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Open Source Licensing Debate Has Positive Effect On GitHub

Soulskill posted 1 year,20 days | from the clearly-we-need-another-new-license dept.

Open Source 96

New submitter Lemeowski writes "Critics have been pounding GitHub recently, claiming it is hosting tons of code with no explicit software license. The debate was thrust into the limelight last year when James Governor of RedMonk issued an acclaimed tweet about young developers being 'about POSS — post open source software,' meaning they disliked or avoided licensing and governance. Red Hat's IP attorney Richard Fontana explores the complaint saying there is a positive aspect of the POSS and GitHub phenomenon: Developers are, for the first time in the history of free software, helping inform each other about licensing and aiding in the selection process. The result is that it's becoming easier to suggest legal improvements to GitHub-hosted repositories."

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Shit on your local sheboon! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#44557429)

I fuck sheboons and shit on their chests.

Oh and fuck Obummer!!

Re:Shit on your local sheboon! (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,19 days | (#44559221)

WARNING: The NSA has reviewed your comment and has determined [redacted]. Drone strike approved.

It's a natural progression (4, Insightful)

Marble68 (746305) | 1 year,20 days | (#44557487)

Coding is a communal and collaborative effort for the most part, as almost all people reach out for help and give it when asked.

That "legal licensing" would be treated any different than any other API by the tech community shouldn't be surprising, IMHO.

Re:It's a natural progression (1)

interval1066 (668936) | 1 year,19 days | (#44558419)

Coding is a communal and collaborative effort...

Of course! Becuase laughing at a clueless newb is worth hours of derisive laughter.

Public Domain should be the default (2)

mveloso (325617) | 1 year,20 days | (#44557513)

This should be the default github license:

http://cr.yp.to/publicdomain.html [cr.yp.to]

If you don't care enough to specify a license, you should abandon your copyrights to it.

Re:Public Domain should be the default (2)

Desler (1608317) | 1 year,20 days | (#44557587)

It can't be since "public domain" doesn't even exist in many countries.

Re:Public Domain should be the default (1)

El_Muerte_TDS (592157) | 1 year,20 days | (#44558105)

Maybe not completely correct, but parent is right. A side effect of the Berne convention is that the public domain option is not possible until copyright has expired.
"Do What the Fuck You Want to Public License" comes close to public domain, but it's not completely the same.

Re:Public Domain should be the default (2)

rtfa-troll (1340807) | 1 year,20 days | (#44558113)

Git Hub is based in the USA where public domain dedications are well established (see the link in the post you are replying to) so it is very likely that source distributed by Git Hub can be in the public domian. If you are really paranoid you can use the CC0 to dedicate to the public domain or achieve as near as possible an effect [creativecommons.org] .

Re:Public Domain should be the default (1)

Desler (1608317) | 1 year,19 days | (#44559211)

Doesn't really matter since Github can not make a non-US citizen enter into a contract that violates their local laws.

Re:Public Domain should be the default (1)

Mastacheata87 (1759916) | 1 year,19 days | (#44559249)

Git Hub is based in the USA where public domain dedications are well established (see the link in the post you are replying to) so it is very likely that source distributed by Git Hub can be in the public domian. If you are really paranoid you can use the CC0 to dedicate to the public domain or achieve as near as possible an effect [creativecommons.org] .

It doesn't matter where you store your stuff. What matters for which copyright laws to apply is where you (the author) live/what citizenship you have.

You can't transfer ownership in germany at all. You can of course license your works under whatever terms you choose (for example CC0), but Public Domain like in the US where you basically give up any rights on your work forever is impossible here.
That doesn't change just because I publish something in the US or even because I might stay there for a while.

Re:Public Domain should be the default (1)

Wootery (1087023) | 1 year,19 days | (#44559649)

Does it affect your liability whether you choose public domain or CC0?

Re:Public Domain should be the default (1)

rtfa-troll (1340807) | 1 year,19 days | (#44561845)

Not in any sane country. In other words, probably; yes.

no problem (1)

allo (1728082) | 1 year,16 days | (#44593409)

Default License: WTFPL
effect: Just the same as public domain, but with a license.

Re:Public Domain should be the default (2)

WarJolt (990309) | 1 year,20 days | (#44557595)

That takes effort. It's easier to slap bsd on it. Plus you'll get credit in the documentation if its used in proprietary apps..

Re:Public Domain should be the default (3, Informative)

Desler (1608317) | 1 year,20 days | (#44557625)

It's also a violation of the Bern Convention. Github cannot legally strip a work of its copyright status just because a license wasn't chosen by the developer. In the countries with public domain it has to be explicitly declared as such by the author.

Re:Public Domain should be the default (1)

Desler (1608317) | 1 year,20 days | (#44557635)

Should be "in many countries" not "in the countries".

Re:Public Domain should be the default (1)

Xtifr (1323) | 1 year,19 days | (#44558755)

Really? Name a country that's an exception. (And I'll show you a country that's not a Berne signator.) :)

Re:Public Domain should be the default (1)

Desler (1608317) | 1 year,19 days | (#44558895)

Just a CYA statement in case there was an exception someone could point out.

