Still, now I wonder what the original users of that expression had in mind.

3) "twisted into a perpetual source of revenue" Yes, apparently we can blame Mick Mouse for that. When Disney and the American entertainment industry realized they had run out of money making products they lobbied to maintain their perpetual income from the old junk of their forefathers.

Now, all that cryptographic protection and activation business on executables pretty much denies society access to those works when, eventually, the copyright expires. THis directly breaks the social contract of copyright.

I was also thinking about the argument for copyright of binary blobs from cameras etc. Some how I think they are in a different class. There is no "source code" for them. More seriously it is expected that they are viewable with commonly available players from commonly know standard file formats. Problem with say executables for Windows is that the player itself, Windows, is itself subject to restrictions.

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heater
12-17-2009, 03:10 AM
Roy: I was not getting at you personally, and for sure not meaning to suggest you are "insane". Given the nature of your work and the legal environment we live in your or your employers insistence on "no contact with GPL'ed code" is probably quite reasonable. What is "insane" is the situation that you find yourself in as a result of said environment.

No qualms with not wanting to use the GPL. But consider this:
1) You have a brilliant idea for a very widely useful solution to a problem.
2) You spend some years developing code to implement that.
3) You release it under some BSD style licence because you want the world to benifit from that with out restriction.

Or so you think...

4) Along comes a large publisher of software, takes your code, tweaks in in ways to maybe make it better, maybe incompatible with your original.
5) They offer their version for sale, or free, in binary only.
6) Everyone and his dog ends up using because it works better with the publishers OS or whatever reason.

Result: Your code ends up being marginalized and useless. Far from being the gift to the world that you hoped it ends up being a gift to that large publisher.

Maybe that's a long, tortuous and unlikely chain of events but that is what the GPL is there for. To be sure that your code remains open and useful whatever happens in the future.

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hippy
12-17-2009, 04:27 AM
heater said...
Result: Your code ends up being marginalized and useless.

Would code not be more useless if, because of licensing, no one picked it up and ran with it ?

To give another extreme case on licensing - Say I discover a universal cure for everything from a common cold through cancer yet realise it will cost trillions to turn it into reality of a product. If I release the cure under a license which says anyone developing it must not profit from it is any pharmaceutical or anyone else altruistic enough to develop it ?

Is it better to have the cure well know yet everybody still dying from preventable disease or to have released with an alternative license which accepts commercialisation ?

If I release under a completely non-restrictive license the pharmaceuticals are able to profit from it, anyone else can, and anyone who wants to be able to give the cure away for free can do so if they find a way to produce the cure.

I'm not arguing for commercialisation per se, just pointing out that restrictive licensing is not always an automatically positive thing.

Another way to look at it - Being penniless but seeing a certainty bet, do I come to a deal with someone who has money so I can gain a share of the winnings, do I share that knowledge with everyone on the condition they cannot keep the profit they make, or should I let everyone do whatever they want with their winnings ? Which has most benefit ?

potatohead
12-17-2009, 04:47 AM
It's difficult to infringe in such a way as to make a derivative work. It takes a contrived effort to do this. Just learning how something is done, is not infringing, and does not result in a derivative, no matter what the license is involved. I understand the risk aversion, don't agree with it, but understand why it exists.

Make no mistake on the derivative bit though. Unless you make a contrived effort to directly copy paste, or operate line for line, or some other thing, it's not a derivative work period.

Looking at a body of GPL code will absolutely not pollute whatever closed project is at hand. That is pure fantasy, always has been, always will be. Let's just be clear about that, then recognize that some of us have to operate within the boundaries of the authorities that write the check.

Where that matter is concerned, the real fear is patents where ALL derivatives are infringing, and that's not cool at all. Again, I oppose those across the board for both software and business processes. These harm innovation and encourage the development of technology fiefdoms where revenue isn't derived from genuine innovation applied to labor over time, but from the simple ownership of what would otherwise be a common means or method. We lose as people in this scenario as we won't see and benefit from the innovation that would otherwise occur.

I agree with Heater on the need for GPL code. It is important that a body of open code exist. One reason, and my primary one, happens to be that without this body, closed could be the law of the land, rendering the possibility of actually using open code impractical. Proponents of closed code, who currently derive a lot of revenue fiefdom style, want this to occur, and the GPL license is the number one reason why it hasn't. Pure politics there. Open needs to exist and be in use, and be strong or it will be litigated away. It's as simple as that.

Essentially those people that publish GPL code set their cost as an ongoing and solid commitment to open code, period. You can sell it, use it, modify it, do whatever with it, but for closing it. Given the politics, this is a reasonable cost.

I would point out that heater's scenario can occur with open code as well. Project gets forked, and a better, faster, smarter, well funded group of people can simply take one's mind-share leaving the same dilemma. Just saying...

