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Source Code & Copyright

Hemos posted more than 8 years ago | from the whither-the-courts dept.

182

cunamara writes "Patently-O has posted a discussion of Aharonian v. Gonzales . Aharonian is trying to build a database of source code as a repository of prior art. The interesting thing is in part of the decision, which is that "Conversely, if plaintiff independently creates software that is functionally identical to other software, he does not infringe any copyright on the other software's source code, even if his independently created source code is nearly identical to the copyrighted source code." Interesting. But how does one defend "nearly identical" independently created source code from a copyright infringement lawsuit?" I'm actually not as interested in the copyright side of things as I am in the notion of using something like that for prior art of software patents. The argument that source code is uncopyrightable, with some extensions could be applied to almost all, say, fiction stories since no one's written a truly new story in like five thousand years.

cancel ×

182 comments

Diversionary Rubbish (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14760242)

The introduction to this story on the slashdot page states:
"no one's written a truly new story in like five thousand years."

I'd just like to, like, totally, like, say, that don't, like, you lazy slashdot types even, like, read your own mini-article before, like, posting it to, like, Slashdot?

Utter crud.

Re:Diversionary Rubbish (2, Interesting)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 8 years ago | (#14760290)

The grammar Nazi's might bemoan it, but the use of "like" in the article summary was more effective than if Hemos had used an exclamation mark. For example.

No one's written a truly new story in like five thousand years
No one's written a truly new story in five thousand years!


In the first sentence, it's clear that the emphasis is on "five thousand years", as the author intended. In the second it is not clear where the emphasis is. Is it on the "truely new story", "no one's", "written". Is the entire sentence meant to be taken as exclamatory?

True, the editor could have used "...in over five thousand years" or perhaps even "...a truly new story; in five thousand years!", but I think the "like" gives enough pause and emphasis to the sentance to truely carry across the authors point.

People aren't using "like" flippantly for no reason. Sometimes it is used like "umm" and "aaa", but sometimes it is, like, very useful in emphasising certain sections of the sentence. OK?

Re:Diversionary Rubbish (1)

onedotzero (926558) | more than 8 years ago | (#14760780)

That is exactly what an <em> tag is for.

--
onedotzero
thedigitalfeed.co.uk

Re:Diversionary Rubbish (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14760803)

The grammar Nazi's might bemoan it

The grammar "Nazi's" what? The grammar Nazi's friends?

Ahhhhhhhhhh! Ahhhhhhhhhh! Ahhhhhhhhh!

Re:Diversionary Rubbish (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14760939)

The grammar Nazi's might bemoan it, but the use of "like" in the article summary was more effective than if Hemos had used an exclamation mark. For example.

        No one's written a truly new story in like five thousand years
        No one's written a truly new story in five thousand years!

In the first sentence, it's clear that the emphasis is on "five thousand years", as the author intended. In the second it is not clear where the emphasis is. Is it on the "truely new story", "no one's", "written". Is the entire sentence meant to be taken as exclamatory?


That is the most contrived defense of sloppy grammar I've ever, like, read.

It had nothing to do with emphasis; it was just the in vogue bastardization of "like" to mean "approximately", or "circa", or "about", or "around".

"Like" should be used to point out similitudes in otherwise different things, but not to mean "nearly, but not quite", or for emphasis:

Right: "She was large, like a prize heffer".
Wrong: "She was like two hundred pounds."
Wrong: "She was, like, fat."

People aren't using "like" flippantly for no reason. Sometimes it is used like "umm" and "aaa", but sometimes it is, like, very useful in emphasising certain sections of the sentence. OK?

They're using "like" because they're lazy or ignorant or just because everyone else is doing it, and no, it's not okay. As has been pointed out, we have typography and punctuation to provide emphasis where required. We also have several perfectly good synonyms for "approximately", if you can't be arsed to say or type that many syllables.

Re:Diversionary Rubbish (1)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 8 years ago | (#14760990)

It had nothing to do with emphasis; it was just the in vogue bastardization of "like" to mean "approximately", or "circa", or "about", or "around".

You have, like, totally misunderstood the usage.

FIRST COPYRIGHTED POST - FUCKERS (0, Troll)

The_Fire_Horse (552422) | more than 8 years ago | (#14760245)

[see subject]

Re:FIRST COPYRIGHTED POST - FUCKERS (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14760264)

Is trolltalk operative?

You'll find all the stories ever told (1, Interesting)

kfg (145172) | more than 8 years ago | (#14760246)

In the Thousand Nights and a Night.