Re:Public Domain should be the default (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,19 days | (#44559047)

Soo...you corrected someone that didn't need to be corrected with an exception that doesn't exist because...? Oh...because you want to feel smarter than someone else without that pesky research. You're well on your way to a career in politics...

Re:Public Domain should be the default (1)

Desler (1608317) | 1 year,19 days | (#44559113)

Yes, that "someone" being myself, idiot.

Re:Public Domain should be the default (1)

Xtifr (1323) | 1 year,19 days | (#44559839)

So, did it work? Do you feel smarter than yourself? ;)

Re:Public Domain should be the default (1)

Desler (1608317) | 1 year,19 days | (#44560093)

I do!

Re:Public Domain should be the default (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,19 days | (#44566339)

Really? Name a country that's an exception. (And I'll show you a country that's not a Berne signator.) :)

Seriously man, do some research, "public domain" differs slightly in legal status in various places that are signators. That's why it's so damned problematic. Different case law == different rights. While it's true that various FOSS licenses probably have issues in this regard, case law about public domain is sparse and really not very cohesive. Contract law is way, way better in this regard.

Re:Public Domain should be the default (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#44557733)

> Github cannot legally strip a work of its copyright status just because a license wasn't chosen by the developer. In the countries with public domain it has to be explicitly declared as such by the author.

You hereby explicitly declare .... public domain ... unless you specify an alternative license.

Click: I AGREE.

Re:Public Domain should be the default (1)

Desler (1608317) | 1 year,19 days | (#44558863)

Wouldn't be legal.

Re:Public Domain should be the default (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,19 days | (#44560301)

There are many ways to make it legal.

Let's start with the well established ways:

Releasing a hand written statement explicitly releasing the software to the public domain.

Now, there's no reason an electronic copy of the statement will not work, so this should work:

Releasing a typed a electronic version of the statement explicitly releasing the software to the public domain

Of course, there's no reason you can't just have a program generate a boilerplate for you (or if you just copy and paste), so this works too.

Releasing a copied/generated electronic statement explicitly releasing the software to the public domain

And thus there's nothing wrong with having a program do this for you automatically, given that the intention is still clear that you're doing what you intended:

Having a program release a generated electronic statement explicitly releasing the software to the public domain

And that's a small step from having a website do that for you, whether under the theory that the website is just a program that executes your intention, or you're asking an agent (the owner of the website) to do it for you.

Unless the law specifically states that doing something through an agent is not allowed, it's generally acceptable to do so.

The (common) law does not generally require much formalities. It's the intention that is paramount. Unless you can find legislation that says otherwise, I'd wager there are ways to word the agreement that the code will become public domain.

Re:Public Domain should be the default (2)

Desler (1608317) | 1 year,19 days | (#44560423)

A click through ToS would never be upheld. That's before you get to the fact that the person agreeing to the ToS might not even hold copyright to the code and would have no legal right to even make the agreement. There's no way it would hold up in court.

MediaWiki public domain help pages (1)

tepples (727027) | 1 year,19 days | (#44563733)

A click through ToS would never be upheld.

Anyone want to inform Wikimedia of this? It expects editors to abandon copyright in changes that they submit to end-user help pages for MediaWiki [mediawiki.org] .

Re:Public Domain should be the default (1)

allo (1728082) | 1 year,16 days | (#44593429)

github can put it in its ToS: if you do not specify a license, your code will be published as public domain. You therefore give github the right to grant anybody any rights on your code. You can avoid this, by explicitly adding a license to your code.

Re:Public Domain should be the default (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#44557661)

The only way to get something to the public domain is to wait until copyright expires.

The copyright laws USED to have an expiry short enough that there was no need for an explicit public domain donation of code, because by the time it was well known enough and then progressed to "Can we have unfettered access to this?", the code was now out of copyright.

When they extended the copyright terms, the need for a path to put things to the public domain explicity became necessary.

However, this was not what those who pushed for greater strength of copyright gave even half a fuck about, so it was ignored.

Every time it was extended, they gave even less of a shit about the public domain, and the need for a path to set your stuff to it became more and more necessary.

There still is no way to explitictly and irrevocably put your stuff into copyright. In the USA, there's not even "wait until copyright expires", since they have already dragged things back into copyright after it expired once. Nothing would make them more money than doing so again.

Re:Public Domain should be the default (1)

phantomfive (622387) | 1 year,19 days | (#44558553)

Nothing would make them more money than doing so again.

Really?

Re:Public Domain should be the default (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#44557819)

...or we could just stop caring too, then everything is effectively public domain. Frankly, I think the apathy movement may turn out to be far more effective in the long run than open source ever was, and Copyright has become such an out-of-touch mess that it really doesn't deserve all the care and attention we have been giving it by being so deliberate about our licesnes.