The other nice thing about GPL is that it leaves the open of multiple licenses on the table nicely. A GPL release will always be open, and grow that pool of open code. Everybody can benefit from that, which keeps the playing field level. Should someone else fork the project and really innovate, that use value returns to all.

At some later time, perhaps it makes sense to derive revenue from that code. The rights holder can do that, right along side the GPL, and benefit directly from their work, while at the same time growing and maintaining the relevance of the body of open code. I strongly support this model, as control rests with the author of the work, and may not be threatened by others. It's technically possible for an open fork to get the mind-share, but in that scenario they will have earned it fair and square through straight up innovation. Nothing wrong with that. In fact, the threat of that keeps the original author working to remain relevant. Nothing wrong with that either.

What it puts off the table is the kinds of closed door deals that consolidate markets and raise value artificially, putting us at risk of a net loss of innovation that would otherwise occur.

Now, for smaller scope things, such as the OBEX, MIT is great! The real value is the innovation around the code, with the body of code being a core enabler for that innovation to occur. Fantastic! I'm on board, and everybody is strongly motivated to get after it, innovate, and profit from that, or not as they see fit.

Consider what the cost of Microsoft Office might be today without the Open Office there to check that growth and potential to extract revenue from the customer through license and version manipulation? I don't want to think about that actually.

What would the cost of operating systems be without Linux there to check the same? I don't want to think about that either.

GPL licensing is that check, meaning it is necessary and healthy. It's not the be all end all, but it's presence and use is more than warranted given the dynamics of computing in general, and our current state of legal regulation.

Maybe someday that state of things will evolve to a point where exerting control for profit is more risky, and less ubiquitous. I may well reconsider some of the GPL politics at that time, but now is simply not that time.

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Roy Eltham
12-17-2009, 05:06 AM
heater, I guess I come from an old "hacker" school of thought, and by "hacker" I mean the old school hackers like from Steven Levy's great book called "Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution". They didn't have licenses really, and people just shared code and hardware alike for whatever use.

I believe unrestricted sharing of software and hardware leads to more beneficial advancement overall. Yes there are cases you can contrive that will be negative, but overall I believe it's positive.

Also, don't even talk to me about the abomination that is software patents. It is so infuriating and anti-progress, I am getting mad just typing this as I think about it.

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heater
12-17-2009, 05:33 AM
Hippy yes indeed, you have good counter examples.

Now, please be sure I am not fanatical about the GPL.

For for the sake of argument lets assume I'm completely self centred and selfish, mean to the core. Completely driven by whatever I perceive will benefit me the most. Any apparent altruism on my part is only an illusion. Which licence would I use for my software efforts?

1) For something like widgets for the Propeller I might choose the MIT licence. Seem odd given my character profile? Not really. I like Propellers, I want Parallax to continue and prosper so as to endure my supply of Propellers into the future. I want them to have the resources to develop the Prop II run this forum and do all the other great things they do. So it's worth it for me allow the possibility of anyone to using the widget in a closed commercial product. They will buy and sell more Props. Just what I want them to do:)

3) If I ever come up with useful non-trivial program I might want to put it under the GPL/LGPL. Especially if it catches the attention of other developers who want contribute fixes or enhancements or translations or ports or whatever. All good for me, I get a better program without having to do all the work:) As it's a non-trivial program consuming a lot of my time something like the BSD is out. Why would I want to allow some lazy bugger to use my code without giving anything back?

4) In the unlikely event I get really organized and pay a team of devs to make a world shattering widget. For sure I'm closing it all as tight as a drum. I want money for this one.

5) As it is I'm the shmock who codes for money, by the hour or for a salary. No room for GPL there, I need food on the table.

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heater
12-17-2009, 05:35 AM
Ahh...patents. This could be a long and interesting thread...

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potatohead
12-17-2009, 05:57 AM
I'm not a fanatic either.

Really, I'm more interested in people knowing how and why the licenses work as they do, if anything so better choices and law will be realized.

Fuming here on patents myself. The whole affair is just toxic.

The idea that open is somehow toxic bothers me, as the difference between theft and infringement bothers me. Clarity is just important, and frankly, I learn something new each time I entertain one of these discussions.

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hippy
12-17-2009, 06:06 AM
potatohead said...
It's difficult to infringe in such a way as to make a derivative work

That depends on definition of "derivative work" which can very from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and does not seem defined in any absolute terms, particularly when "in whole or in part" comes into play and whether copyright is seen to exist on the whole or individual components of a work.


potatohead said...
Looking at a body of GPL code will absolutely not pollute whatever closed project is at hand

True, but it has the potential for that.

Just like listening to music or watching films doesn't necessarily pollute one's own creations, if some component seems to be derived from some other work it can be challenged as infringing and admitting to having heard or seen the work allegedly infringed reduces the defence of purely independent creation.

RossH
12-17-2009, 06:18 AM
@all,

Potatohead's excellent post summarises very well why GPL is both necessary and desirable.