All seventeen volumes of Sir Richard Burton's translation available at Project Gutenberg.

KFG

Prior art is on the burden of the copyrighters (1)

brianwilliams42 (870455) | more than 8 years ago | (#14760247)

Copying software for a prior art repository only helps those people who have the prior art defend their code, and there's no sense in that, as who can copy code that isn't released?

Re:Prior art is on the burden of the copyrighters (2, Interesting)

argoff (142580) | more than 8 years ago | (#14760437)


Well, there may be public domain prior art, but I think you hit on a real point. People are trying to use all these tricks to get arround problems caused by copyrights. I think the real solution is to get rid of copyrights, not to try and play games with the system. The game playing will only have short term results.

Re:Prior art is on the burden of the copyrighters (1)

Isotopian (942850) | more than 8 years ago | (#14760521)

Well, simply getting rid of copyrights would probably cause more problems then it solves. Now, shortening the lives of the copyrights, there, you may have something.

Re:Prior art is on the burden of the copyrighters (4, Informative)

ThePhilips (752041) | more than 8 years ago | (#14760557)

I haven't heard of any case where copyright was involving prior art defense.

Normally it's related to patents.

IOW. Person A written Program A to do the Task A. Person B written Program B to do the Task A. If task is the same there are very chances that the programs will be quite similar.

Now, from point of view of copyright law there are two absolutely different programmes - implementations of probably the same algorithm to solve the Task A. (Competition is good, isn't it?)

But, when patents get's involved, picture becomes more obscure. If Person A holds a patents for the algorithm of Program A (and since patents by definition "transcends it all" and disregards copyrights) implementation of Program B whilst having no relation to Program A nor to the Person A is in legal crux. (Here prior art starts playing role.)

Copyright protects person's work. Patent protects person's idea.
Two people might have come to the same idea (first to come entitled for the protection). But how it could be that two people independently made the same work? (e.g. book, picture, poem, etc) It's lunatism or what???

Specifically, when applied to software, prior art make no sense whatsoever. Modern obfuscation tools allow people to mask the original code. Was it stolen or written from scratch - one would never guess. (Obfuscators are normally applied to commercial Java programmes to make reverse engineering harder).

P.S. In my experience, when two commercial programs have same peice of code, it usually means that it was lifted from BSD. I yet to encounter single example when one software company stolen something from another. Average quality of commercial code is quite low - it's not worth been stolen. And when you see clean, well made code, rest assured: people behind the code are connected to Open Source. Open Source has to have higher quality - just as in normal life you would try to *NOT* show anybody you dirty undies.

Re:Prior art is on the burden of the copyrighters (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14760884)

"Average quality of commercial code is quite low - it's not worth been stolen. And when you see clean, well made code, rest assured: people behind the code are connected to Open Source."

And an example of this would be...?
Opera vs Firefox
or
MS Word vs OpenOffice :)

Come on, how can you judge code which you haven't see?

Intellectual Property Laws (5, Interesting)

thedletterman (926787) | more than 8 years ago | (#14760253)

I'm not a big fan of "near-identical" copyrighting source code.. It's almost like copyrighting mathematical equations. The compiler creates a framework designed to achieve predictable results, and whatever results are achieved within that framework, isn't the invention of genius, but the application of an engineering language. It's cclearly wrong to rip off chunks of people's programming and sell it as your own, but if there's proof of linear progression of programming which achieves a similiar function using a similiar process within the programming framework, there's no reason the other's work should be thrown out, or licensed against the 'prior artists'. Intellectual property is going to be such a freaking headache if shit like this is allowed to continue.

Software == Maths (2, Interesting)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 8 years ago | (#14760306)

I'm not a big fan of "near-identical" copyrighting source code.. It's almost like copyrighting mathematical equations.

It's not just like it. It is copyrighting mathematical equations, or more appropriately, mathematical algorithms. All software is a mathematical algorithm.

Of course, publications containing mathematical algorithms are copyrighted every day. Papers, books, lecture notes, etc, etc. But to argue that if I've used a Fourier Transform in my paper means you can't is obviously a fallacy. To argue that you can't even if you change the symbols or the presentation is ludacrious.

Same goes for code.

Software != Maths (1)

NiteShaed (315799) | more than 8 years ago | (#14760859)

While deep under the covers it all breaks down to numbers, I'm not sure I see how you can compare a Fourier Transform to the source code to Microsoft Word, FireFox or StarCraft. Just because math is involved in creating software, it is not the same as saying that math IS the software.