It really shouldn't be (4, Insightful)

Artraze (600366) | 1 year,20 days | (#44558149)

Your link indicates that (among other things):
1) Copyright abandonment is really only recognized in the Ninth Circuit, and remains unknown elsewhere
2) Releasing into the public domain provides no liability protection to the author
3) Copyright abandonment requires a formal, explicit statement

If you have to provide something that is nearly indistinguishable from a license, why not just provide a well established license that can not only remove all uncertainty and provide explicit terms disavowing all use of the software?

Something like the MIT License or Simplified BSD License is well established, takes only a minute to read, and achieves all the major goals of releasing into the public domain while avoiding many of the pitfalls. This whole POSS thing is ridiculous and seems to be driven by some combination of intellectual laziness, deliberate ignorance, and a desire to 'stick it to the man'. And as usual with rebellious ignorance, a whole lot of unnecessary crap occurs while 'the man' remains un-stuck-to and nothing changes.

Re:It really shouldn't be (1)

OdinOdin_ (266277) | 1 year,18 days | (#44577233)

> 3) Copyright abandonment requires a formal, explicit statement

Because it is necessary for someone to have asserted their "Copyright" in the first place, to then provide a license to abandon those Copyrights.

If no one asserts Copyright what stops an evil entity from claiming they hold Copyright (when they do not) and then announce they did not grant public domain status to this work. It needs the real Copyright holder to assert their claim on the work first.

Re:Public Domain should be the default (1)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | 1 year,19 days | (#44559023)

I think BSD should be the default. It's close to public domain and has some boiler plate liability disclaimers.

Re:Public Domain should be the default (2)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | 1 year,19 days | (#44559623)

GPLv3 has considerably better patent protections. The Apache 2.0 license eliminates all your copyright permissions to use Apache 2.0 licensed software if you file a patent lawsuit against anyone for any of your Apache 2.0 licensed software, even if the lawsuit of the target is not participating in or is in clear violation of the Apache 2.0 license. The GPL license, especially GPLv3, makes the patent protections much more clear. It allws lawsuits against parties who are in violation of the relevant GPL.

Someone can ban your use of BSD (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,19 days | (#44563299)

Someone can see your BSD code, patent the process and then ban you from using that code you wrote (and anyone else using the code too).

This is why the GPL is better if you want protection when giving away your code.

The BSD could try something similar, but they have no grounds in their philosophy to do so.

Prior art (1)

tepples (727027) | 1 year,19 days | (#44563779)

Someone can see your BSD code, patent the process

Stop. How would the BSD code not be enough prior art to anticipate (and thus invalidate) such a patent?

Re:Public Domain should be the default (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,19 days | (#44559461)

Given that Bernstein's every major public project was hindered and made useless by his original screwed up "you have to publish only source if you want to patch it and force people to compile locally if you change a single line" for djbdns, qmail, and daemontools, and precisely *none* of those tools are used today except by admins who say "oohhh!!! shiny!!!", I wouldn't recommend Dan's hissy fit switch to public domain as the licensing model to follow.

Of course, Dan Bernstein's claim to technological fame is wonderfully powerful tools that don't integrate well with *anything*. So if you want to have basic architectural ideas taken, screwed up, and implemented badly and with too many bells and whistles, go ahead. That's how we wound up with systemd instead of daemontools (in the new Fedora releases), and some of the horrible authenticed DNS whackiness injected into BIND.

Re:Public Domain should be the default (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,18 days | (#44577407)

I would say unlicense [unlicense.org] is a better minimal copyright notice, with much the same effect, but some effort to fit in with copyright law.

Was just thinking about this (1)

Niris (1443675) | 1 year,20 days | (#44557517)

Just the other day I was adding files to GITHub for my portfolio since I'll be graduating soon, and I was thinking about this exact issue. I ended up putting an Apache license header to my source files, but wasn't sure if this was _really_ the one I should have used. I just wanted to put my stuff up for when I start job hunting, and honestly don't care if others use my work so long as I have a name on my stuff (not that anything I've posted has been earth shattering or special, just random demos to show that I'm not _completely_ in the dark from school :) )

Re:Was just thinking about this (3, Informative)

amorsen (7485) | 1 year,20 days | (#44557833)

2 clause BSD. If you don't care about licensing, that is the license you should use. It is proven in the field and most other open source/free software licenses are compatible with it. It is pretty much as close to public domain you can get while still keeping your name on the source code and avoiding problems with implied warranties.

Re:Was just thinking about this (1)

Niris (1443675) | 1 year,20 days | (#44558215)

Thanks, I'll check into this when I get home tonight and update my repo.

Re:Was just thinking about this (2)

Immerman (2627577) | 1 year,19 days | (#44558343)

Be careful - IIRC the "BSD with attribution" is incompatible with the GPL, which still seems to be the most effective general purpose "getting stuff done" license (all due respect to the contributors of Apache products and the like). If that matters to you of course - no shame in demanding that your name stay attached to your creations.

Re:Was just thinking about this (1)

amorsen (7485) | 1 year,19 days | (#44559201)

That is why you stick with 2-clause BSD [opensource.org] and avoid the fancy ones which talk about advertising or endorsements. It is difficult to find a standard license with wider compatibility than that.