Heater's (also excellent, but much more pragmatic) post summarizes why there is no real conflict between GPL and other licenses - each one is just appropriate for different circumstances - and all can work in the developers favor if you choose the right one in the right circumstances.

The best way to think of GPL is as just another tool in a software developer's arsenal for achieveing better outcomes.

Hippy's argument is a little more problematic. While it seems reasonable, it assumes two things (1) that altruism simply doesn't exist, and that others won't rally round and run with an idea in the absence of a profit motive. Okay - I'm cynical enough to believe that this could be true - but even in the absence of pure altruism, people will still do it purely for the kudos they will attract thereby. It also assumes that (2) there isn't a single clever bastard out there capable of figuring out a way to make money out an idea that is essentially free. On this one, my cynicism again comes to the rescue and says that if people can figure out how make a living selling bottled water at $20 per litre in the same countries where the source product is freely available everywhere, then they can figure out how to make money out of an essentially "free" piece of software. Or, to return to Hippy's medical analogy - if a pharmaceutical company can figure out how to make people buy their non-patentable drugs at $10 per packet when the generic equivalent costs $1 and sits right next to it on the same shelf, then I don't think we need to worry about the same companies not jumping on a GPL'd cure for cancer - they will do so with $$$$ signs lighting up their eyes.

Ross.

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evanh
12-17-2009, 07:36 AM
Pollution of ideas and methods is not the issue. Copyright and licenses don't cover ideas and methods, that's the job of patents. Pollution is desirable.

GPL'd code can be freely reinterpreted into MIT'd or non-disclosure and vice-versa. Just don't cut'paste.

potatohead
12-17-2009, 01:41 PM
Well Hippy, don't look then. I totally see that reasoning, I just don't adhere to it. It's easy enough to prove original work, so I prefer to just do that instead. The people that write the checks may well think otherwise, and there is little one can do about that, but to carve out and be aggressive about their personal time and works, which I strongly recommend, no matter what it is you do in life.

That has little bearing on the merits of GPL code however.

Heater has it right too. Closed can be totally worth it, and I don't think anybody has standing to deny others an opportunity. The only check on that I can see is the reality of open being litigated away should it become marginalized. We really won't like closed only, and that warrants contributions that will insure open continues to exist as the check it is.

Truth is, the way code works means only a nice fraction of people need to contribute, and or a majority contribute some of the time for it all to work just fine. There are plenty of ways to employ open code for profit, and those interested in doing that will easily pay to have contributions made that favor them. The use value equation is excellent here in that most of the time, for most uses, people get more out than they put in. This makes for an excellent competitor, that is permissive in terms of it's politics. A majority mind share simply isn't needed for it all to work just fine. Additionally, there is absolutely no penalty for users who simply leverage the use value without contributing anything at all! Nobody cares, as the political value of that alone is worth it, above and beyond the simple truth of it not being a loss to those that did contribute. I think that's damn cool, and there is very little in this world that works like that. Sign me up, where it makes sense!

I find it very interesting to see the dynamic flipped on the closed side. Not only does it require a majority to maintain, but it also requires considerable time and effort politically as well, coupled with clear opportunity costs for those who use without contributing back dollars for use value. Heh...

Maybe those types should be thankful those of us who grok open are nice people overall :)

Cheers!

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Post Edited (potatohead) : 12/17/2009 5:47:25 AM GMT

heater
12-17-2009, 04:38 PM
No man is an island.

We have an accumulated and shared body of knowledge floating around in the human race. We have a shared culture of music, literature, music etc. Pretty much anything you think or do is built on the the thoughts and works of the generations that have have gone before and of the society you live in. Most of what you "think" actually does not make any sense without the rest of the human race being present and sharing in the process. Starting from the very language you use in your mind to have those thoughts. Whether it be a natural human language, mathematics, or a computer software language etc.

Can reading GPLed code result in you accidentally creating a derived work in your latest closed creation? Yes of course it can. Is that bad? Well in my mind it is no worse that the fact that most music you here is clearly a derived work of lots that when before and/or is around at the time. You know, there wasn't just one progressive rock band, or one psychedelic hippy band, or one punk band, or one heavy metal band add, going back to the first guys who ever stretched an animal skin and started banging on it. Same story in literature and the arts etc.

Everything feeds off everything else all the time.

This crazy situation we find ourselves in now where major corporations want to lock up our culture for there own profit is repugnant.

Hippy, may or may not be right that altruism simply doesn't exist, and that others won't rally round and run with an idea in the absence of a profit motive.

The point of my post was that even if you are solely driven by profit and self interest it may well be beneficial for you to act in a way that appears altruistic from the outside. It all depends on if you are smart enough to realize that "profit" does not just mean "money in the bank".

So for example: Creating or contributing to a GPLed project may well be a selfish act on my part. I do it because I reckon on others also contributing, fixing, improving that thing. I get a better program in less time than if I tried to do it myself.