Re:Software != Maths (1)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 8 years ago | (#14761013)

Just because math is involved in creating software, it is not the same as saying that math IS the software.

The software IS the maths.

If my code uses a fourier transform, why should Microsoft be able to take me to court over copyright just because their code uses the same algorithim?

Now, change fourier transform for any software technique you can think of. Sorting lists, compression using wavelet transforms, traversing data structures, obtaining user input, whatever. The same arguments apply as all these operations are mathematical algorithims.

You don't need a truly new story... (5, Interesting)

bitkari (195639) | more than 8 years ago | (#14760256)

the argument that source code is uncopyrightable, with some extensions could be applied to almost all, say, fiction stories since no one's written a truly new story in like five thousand years.

The idea is not what is protected under copyright, it is the work itself which is protected under copyright. Just because the idea implemented in a story (or computer program for that matter) has been done before, that does not mean that someones actual book, movie or videogame is somehow immune from copyright.

Patents, on the other hand... Well, let's not get started on patents...

Re:You don't need a truly new story... (1)

srodden (949473) | more than 8 years ago | (#14760295)

Not to mention it'd be awfully difficult to track down the original author to figure out who you need to pay royalities to!

Solution (5, Interesting)

Elektroschock (659467) | more than 8 years ago | (#14760258)

The solution for the software patent mess is not "prior art" or "inventive step". These are red herrings of the debate. It is better to follow the Adelphi Charter [adelphicharter.org] .


3. The public interest requires a balance between the public domain and private rights. It also requires a balance between the free competition that is essential for economic vitality and the monopoly rights granted by intellectual property laws.
4. Intellectual property protection must not be extended to abstract ideas, facts or data.
5. Patents must not be extended over mathematical models, scientific theories, computer code, methods for teaching, business ...
* Change must be allowed only if a rigorous analysis clearly demonstrates that it will promote people's basic rights and economic well-being.


For US citizens it important to get organised. FFII has an USA mailing list [ffii.org] . Perhaps it might serve as a breeding ground for a US campaign which becomes equivalent to the EU campaign effort. Americans are perfect communicators in the field of software patents but lack anti-swpat organisation.

Currently the rest of the world suffers from the American unability to get anti-Software Patent interests organised.

Adelphi Charter + "Why We Fight" (3, Interesting)

dpilot (134227) | more than 8 years ago | (#14760327)

I fear that in today's society, the Adelphi charter is irrelevant and misdirected.
Keep in mind the real priorties:

1: Corporate rights shall be preserved.
2: Corporate freedom of action shall be maximized.
3: Opportunity for revenue and profit shall not be impeded.

I just went to see "Why We Fight" this weekend, including a Q&A with the writer/director, afterward. To be short, sweet, and simple, it wasn't a rant against the Bush administration. They are merely the latest (and most willing?) phase in the rise to power of the military-industrial complex. The movie was a warning about corporatism, rooted in Ike's parting message about the military-industrial complex.

In retrospect, the Free Software movement is perhaps one of the most important ones in today's world. As far as I can tell, it is the ONLY major endeavour of modern life not utterly dominated by corporate interests. No wonder there is so much interest in things like the DMCA, DRM, HDMI, TPM, etc. I suspect the fine-tuning will be to push Free Sofware into the correct corral, so it's developments can continue to be harvested, yet at the same time make it irrelevant to day-today life.

Re:Solution (2, Interesting)

argoff (142580) | more than 8 years ago | (#14760336)

No, the solution is to get rid of copyrights and patent monopolies all together. The system alreasy was "reasonable" when it started out, but we are where we are today because it is the very nature of these beasts to start out with a small amount of controll and baloon into a gargantuian murderous beast.

The people who are trying to impose copyrights and patnets understand that it's an all or nothing game, which is why they will never let a "reasonable" solution play out no matter what it is. Why is it that they can understand this, but it seems we can't?

Re:Solution (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14760566)

The problem is that people who do understand complain in internet forums like Slashdot. You are an example of this.

Most politicians don't read what you write. Most people don't read Slashdot. The few politicians who do read what you say, know that "normal" people don't, so they ignore you.

There are 4 effective actions you can take.

  • Write letters to the papers.
  • Write letters to the politicians
  • Call the politicians. You might at least talk to an assistant
  • If that doesn't work, organize a demonstration, so that news media will notice you.