Re:Was just thinking about this (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,19 days | (#44566651)

Just the other day I was adding files to GITHub for my portfolio since I'll be graduating soon, and I was thinking about this exact issue. I ended up putting an Apache license header to my source files, but wasn't sure if this was _really_ the one I should have used. I just wanted to put my stuff up for when I start job hunting, and honestly don't care if others use my work so long as I have a name on my stuff (not that anything I've posted has been earth shattering or special, just random demos to show that I'm not _completely_ in the dark from school :) )

Ignore everyone below you, they should have linked this instead: http://choosealicense.com/

There ya go, put up by GitHub to help you find the right license based on your priorities. Probably slightly biased in favor of Apache 2.0.

Acclaimed tweet? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#44557525)

For the first time in the history of free software?

urgh

Re:Acclaimed tweet? (1)

mooingyak (720677) | 1 year,20 days | (#44557717)

For the first time in the history of free software?

urgh

Exactly. So no developer has ever had a conversation with another developer about what license to use until now? Really?

First time in history? (1)

MarkusQ (450076) | 1 year,19 days | (#44558869)

Yeah. It's a shame RMS never thought of discussing licenses with other developers. I'll bet he would be a lot more widely known if he hadn't been so reticent.

-- MarkusQ

"for the first time in history" (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#44557573)

So, what're all those open source licences then?

Can't avoid it (2)

Todd Knarr (15451) | 1 year,20 days | (#44557631)

The issue with licensing is that you can't avoid it when dealing with copyrighted works. If you don't deal with licensing explicitly, then there is no license and the code can't safely even be looked at. The rule when it comes to defending against a charge of copyright infringement is that if you've had access to it and similarity exists it's on you to prove you didn't copy it. That's why agents and publishers have their secretaries/assistants return unsolicited manuscripts unopened, so that if they publish something similar to that story later they can show that they didn't ever have access to it and couldn't've copied it. For a hobbyist it's not much of an issue but as a professional I need to be certain what the rules are for anything that could possibly make it's way into my work, so I can make sure that either I'm following the right rules or that it doesn't make it's way into my work. If you don't tell me what your rules are, I have to assume they're the ones laid down by copyright law (ie. no rights beyond fair use) which means I need to avoid it like the plague.

Re:Can't avoid it (1)

TechyImmigrant (175943) | 1 year,20 days | (#44557999)

>but as a professional I need to be certain

You could call the author and ask permission or do a deal.
That is exactly what several companies did when they wanted to use my code.

Re:Can't avoid it (1)

Todd Knarr (15451) | 1 year,19 days | (#44558397)

Yep, but I noted that bit about publishers for a reason. It's happened before. An author sent in a manuscript to a publisher and the publisher looked it over, decided it wasn't something they wanted to publish and turned it down. A few years later another author submitted a similar story, done better, and the publisher bought it and published it. The first author then sued the publisher for having stolen his story. Well, there's the very similar story in that copy of the book right there, can't argue that it doesn't exist. The publisher read the original story, can't argue that the publisher didn't know it. So now, if you're the publisher, how do you show that you didn't tell the second author the story and have him improve on it, depriving the first author of the money he'd've gotten if you'd've published his story?

It's the same with code. If I want to use the code, all's well and good and I can do as you say. But suppose I don't want to use the code? I wouldn't get permission or do a deal, obviously. But if down the road I happen to write similar code and you find out, how do I show that I didn't copy your code after I'd looked at it? The only sure way is to not have looked at it.

The risk is still there with licensed code, but knowing the license terms I know what risks I'm taking and where. For instance, if I know the code I looked at's under the GPL I know I don't have to worry about internal use, I only have a potential risk in code that's being distributed. That narrows down what I have to check to be safe. There's also a correlation between the license terms and the likelihood that the author will get up in arms over mere similarity. Authors of GPL-licensed code for instance aren't very likely to sue over just similarity in API declarations or simple boilerplate code, it's going to take substantial similarity in significant implementation code to get them up in arms (which is the kind of thing I'd agree they should get up in arms about). The more I know about this kind of stuff, the better handle I have on how much risk I'm taking.

Re:Can't avoid it (1)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | 1 year,19 days | (#44559523)

It's not merely "a story" that this happens to. I've seen instances of copyrighted code, shown to developers and admins who rejected it or whose managers refused to approve a license, and who later were caught copying the code into their own projects. It also remains a serious problem for outsourcing projects, where inexpensive developers are hired to replicate an existing project but cheaper and usually without the subtler capabilities or safety checks of the original project.

Re:Can't avoid it (1)

Xtifr (1323) | 1 year,19 days | (#44558711)

You could call the author and ask permission or do a deal.

Which may be expensive or difficult or even impossible in some cases. Ever tried to track down a random author to submit a patch? For anything but large/highly visible and/or very recent projects, it can be an utter crapshoot. Frankly, I would have to be really desperate to use that exact code to even consider attempting this. If there were any reasonable alternative, I would almost certainly use that instead.