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hippy
12-17-2009, 07:10 PM
heater said...
Can reading GPLed code result in you accidentally creating a derived work in your latest closed creation? Yes of course it can. Is that bad?

Yes, if that then means the code cannot be released under the licensing terms which were intended. The same goes for code intended to be MIT licensed as well as closed source.


heater said...
Everything feeds off everything else all the time.

And copyright protection with licensing of any restrictive form, GPL or closed, seeks to prevent and limit that except where the terms of license are complied with.

I don't really follow the logic of your music analogy. True, everything does build on everything else that has gone before, and some components of things are effectively placed in the public domain, but take someone else's riff into your own music and you can be hauled into court for infringement; ask George Harrison as just one example.


heater said...
This crazy situation we find ourselves in now where major corporations want to lock up our culture for there own profit is repugnant.

GPL equally seeks to lock people into its own culture, albeit for different motives. Infringements of GPL are / can be pursued just as vigorously as infringements of closed source. That's the nature and point of all restrictive licensing; preventing others from using a work other than how the copyright holder desires it to be used.

The concept of copyright and protection of works has existed for three centuries. That you feel that protecting ones work to further ones profits is repugnant is yours to make but it is a long established principle. You obviously accept the principle of such protection, reserving rights, but don't agree with a particular reason for doing that.

evanh
12-17-2009, 08:15 PM
You guys are stuck on patents still. Which has nothing to do with any licenses at all.

heater
12-17-2009, 08:46 PM
Lets put aside the technicalities of the law in all it's nightmarish details for a moment and look at what humans actually do.

Music is a good example of part of that. As time goes by musical forms come and go. We had a rock'n'roll era, a glam rock era, a punk era and so on. There are genres that persist through time, blues, jazz, techno whatever. This has been going on since that guy banging on the first stretched animal skin I mentioned.

A disinterested alien looking at all of this activity might conclude that us humans are busy copying each other as best we can all the time.

Well "copying" maybe putting it to strongly, put we are certainly greatly influenced by what others are doing around us. We see there is a fine line between "copying" and "inspired" or "imitated". For sure there are a lot of riffs and musical phrases that are common within a given musical style. Normally no one worries about that. You must have heard many tunes that sound vaguely familiar because they have some common features of what you have heard before.

Back to the law. We naturally don't like people copying what we have done, perhaps passing it off as their own, perhaps benefiting from it when we are not. We despise that guy in school who never does his home work but scrounges a copy to hand in at the last moment. Eventually we have all that enshrined in law.

Problem is the law now has to distinguish between "influence", "imitation" and down right "copying" That is the part where we now have the big debate, where to draw the lines. The fact that George Harrison had this problem is as absurd as me copying "while(1)" out of some GPLed code.

I did not say "protecting ones work to further ones profits is repugnant ". Read again what I did say. That my culture and everything I think turns out to be "owned" by large global corporations, either through copyright or patent is repugnant. The protections these guys get now is totally out of balance with the general good of society.

Yes "The concept of copyright and protection of works has existed for three centuries" but that's not to say they have always been working well. I could go off on a story now about the history of the steam engine and how patents slowed the progress of it's adoption for many decades. Another time.

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hippy
12-18-2009, 12:15 AM
evanh said...
You guys are stuck on patents still. Which has nothing to do with any licenses at all.

Not sure who "you guys" is, but I'm talking about copyrighted works, licensing such work, and infringements of such licensing.

Original published work is protected by copyright, originating authors or copyright holder of such a work has the right to dictate whatever licensing conditions they wish, the right to pursue infringements of such licenses. Whether they succeed in that or not is up to the courts and what the law in their jurisdiction says.

If it weren't so there'd be no purpose to copyright.

potatohead
12-18-2009, 12:42 AM
IMHO, this all comes down to the term of protection, and how that is related to relevancy.

In music, all the themes have been done for example. If you are a romantic, for example, appreciating the art comes down to how those are done in terms of style and execution, not whether or not the theme is new. Been there done that. For a more precise thing, like a riff, which is an element used to convey a greater theme, it's safe to say many of the meaningful ones have been done, leaving creative use of those that have not as the opportunity space where artists work in to create new things.

The longer the term, the less space there is for a competing riff to be realized. The scale is only so big, and only has so many combinations... The shorter the term, the larger that space is, and the more creative works are possible.

Where relevancy is concerned, the higher a particular work is in terms of relevancy, the more value it has generally speaking. Terms impact that too, as the profit is best at high relevancy, diminishing over time.

The idea of copyright protection is to make sure that profit can be realized, for a time, so that culture in general is not impacted. IMHO, terms are too long, covering works long past their peak earning potential, and because of that, the space or material they are created from is meagre enough to impact the overall advancement of culture.

That is what people mean when they talk about "owning culture", and I really don't favor that ownership to the degree we are currently seeing occur, largely because it has solidified our culture enough to notice the lack of progress. At least I notice that, maybe the majority of people don't, or like it solidified.