By "letters" I mean regular letters made by paper. The e-mails WILL be ignored.
I would do it my self, but as I am not American, my views don't count :-)

Start small, influence your friends to do the same. Use the internet for organization and information, but keep all communications to the people who matter out of the net. No-body cares about petitions on the net, but when they get 500 sheets of papers in their mail, they will

Re:Solution (1)

penix1 (722987) | more than 8 years ago | (#14760771)

"Write letters to the papers.
Write letters to the politicians
Call the politicians. You might at least talk to an assistant
If that doesn't work, organize a demonstration, so that news media will notice you."

And you see how well that worked in the lead up to the Iraq war. Now just how many people were in the streets protesting around the world? How many politicians were written? how many editorials?

You see, that only works when politicians have nothing to lose by supporting you. In this case they lose money from $CORPORATION. You being correct has nothing to do with it.

B.

Re:Solution (1)

Elektroschock (659467) | more than 8 years ago | (#14760855)

letter to politicians?

What about this

        * http://ac.european-patent-office.org/pct_consultat ion_process/index.en.php [european-p...office.org]
        * http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/com/sol/notices/7 0fr75451.pdf [uspto.gov]
        * http://www.patent.gov.uk/about/consultations/inven tive/ [patent.gov.uk]

The status of the case (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14760263)

Dismissed. The case is now on appeal.
The idea that something may not infringe copyright in spite of the fact that it is nearly identical, is a bit of a stretch. It is true sometimes. For instance, if there is a standard way of doing things then bits of code will be identical. On the other hand, for those bits of code that may be copyrighted, the statement sounds nonsensical. Remember, not all code can be copyrighted. Much/most/all the code SCO claimed was in violation of its (disputed) copyrights is not copyrightable.

Re:The status of the case (5, Insightful)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 8 years ago | (#14760405)

Well, the point about copyright is about copy. If someone who never heared about Harry Potter would sit down on himself and write a book which turns out by pure chance to be word for word identical to the existing one, it would not be copyright violation. However, it's very unlikely than anyone would believe him, because it's very unlikely that this would happen.

Basically in copyright cases, the difficult part is to proof or disproof that there was indeed a copy involved. The similarities are important because they are indications for or against copying. The additional problem with changed copies is of course to determine how much of the changed document is really copy, and how much is just using the concepts. That's also the point of clean-room reimplementations: By doing so you give evidence completely separate from the produced work itself that the work itself isn't a copy, but just a reimplementation of the same concepts.

IANAL however.

About copying (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14760429)

The case of George Harrison and his song "My Sweet Lord" hinged on the fact that he may have heard the song "He's So Fine", remembered it and subconsciously copied it. The standard seems to be VERY relaxed when deciding if copying has taken place.

Re:The status of the case (1)

cei (107343) | more than 8 years ago | (#14760621)

I've got to disagree. The point about copyright is controlling distribution of a copy. Monks in a monestary could transcribe and illuminate Harry Potter to their hearts' content, but the minute they try to sell or give away that which they've copied, the axe will fall.

Re:The status of the case (1)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 8 years ago | (#14760627)

I don't disagree with you. But the RIAA does. [eff.org]

Thank you maxwell (4, Informative)

weierstrass (669421) | more than 8 years ago | (#14760662)

and thank you Hemos for displaying your ignorance on the front page.

This is exactly the crucial difference between copyrights and patents.

A copyright restricts you only from copying the work in question. There is absolutely no restriction on coming up with the same work independently, and using it. Thus like George Harrison's suit mentioned in the sibling post, many copyright suits depend on showing that someone did / didn't have access to the work in question.

A patent on the other hand gives the holder the exclusive right to an invention or idea. Like the other guy who invented the telephone independently of Bell, you will have absolutely no rights to your own invention if it has been previously patented, for the life of the patent anyway.

A defence of independent discovery works for copyright infringements, not for patents. This has always been the case, so I'm not sure why it's news today.

There are a few ways to do something... (5, Interesting)

Big_Mamma (663104) | more than 8 years ago | (#14760266)

For example, there aren't much variation in ways to code a doubly linked list. If a project in java needs one, you need to write it yourself, because it isn't in java.util.* yet. With a standard coding style in that language, I've seen quite a few near identical looking implementations for an assignment.

It's about time to stop suing over one snippet of code in a project - there are only so many ways to do the basic tasks. It's how you use the individual lego blocks to build something that counts - if you copy the whole design and claim it as your own, then you deserve to be sued, not for using five white ones to build a wall, as everyone does that.

Not in java? (2, Informative)

Chris Pimlott (16212) | more than 8 years ago | (#14760326)

Er, what's wrong with java.util.LinkedList?