Next, assuming there's money involved, you almost want to make sure you've got a formal contract, which is a hassle for everyone involved, but if you're a private individual or a large company, the risks of not getting your licensing terms on paper are simply too great. A verbal agreement isn't worth the paper it's printed on! And if you happen to live in a different country than the author, you've got to make sure that the contract is valid under the laws of both countries. If you work for a big company, you've almost certainly got to get the company lawyers involved.... Again, any vaguely workable alternative code would be preferable.

If the third party is an individual, this is a possible, but potentially hassle-filled path. For a large company, this is going to be a huge amount of work, as big companies (especially those that do business in America) know that people love to sue them, and will insist on minimizing that risk. Smallish companies are more likely to gamble, and I'll bet that all those several companies you mentioned were small or smallish. Everyone else is likely to avoid your code like the plague. If that's what you want, great, but some people put their code out in public because they want people to use it. In which case, attaching a license is the only reasonable choice.

Of course, if you're so desperate for human contact that you'll do anything just to hear a human voice, but too horribly shy to ever call out, I suppose that making it so that people need to call you to use your software is one way to try to bring some human contact into your sad, pathetic life. But aside from that, I can't think of any reason why deliberately omitting a license from your code could possibly be a good thing. :)

Re:Can't avoid it (1)

TechyImmigrant (175943) | 1 year,19 days | (#44559253)

Actually, my email was in the code. It was crypto code. Nothing special, but I go for simple interfaces which is what made the code useful.

I got an email. I emailed back, a lawyer called asking politely if they could use the code, I said yes, I emailed them saying they could.
This happened that way 3 times and some other times there wasn't a lawyer, just a couple of emails.

In the end someone wanted to put it in a linux driver, so I GPLed it.

Not making a big deal of things that are not a big deal is a good way to proceed. If I cared deeply about the code, I would have licensed it accordingly.

Re:Can't avoid it (2)

Xtifr (1323) | 1 year,19 days | (#44559763)

Actually, my email was in the code.

One of the most common sources of the not-able-to-contact-the-author problem. I can't tell you how many times I've had emails to the address-of-record bounce, when trying to send in a patch to some little utility that I happen to like.

a lawyer called asking politely if they could use the code

Just as I expected. Some poor developer who wants to use your code is either A) going to have to get lawyers involved somehow, or B) take foolish risks. For many developers, option A is going to be seriously unappealing. Lawyers cost money. Even if your company has lawyers on retainer, getting them involved may affect your department budget. As for choice B, well, my choice of adjectives should make clear my opinion of that option. :)

Not making a big deal of things that are not a big deal is a good way to proceed.

I'm not quite sure how slapping a BSD/MIT or GPL statement on your code is a "big deal". Heck, I split up the licenses for a recent project, with an internal library using BSD, and the main app under the GPL, which was a lot more work than putting the whole thing under a single license. I may have spent a whole five minutes on it. Oh, what a big deal that was! :)

Maybe I just have a tidy mind*, but I prefer to simply license my crap** up front, rather than try to wait for the lawyers to contact me. I'm not generally fond of lawyers or dealing with the law, and taking the few seconds it normally requires to attach a license to my code helps me avoid that. But whatever floats your boat, I guess.

* Although some evidence would strongly suggest otherwise.
** The word crap may be a reasonable assessment of most of what I've actually released to the public, but that's another matter. :)

Re:Can't avoid it (1)

TechyImmigrant (175943) | 1 year,19 days | (#44565815)

>I'm not quite sure how slapping a BSD/MIT or GPL statement on your code is a "big deal".
I think I stated the opposite. It wasn't a big deal.

GitHub? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#44557729)

More like ShitHub

First time? (5, Informative)

Bogtha (906264) | 1 year,20 days | (#44557835)

Developers are, for the first time in the history of free software, helping inform each other about licensing and aiding in the selection process

Huh? In the 17-odd years I've been using Free Software, I've never known there not to be an ongoing public discussion amongst developers about licensing.

Re:First time? (2)

HeckRuler (1369601) | 1 year,20 days | (#44557981)

Yeah, I can't believe anyone even tangentially involved in software even thought of making that statement. That it's an IP lawyer... from REDHAT... that's just plain embarrassing.

Re:First time? (1)

sydneyfong (410107) | 1 year,19 days | (#44560205)

We can therefore conclude that Redhat bans their employees from reading Slashdot.

Re:First time? (1)

Xtifr (1323) | 1 year,19 days | (#44558331)

Indeed, that's the only reason that people started using free software licenses. Who but developers would have been informing people about them? It's pretty much developers all the way down.

Re:First time? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,19 days | (#44558625)

Especially considering their new site choosealicense.com is basically TLDRlegal [tldrlegal.com] but with a different layout.

Re:First time? (1)

radarskiy (2874255) | 1 year,19 days | (#44561059)

No, it's pretty much been flame wars and accusations about penis size.

Re:First time? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,19 days | (#44565451)

Author of the referenced article here. I deliberately did not say "developers". I said:
"This is a very significant development: it may be that for the first time in the history of free software USERS are participating in the license selection process."
(emphasis added here via capitalization)

It has occurred to me that this may be a slight exaggeration -- I know for example of one project where the principal developer asked for commentary on a mailing list, consisting mainly of non-contributing users, regarding a license *change*. But I think it's pretty much accurate. Usually, *mere users* -- I am not talking about co-developers -- have no say on what the license of a project is. With GitHub, I am seeing a change in this regard. So that's what I meant.