Where I'm going with this and computer code is three fold for me. One is the preservation of the "right to read", in that it really must be possible in the law for people to learn by direct examination and manupulation. If you can't open it, you don't own it kind of thing.

A robust body of open code being available nicely handles that case, while supporting a different one, and that is trust. Computers do what they are told to do, and they do so without regard to any of the human, people elements in play for us. Just machines. As machines become increasingly pervasive in our lives, that code can act as law does, and we've no appeal. Secondly, as complexity grows, it's not always possible to understand what is being done, and where that is true, exploitation will occur. That is not a good scenario. If one is in a situation were a very high degree of trust is necessary, open code gets us there, and that's just necessary to have as an option for people, particularly those living under oppressive governments and such.

Finally, it's about innovation in general, and this is where patents come into play more than copyright does. Copyright is the foundation of licensing, as patents are as well. With copyright, it's all about that particular work. One can learn from that work and realize their own without violating copyright. With a patent, it's about all works in that vein, meaning one can learn, but still be denied the right to use. With physical things, patent protection is a great thing. With information things, I believe it's a mistake.

What if EOR had been patented? What would that have done to innovation early in the time of computing? I suspect a whole lot of non-innovation would have occurred.

Long copyright terms are kind of good for software, but bad for other works, like movies, music, etc... However one sees this, it's not such a large problem that can'be be lived with. Software can be rewritten, and there is a lot in life that has nothing to do with music, movies, books. Again, I think the terms are too long, and fighting over a riff with terms as long as they are is silly, and mutually less productive for all involved.

On a personal note, I am actually offended by the very long terms. Take Disney for example. They got started from the works of the Brothers Grimm. At the time, terms were short enough to allow works with fairly high relevancy to be used to make new, compelling works. Disney leveraged this to start their empire. So far so good. That is how it should be.

The offensive part is now that Disney is an empire, they don't want to give back the same way the Brothers Grimm did! Mickey Mouse should be Public Domain now, as Betty Boop currently is. Each time that occurs, Disney has gone to legislators asking for term extensions and has been granted them. Today, terms are so long that it's very highly likely nobody alive today will experience the kind of culture transition Disney brought us, because no work will enter the Public Domain for that to occur, resulting in a more static, owned, solidified culture. IMHO, that's to our mutual loss, and a crime.

The analogy with patents then would be clear. We have expanded the scope of patents to cover business processes and software. The product of that will be less innovation in both areas. If terms on patents were expanded, our technical innovation culture will suffer the same fate as our media culture has, resulting in a more static society as a whole.

Patents on software are a mistake. Leave that to the domain of copyright. I'm of mixed opinion on the same for business processes... Probably a mistake too.

Long software copyright terms are probably just as bad for us as they are for media, but I can't say for sure as the body of open code continues to grow nicely despite these things. Perhaps those longer terms encourage open code so that people can leverage the much higher use value and be productive. Long copyright terms probably help open code grow. So maybe that's a wash.

Heater, damn good points...

I would argue that, unless one makes a contrived effort to copy, the statement "while(1)" is like using a word that is appropriate within a larger original body of words is in a story, inspired by another. In other words, a legal test for intent needs to be part of the infringement. It should never be proven on the basis of having seen GPL code alone, or we risk law exceeding it's practical scope, bogged down in minutiae. I forget the legal term for that, but there is one that contains the latin "minimus", and it translates to "too minor to be a consideration". That's where "while(1)" would reside, ideally.

If there is a case for spending some fraction of our time on political advocacy, it would be on these matters. More aggressive law favors the closed over the open, and the closed really needs the most aggressive law it can, as it competes at a disadvantage in terms of use value. Open code suffers no penalty for users simply using it with no contributions in return, where closed code clearly does. This will drive more and more aggressive law to the point of doing harm.

I submit the current worry over looking at a GPL project as being de facto evidence of said harm already upon us.

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potatohead
12-18-2009, 12:44 AM
BTW: We've addressed the steam engine problem in more recent times with compulsory RAND licensing. A good thing all around for key enabling technologies, IMHO. The patent protection insures the innovator is rewarded for their work, but innovation is not unduly hobbled. That will be the way things go for computer code, unless patent reform is successful here in the US, or development will simply move to where patents do not exist.

I have mentioned patents as a growing potential problem, and perhaps that's where "stuck on patents" comes from. I mention them for comparison and contrast to copyright type protection, largely to illustrate the problem is larger than it seems, and growing potentially, at least here in the US, where patents are allowed for software.

On the Disney example. To circle back around to computer code, it's obvious the innovators we see today are trying to do exactly what Disney did. Get established in a niche where innovation is open, then once established, turn and protect that from future competetors, not giving back to that which empowered them to grow big in the first place. That's repugnant on all counts from where I stand.

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Post Edited (potatohead) : 12/17/2009 4:50:43 PM GMT

hippy
12-18-2009, 02:43 AM
The root problem is primarily that there is no universal law which defines in absolute terms what will be protected and what is infringing, what is derivative and what is not, except at the higher levels which don't help with specifics which is what all cases will rest upon. There is case law but it's not entirely consistent and decision can and have gone different ways in different cases and in different countries. It's therefore very hard to say what will and will not amount to an infringement. That's why commercial are so scared pantless of GPL lest they are found guilty of infringement which others may see as non infringing. They just cannot afford to take that chance. No amount of theorising will be provable one way or the other unless tested in court. Simply saying this how it will be, how it should be, is no guarantee that it is. In a litigious society that can be a very dangerous chance to take.

Secondly there is no entirely socially accepted rationale as to what copyright intent should be. Closed and GPL are extreme polar opposites; closed seeks to protect from disclosure, GPL seeks to protect from non-disclosure. Both assert protection should exist but disagree on who that should favour, and both seek to exclude the other. Some authors favour one over the other, some see both as equally bad in their own way, some don't care who benefits or how, only that there is benefit. Proponents of both GPL and closed will disagree on that as it is against both of their stances. It's a three way triangle with no agreement.

This has perhaps turned largely into a debate on the merits of GPL versus closed licensing to the exclusion of unrestricted licensing, a 'my restrictive license is better than your restrictive license' argument. It is however really a three corner fight with each corner having legitimate arguments in its favour and against, but don't forget that third corner.

heater
12-18-2009, 03:23 AM
I was quite happy to exercise a bit laissez faire with those who adopt that the stance that if they are working as developers in "closed source" shops they should go along with what the company says and not read any GPLed source code. After all what do a care what they get up to?

But I have realized a very serious problem with this:

It basically means that all those those developers in all those shops who follow along with that policy can ONLY ever develop code to run on closed operating systems, basically Windows nowadays, or on systems with "closed friendly" licensing.

The reason for that should be clear: If you use open source software, say use Linux as your dev system, even if you intend to use binary only packages you will find yourself wanting to fix bugs in or improve said systems. You will end up with the source code in your shop. Just ask BradC about his experience while creating BST for Windows, Mac and Linux.

The result of this "thou shalt not read" rule then is to help continue the ongoing monopoly situation of a certain OS provider. It helps to ensure that software, even closed commercial programs, are not available to me. It helps to ensure the world wide dependence on a single supplier for it's computing infrastructure.

As such it has moved on from the distasteful, stupid idea that I don't really care about to something that directly effects my well being.

May the source be with you :)

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potatohead
12-18-2009, 03:28 AM
You are quite right about there being no absolutes. Really, there are only legal tests, because intent isn't something we can just define. It requires consideration and judgement. That's just as good as it ever gets. So there is just going to be risk, and a decision as to whether or not it's worth carrying. I've no problem with all of that, and how people manage that risk, up to and including not looking at code for fear of that risk.

I personally would be more scared of the growing body of software patents than I would being called an infringer for looking at a GPL project.

On the matter of copyright protection, the number one problem with that lack of definition is poor discussion, ie the term theft used instead of infringement, and the number two is that being leveraged by media companies to favor their point of view, which is endless protection for all practical purposes. It's not a very good debate right now, and the product of that is a lousy operating environment.

As for there never being any agreement licensing wise, 100 percent correct! There never, ever will be as the closed -vs- open matter is a fundamental one. It's about more than disclosure on the GPL side though. Being able to see the code is a core enabling thing. What we get for it is all about use rights, and those are about freedom and trust. It's also about that use value equation, where people get more use value out than they generally put in.

I would take issue with GPL code seeking to exclude closed code. That's not the case at all, as I've shown multiple scenarios where GPL code is actually made practical in tandem with closed code licenses. I know that many who advocate for GPL don't like the implications of multiple licenses. What is going on is to insure that open code exists and that nobody can work to diminish the use value established by all the contributors. This goal for always growing use value is no different from the closed people always growing profit. Each is a worthy goal. It is completely possible to grow both, and I hope I made that point clear.

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potatohead
12-18-2009, 03:40 AM
Heater, agreed completely.

The "don't look crowd" is not looking for their own issues, not that GPL is toxic in any way. It's not, and I think I met that burden. If you've no intent to infringe, there should be no fear of infringing. It's not like there are a ton of companies, or individuals out there just trolling for some minor technical infringement, looking to rip whole projects open. That's laughable, and it does not occur.

It's also worth nothing that the rights holder can issue a license to continue closed work, just as I did for the company that flat out did infringe. They had a clown working for them, so it was easy to get sorted.

Finally, does anyone consider the infringing code could simply be removed? This happens in a lot of cases that have seen GPL challenges. Send out a patch, and life is good. The either or black and white scenario is a FUD one.