If anyone knows of any prominent counterexamples, predating GitHub, where *mere users* were active participants in *initial license selection*, I'd be delighted to learn of it.

Richard Fontana - Red Hat, Inc.

POSS - Young, Hip and k3wl? (2)

sl4shd0rk (755837) | 1 year,20 days | (#44557899)

Until someone pastes all of your Github into their complier, makes some edits and uploads to an app repo to make $10k/year on a .99 app you wrote. Yeah, that kind of sucks. Especially when your boss asks where you happened to store all of that code you've been writing for project XYZ the past year.

Don't get me wrong, Open Source is awesome (FOSS , POSS, et al) and there are far too many lawsuits about copyrights/patents these days but understand that without GPL or it's ilk, you basically have no recourse should someone use your code. Also, it's feasible that someone could take your code and claim *you* stole it from them.

Is tacking on the GPL(or equivalent) to your source code really that problematic?

Re:POSS - Young, Hip and k3wl? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,19 days | (#44558577)

you basically have no recourse should someone use your code. Also, it's feasible that someone could take your code and claim *you* stole it from them.

If you want to share your code, what do you care what it's used for?

And if you have it up on GIT, the proof is in the logs that you created it. They'll have a hard time proving otherwise. Either way, this is an issue no matter which license you use.

Re:POSS - Young, Hip and k3wl? (2)

VortexCortex (1117377) | 1 year,19 days | (#44559545)

you basically have no recourse should someone use your code. Also, it's feasible that someone could take your code and claim *you* stole it from them.

If you want to share your code, what do you care what it's used for? And if you have it up on GIT, the proof is in the logs that you created it. They'll have a hard time proving otherwise. Either way, this is an issue no matter which license you use.

Indeed, even with proprietary code it's easy to swap a few resources and re-sign, re-upload the application or game. I was involved in a copyright dispute years ago where a tangential member of the dev group who wasn't contributing much of anything pitched the prototype to publishers without the group's knowledge. Eventually we were sued for using our own code because the jerk claimed we stole their ideas -- We did not, we explicitly removed every feature even suggested by the fool after they departed just in case... but it still didn't help. Not having the money to proceed in court we settled and had to agree to delete the work we had done and not "cause irreparable harm" by naming the publisher publicly. Basically a forced NDA forever. The game never even saw the light of day after that.

I nearly swore off programming, games, and collaboration altogether after that. Things have changed slightly, professional copyright infringement is still rampant; However, now publishers rarely accept projects with from-scratch engines -- they want you to license an existing one. On the development front we now go with AGPL explicitly, and for assets, CC-BY, but we don't publish publicly. This means no one can just take their ball and go home, if anyone leaves everyone can freely use the code and assets to continue the project. Publishers know not to tangle with GPL'd works, and AGPL is toxic to the proprietary vendors. The build script includes the AGPL compliance in the server code, clients can request the source data from within the application, indeed the scripting system operates this way by design for client-side prediction.

However, if we make it to completion then we have the option to dual license the code and assets for use by the business entity under BSD and CC-BY-NC, or purely proprietary licenses which allow closed source distribution. A proprietary version can exclude the sources and even send compiled bytecode instead of game scripts. At any time after release any member of the team can publish the code and assets as AGPL, so we don't have to worry about some entity purchasing the rights to the product and preventing its source from becoming open. Not that I don't trust my collaborators, I do. However, by using the Free and Open Source and Creative Commons licenses we don't have to live with the threat of destroying our project completely. Some would call it the "FLOSS poison pill" approach, or "proprietary scorched earth", but instead it's really "Mutually Assured Existence".

So, FLOSS licenses can even play well with proprietary projects if you know you want to publish source down the road at some point. I believe in opening the sources of all software, but the issue of cheating in online games is a deep one that sadly can be mitigated somewhat by closing the sources... If only one bad apple didn't spoil the bunch.

Re:POSS - Young, Hip and k3wl? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,19 days | (#44563459)

mod down. for no other reason then it's long winded baloney.

Re:POSS - Young, Hip and k3wl? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,19 days | (#44558691)

without GPL or it's ilk, you basically have no recourse should someone use your code.

Why did you put it up if you didn't want anyone to use it? If you wanted to restrict who uses that code, how they use it and what they use it for then yes something like the GPL is ideal.

Also, it's feasible that someone could take your code and claim *you* stole it from them.

That's feasible in any situation.

Re:POSS - Young, Hip and k3wl? (1)

exomondo (1725132) | 1 year,19 days | (#44558733)

Is tacking on the GPL(or equivalent) to your source code really that problematic?