If there is fear, consider the patent trolls, patenting obvious things where there is art, then hammering on companies anyway. I would fear that way more than accidentally infringing to force a project open.

Those things said, FUD is a powerful thing, and that company is the king of it. The only check on that is ongoing, regular, and steady improvement of the state of discourse surrounding these things, which was my point early on, and remains my point now.

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heater
12-18-2009, 03:51 AM
I've often heard this thing about negotiating for a closed licence with the authors of an otherwise GPLed program. I'm sure this is possible many times. But also many time the author will not do that on idealogical grounds (the enlightened self interest I talked about earlier) or it is just not possible because there may be tens or hundred of contributors to that code who would all have to agree.

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evanh
12-18-2009, 06:26 AM
heater said...
I've often heard this thing about negotiating for a closed licence with the authors of an otherwise GPLed program. I'm sure this is possible many times. But also many time the author will not do that on idealogical grounds (the enlightened self interest I talked about earlier) or it is just not possible because there may be tens or hundred of contributors to that code who would all have to agree.

That's the nature of commerce - you find way. Run with the license offered, negotiate a new one, or start over with your own code, after all, the ideas and methods aren't patented so you are still free to compete.

evanh
12-18-2009, 06:33 AM
hippy said...

evanh said...
You guys are stuck on patents still. Which has nothing to do with any licenses at all.

Not sure who "you guys" is, but I'm talking about copyrighted works, licensing such work, and infringements of such licensing.

Your main concern appears to be fear of ideas "polluting" from GPL'd code rather than actual copyright violations. So, yes, you were the one I was mainly aiming that comment at. Heater was just responding to you.

potatohead
12-18-2009, 07:48 AM
evanh: Agreed, and well stated, IMHO.

Heater: Yes, it can get complicated, and that is their choice. One of the things I've observed in all things business is the entity making more of the right decisions competes better. Perhaps over time looking hard at ideological decisions might happen more to compete better.

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hippy
12-18-2009, 10:49 AM
evanh said...
Your main concern appears to be fear of ideas "polluting" from GPL'd code rather than actual copyright violations.

There's a complexity to making an idea and the implementation of it divisible ( probably not the correct legal phrase there ), but I was meaning copyright infringements. Maybe the difference of view or interpretation stems from our individual perceptions of relevant law, cases and enforcement in our own territory; I'm more familiar with European and UK interpretations ( though not up to date ).

There are serious concerns expressed by legal experts that GPLv2 because of its dependence on use of US copyright terminology. The same license may be interpreted differently in one jurisdiction and in another. In particular America and other jurisdictions are not in exact agreement on a definition of "derivative work". From a European perspective ( "Say what you mean, and mean what you say" ) the need to comply with licensed use of a GPL program "or any part" is explicitly clear in what it says and requires.

www.theregister.co.uk/2009/10/15/black_duck_gpl_web_conference_copenhaver_radcliffe/ (http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/10/15/black_duck_gpl_web_conference_copenhaver_radcliffe/)

Hence what some may see as, "that will be okay, go ahead and do it, as long as it isn't cut and paste, that won't create a derivative work or infringement" may not hold true outside of America.

potatohead
12-18-2009, 12:32 PM
Interesting observation Hippy. Also interesting is the very significant amount of OSS development outside the US, because we have software patents, and some other rather draconian law to contend with.

I agree with their assessment of GPL V2, BTW. This was a significant discussion in Linux land as V3 contains the onerous patent revocation clause, as in, if you patent something that impacts a GPL work, you no longer have license to that work. (or something like that, and I'm not where I want to read through the thing again to parse it out better) IMHO, that's a purely political tit-for-tat clause that doesn't need to be the way it is, where the V2 is just older and less relevant, but not showing deliberate intent to hose things up.

Ideologically, that one element makes a ton of sense, but it's brutal otherwise. I'm a "lets get along kind of guy", who would rather cut deals and empower people, and it's an obstacle.

Still, I buy the idea, and I buy the politics. Open is necessary, and until we realize something better, it's the primary growth of open code.

Thanks for the Register article, I had missed that one, usually going there for BOFH stories.

I wonder what the EU law legal tests are? Those are where the rubber hits the road. I know the US ones pretty well. That's gonna be on my, when I can't do much else, reading list for sure.





Copenhaven says we should focus not on whether something is derivative, but on what is considered a separate and independent work.





(code tag used to underscore code = law concept http://www.lessig.org)

Agreed on that too. Where possible to establish this, it's far more solid. Again, the "don't look" position is understandable. I don't like it, and personally don't have to contend with it, but completely understand those that do.

So then, another thing can be concluded. In terms of code collaboration, learning, re-use, etc... MIT is a much "safer" license. However, that safety comes at the cost of control. Once something is MIT, or something similar, it's out there, can be innovated on and closed again. That's a risk too. Just a different one.

If that's the only points I make; namely, the control issue, and open being a necessary thing, then I'm happy over all.