A permissive license that is compatible with restrictive licenses like the GPL is probably a better choice. Unless of course your intention from the outset is to restrict usage of that code but given that most people aren't bothering with a license at all it seems restrictive licenses are probably not the ideal choice.

restrictive. you don't seem to know what it means. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,19 days | (#44563129)

Emancipation of the slaves restricted what owners of the means of production could do. I.e. use slaves.

Apparently you don't know what restriction means, or only ever apply it to whether YOU YOURSELF are restricted, hang anyone else. Well, leech, sorry, you can't take my code if you don't like the conditions. But I won't have you restricting what I can do with MY code. A stance you CANNOT disagree with because it's your very own mantra.

Re:restrictive. you don't seem to know what it mea (1)

exomondo (1725132) | 1 year,18 days | (#44569105)

Apparently you don't know what restriction means

Actually the definition is pretty clear, you even used it yourself in exactly the context I used it to illustrate your own point:
"Emancipation of the slaves restricted what owners of the means of production could do."
So if my usage of it was wrong then so is yours and your point is thus invalid.

or only ever apply it to whether YOU YOURSELF are restricted, hang anyone else.

Yes, I am restricted, because some doucher decided to mark kernel symbols such that they could only be used by other GPL code and therefore I can't use those features because nVidia only supplies closed source binaries which cannot be linked with those kernel symbols. I don't give a shit whether the software I'm using is open or closed but when the supposedly 'open' software restricts my use of 'closed' software then yes I am opposed to it, 'open' should not impose restrictions on me.

But I won't have you restricting what I can do with MY code. A stance you CANNOT disagree with because it's your very own mantra.

How could I possibly restrict what you can do with YOUR code? What license allows me to restrict what you can do with your code? Do you even understand even the most basic concepts of open source licensing? Your assertions suggest you have no idea.

Re:POSS - Young, Hip and k3wl? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,19 days | (#44559033)

you basically have no recourse should someone use your code

I thought that was the point of releasing open source software. Since when was it about spreading pinko hippie ideology with GPL?

Re:POSS - Young, Hip and k3wl? (1)

sydneyfong (410107) | 1 year,19 days | (#44560367)

Since when was it about spreading pinko hippie ideology with GPL?

(Is that a trick question?) Ever since RMS came up with the idea. He never wanted others to use his code unless they bought his ideology (i.e. releasing source with the GPL). Allegedly he intentionally crippled the design of GCC so that other people can't easily work around the license. Ideology over software, it was with us all along.

Re: POSS - Young, Hip and k3wl? (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | 1 year,19 days | (#44559441)

You've got it backwards. Anything without an explicit license is all rights reserved. That guy who took your code and sold it is guilty of copyright infringement.

Licenses explicitly license some of your rights to someone else. In the case of the GPL the app collection guy has NOT committed a crime so long as he makes the source code available to his customers.

Re:POSS - Young, Hip and k3wl? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,19 days | (#44559875)

Until someone pastes all of your Github into their complier, makes some edits and uploads to an app repo to make $10k/year on a .99 app you wrote. Yeah, that kind of sucks.

This makes no sense for two reasons:
First, that's not how copyright law works. While a bunch of hackers may happily play in the github with no licenses and no lawyers, they're actually exposing themselves to liability whenever they copy unlicensed code, because copyright law says in the absence of a license, the default is the most strict option (i.e. all rights reserved). So if you find yourself in such a situation, get a lawyer and sue them for copyright infringement -- exactly the same as you would if you had slapped a GPL on it.

Second, no, it doesn't suck. So they made $10k/year -- big deal! That doesn't make me any worse off, no matter whether they used code I wrote to do it or not. Unless I had plans to market that same app, it doesn't hurt me at all, not even in the vague hand-wavy sense of cutting into potential profits. And if I did have plans to sell it, well, I'd probably have put some sort of license on it, right?

Also, it's feasible that someone could take your code and claim *you* stole it from them

Sure, that's feasible. Care to explain how including a license prevents that? Either way, they're violating copyright law. Either way, they'll have to go through changing dates to be earlier than your commit timestamps on github, is it so much trouble to also strip out GPL references that you expect this to deter them>

Re:POSS - Young, Hip and k3wl? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,19 days | (#44560347)

If someone else takes your code and makes money with it, you still have your code. If you feel this is unfair then you support copyright anyway.

If you are employed to code, your employment contract makes it clear that the code you write is owned by the company, and the company reserves all rights, then by posting it online you are committing copyright infringement.

Finally, default copyright terms in many countries are "all rights reserved". This means that if someone releases their code as POSS and another person infringes copyright (arguably by just visiting GitHub and viewing the source), then the author can sue. However, the whole point of POSS is that the author won't sue because they don't have any respect for copyright law. If the person using the code understands this and also believes in POSS and the author's integrity, then they can use the code as if it were in the public domain. If you are (or your company is) concerned about copyright law in any way then that's your problem and the POSS author frankly doesn't give a fuck how you limit yourself.

Re:POSS - Young, Hip and k3wl? (1)

exomondo (1725132) | 1 year,19 days | (#44560535)

Until someone pastes all of your Github into their complier, makes some edits and uploads to an app repo to make $10k/year on a .99 app you wrote.

But if they make $10k/year selling support for the code you wrote that's ok?

Re:POSS - Young, Hip and k3wl? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,19 days | (#44561549)

yeah, why not? it's a completely different scenario.

after all, if it's worth my time, i should be easily able to outcompete him in providing that service.

Re:POSS - Young, Hip and k3wl? (1)

exomondo (1725132) | 1 year,18 days | (#44569125)

yeah, why not? it's a completely different scenario.

after all, if it's worth my time, i should be easily able to outcompete him in providing that service.

Well if it's worth your time you should also be able to upload your code to an app store and make money off it too then.

Re:POSS - Young, Hip and k3wl? (1)

dkf (304284) | 1 year,16 days | (#44595889)

But if they make $10k/year selling support for the code you wrote that's ok?

If that's their personal income from doing that, they'd better have another job too. It's not very much, only like $200 a week on average. Maybe above the bread line, but only just.

And in any case, they can be undercut by someone else. It's not like they have an exclusive right to make money from supporting that piece of code.

Re:POSS - Young, Hip and k3wl? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,19 days | (#44562517)

> Ignorance is a choice

And I see you've opted in.

> Until someone pastes all of your Github into their complier, makes some edits and uploads to an app repo to make $10k/year on a .99 app you wrote. Yeah, that kind of sucks. Especially when your boss asks where you happened to store all of that code you've been writing for project XYZ the past year.

Except that 'no license' is equivalent to 'all rights reserved'. Licenses give the recipients of the code more rights, not fewer. There appears to be a ridiculous misunderstanding where people think you need a license to 'protect' your code while in fact having no licenses is actually one of the strongest protections available.

I thought POSS = Piece of **** Software (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#44558019)

I thought POSS = Piece of **** Software

Re:I thought POSS = Piece of **** Software (2)

Immerman (2627577) | 1 year,19 days | (#44558373)

Well yeah - you can't use legally use it for any purpose whatsoever. What would you call it?

Re:I thought POSS = Piece of **** Software (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,19 days | (#44560599)

Beach literature? Fit for reading under an umbrella, with a melon daiquiri in hand, and not to be recalled after you get back to work?

A license is what separates us from chimps !!! (2)

martiniturbide (1203660) | 1 year,20 days | (#44558097)

I think a license it is important. How are you going to contribute code without knowing the conditions. Maybe today the original author is a hipster that like to share, but maybe tomorrow he will change his mind. Is it going to close the source on the future?, is it going to take all other commits for his own personal gain? Is it going to sue you for changing his code?

A license in the source code reduce the risk of being trolled, sue or blackmailed in the future.

Even if it is public domain, the author need to specify it, otherwise it can back-slap you.

unemployed (-1, Offtopic)

GladysWKent (3018651) | 1 year,19 days | (#44559423)

My friends mother has been making 78$ per hour.This is shocking and unbelievable,but true.Start here> www.Bay92.om

This is a legal mistake on GitHub's part (1)

msobkow (48369) | 1 year,19 days | (#44560345)

GitHub should be mandating that a license be either selected from a pool of licenses, or a license be typed in for every project. The default in most jurisdictions is either public domain or all rights reserved, and because they're a global-serving entity, they have to deal with the all-rights-reserved case, which doesn't even allow publication by GitHub itself.

Re:This is a legal mistake on GitHub's part (2)

pavon (30274) | 1 year,19 days | (#44561983)

Code on GitHub is no different from comments on slashdot or images on Flicker any other website in that regard. All the posts are covered by copyright, which is held by the original poster. All the sites have TOS which state that the poster gives the site permission to reproduce the content. Furthermore, even if the user didn't read the TOS, they intentionally made the posts knowing full well it would be republished (that is the entire reason for posting on any of those sites), so they have already given implied consent.

Where the difference comes into play is making it clear what third parties can do with the content. Flicker gets this right by assuming all rights reserved unless otherwise specified, while up to now GitHub has been putting their heads in the sand. This is a disservice to all their users as it makes the site far less usefull, but it isn't really a legal liability for GitHub itself.

Speech (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,19 days | (#44562071)

I do not license my speech and the same goes for my code. Same thing different medium. If you have a problem with that, then that's your problem, not mine.

Re:Speech (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,19 days | (#44562407)

Well then like your speech, you can shove your code.

Licensing is useless (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,19 days | (#44563369)

What good will add a license do me? I do not have the means nor funds to enforce it any of it anyway. My code is always in a state of anarchy.

Forking procedure (1)

cheba (3021425) | 1 year,17 days | (#44582111)

It's great that more and more developers think about licenses. Though, there's one aspect that I find... underdocumented.

From time to time there may arise a need to fork a project. Either changes are out of the scope of the original project and they wouldn't ever be accepted upstream, or the upstream maintainers are not as responsive as community requires or for whatever other reason there may be. It's counter-productive to keep the original name (and have basically two diverging projects with the same name) or have original authors listed as the maintainers to be bothered about bug/features in the project they don't maintain (I'm not talking here about attribution).

So what's the proper forking procedure? Is there any differences depending on the project license?

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