Great thread too, BTW. I have enjoyed hearing the different perspectives and have had a lot to think about on some rather long, ugly projects I'm stuck with. Happy distraction here.

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Post Edited (potatohead) : 12/18/2009 4:44:01 AM GMT

evanh
12-18-2009, 05:51 PM
Now we just need Hippy to agree that GPL is good a license that he would like to use under the right circumstances. :D

RossH
12-18-2009, 07:10 PM
@evanh,

We're off to a good start - what Hippy hasn't yet realized is that even just reading about GPL licenses is enough to get the virus into your blood. http://forums.parallax.com/images/smilies/devil.gif

Ross.

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hippy
12-19-2009, 12:15 AM
I think all the licenses have legitimacy in that what they seek to achieve have validity of
goal - whether one agrees with particular goals is a personal matter ( 'the politics' ).

I cannot see anyway to satisfy GPL and closed users simultaneously so feel it is better to
not dissatisfy either in the possibility of usage.


potatohead said...
So then, another thing can be concluded. In terms of code collaboration, learning,
re-use, etc... MIT is a much "safer" license. However, that safety comes at the cost of
control. Once something is MIT, or something similar, it's out there, can be innovated
on and closed again. That's a risk too. Just a different one.


Absolutely agree. It's a risk I am prepared to take in my favouring MIT.

My belief is that it is a maximally open license in that anyone can do anything with the
code and good luck to them furthering things in whatever way they wish. It's in their
hands to decide how to do so and I won't dictate any conditions to affect their choice.
What I gain in loss of control is in furthering future gains. The biggest risk I see is
that having produced something it achieves nothing, and if that's because of licensing
I've brought that on myself, done a disservice to everyone.

That's a something is better than nothing attitude. Plus, if someone creates a derivative
work then close sources that, anyone else can go back to the original and work from
there. That original cannot be closed and it's the original work which is what I produce
with intent to be useful. How it becomes useful is less important than that it is.

Putting knowledge out there is the service, dictating how it's used is the politics. While
my personal politics is largely in alignment with GPL, anti-corporation, anti-capitalist,
I cannot hand on heart say everything I disagree with is entirely wrong, the current
implementation may be, the principles not so easy to say so in a world which is based
on needing income. In a different world we probably wouldn't even have the issue.

I therefore release 'knowledge' to be as best useful as it can be, not conditional on
trying to influence the world of the future ( 'politics' ). Thus I prefer MIT as against
GPL and other restrictive licensing ( and yes, that's 'politics' in its own way ).

ericball
12-19-2009, 03:25 AM
potatohead said...
Once something is MIT, or something similar, it's out there, can be innovated on and closed again. That's a risk too. Just a different one.
Just to expand on hippy's comment, I don't regard this as a risk, per-se.· If you don't want to allow closed source distributions or derivations then you need to use a different license.· The Object Exchange is based on the MIT license precisely to allow closed source commercial code to be developed using the contents of the Object Exchange.· My NTSC240H sprite driver has a non-MIT non-GPL license precisely because I wanted attribution if someone were to use my code in a commercial closed-source product, but I didn't want to prevent it from being used in that way.· However, that means I cannot place it in the ObEx unless I relicense it.



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Composite NTSC sprite driver: Forum (http://forums.parallax.com/showthread.php?p=800114)
NTSC & PAL driver templates: ObEx (http://obex.parallax.com/objects/483/) Forum (http://forums.parallax.com/showthread.php?p=803904)
OnePinTVText driver: ObEx (http://obex.parallax.com/objects/480/) Forum (http://forums.parallax.com/showthread.php?p=822453)

potatohead
12-19-2009, 04:12 AM
IMHO, this is a simple matter of perspective. I actually think we agree more than not on core things.

Really, that comment was from the perspective of our other thread. Should Parallax open some code? In that scenario, the MIT carries risk as noted above. GPL also carries risk, but of a different kind. Given that scenario, I would prefer the GPL, leaving multiple licensing on the table for revenue and control reasons. I think that kind of sparked this thread, and so here we are.

...in a world needing income. True that Hippy.

Eric, I agree with that licensing decision, regarding that project. I'm eager to make another go around with that technique. And thanks for posting it. I've learned a ton from it.




The biggest risk I see is
that having produced something it achieves nothing, and if that's because of licensing
I've brought that on myself, done a disservice to everyone



Case in point, my first 8x8 drivers, reinterpreted by you to get something useful; namely, AiGeneric. Learned why MIT matters in this space on that one, and some of the products of that thinking have appeared on this thread. Thanks for that, BTW.

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Post Edited (potatohead) : 12/18/2009 8:18:21 PM GMT

SRLM
12-21-2009, 03:27 PM
A related note... (actually not really at all but I'm posting anyway...)

xkcd.com/225/ (http://xkcd.com/225/)

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potatohead
12-21-2009, 11:42 PM
Excellent!

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