What is wrong with java.util.LinkedList (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14760440)

Well, for one thing the fact that it uses an implementation as the abstraction. The collections should have been things like set, ordered set, fifo sequence, etc... Furthermore they should have been interfaces, not classes. That way you could use the factory pattern to give you the most efficient implementation depending on the actual situation.

Could be a lot worse. Look at AWTEventMulticaster if you want to see what a singlely linked list looks like as written by some Lisp programmers. It's actually a tree with all the subtrees on one side terminal nodes using subclassing to turn it into a list, and is traversed by recursion.

Re:Not in java? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14760450)

The parent wanted doubly linked list...

Re:Not in java? (1)

frans (132595) | more than 8 years ago | (#14760918)

The parent wanted doubly linked list...
Then why does javadoc of java.util.LinkedList say this?
All of the operations perform as could be expected for a doubly-linked list.

Re:Not in java? (1)

Chris Pimlott (16212) | more than 8 years ago | (#14760956)

Don't be confused by the name. It is doubly linked. Check the javadoc [sun.com] .

Re:There are a few ways to do something... (2, Interesting)

MaestroSartori (146297) | more than 8 years ago | (#14760356)

Ain't that the truth!

In my Java Data Structures class in University, our first couple of assignments were exactly this sort of thing. I think the first one was a singly linked list, and out of the 100 or so students 60 *identical* solutions were handed in. For the second assignment, a doubly linked list, there was more variation but still 30 or 40 identical solutions. We'd all learned Java in the same classes, we all had the same textbook, it's hardly surprising that there was so much similarity there.

Of course, when in our low-level C programming class that same year ten people handed in identical solutions to an assignment which had no textbook, no enforced coding style, and even the non-code questions were word-for-word the same, it was obvious we had a bit of copying going on... ;)

Re:There are a few ways to do something... (1)

jthayden (811997) | more than 8 years ago | (#14760439)

We'd all learned Java in the same classes, we all had the same textbook, it's hardly surprising that there was so much similarity there.


Not to mention copied the same code found on a website using google.

Copyright is not universal (1)

DavidHOzAu (925585) | more than 8 years ago | (#14760274)

The argument that source code is uncopyrightable,

If every bit of code was copyrightable, even a "Hello World" program would be a copyright infringement if it were copied out of a book and posted to the web. In this context, it is easy to see that not everything is eligible for copyright.

with some extensions could be applied to almost all, say, fiction stories since no one's written a truly new story in like five thousand years.

That's why parodies do not infringe copyrights.

Re:Copyright is not universal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14760310)

It isn't (IMO) the content that is copyrighted as much as the meaning. Words aren't copyrighted and stories are. Whether you infringe on someone else's story depends on how many words you need to use to describe BOTH stories. "Boy meets Girl" if it is enough to describe both stories, means that they aren't in common. If all the words are the same, then it is a direct copy. Most copies are between the two.

It ought to be the same with source code (and object code should not be, except as a derivative and only when the original code is made available, but that's my thought only). If you see two programs and they are both spreadsheets, then that isn't enough to say they are copies. If the description in the user guide (the story of the code, if you like) are too similar, then you've probably infringed copyright.

Re:Copyright is not universal (2, Interesting)

Elvis Parsley (939954) | more than 8 years ago | (#14760454)

"It isn't (IMO) the content that is copyrighted as much as the meaning."

Other way around. That is, copyright protects a specific expression of an idea, which is to say a particular batch of words in a particular order. Ideas are, for the most part, not protected.

That said, there's a certain amount of fuzziness around exactly what is involved in the expression of an idea. Frex, a few years back, White Wolf Games sued the producers of the movie Underworld for lifting a number of elements from their games under, I believe, copyright law.

Re:Copyright is not universal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14760847)

I guess I wasn't clear. The definition if infringement is based on how similar the stories are. If you have exaclt the same words, just re-arranged, you can get a very different story. If to describe two stories so that they both fit, you need a novella, then they are infringing. If you get a couple of paragraphs, then they aren't.

This ought to be the same with patents, but it doesn't seem to be applied in that manner. Worse luck.

Ta.

Re:Copyright is not universal (4, Insightful)

blakestah (91866) | more than 8 years ago | (#14760391)

If every bit of code was copyrightable, even a "Hello World" program would be a copyright infringement if it were copied out of a book and posted to the web. In this context, it is easy to see that not everything is eligible for copyright.

Every bit of originally created source code is copyrightable...although in many cases code is copied from a public, common, source, like "Hello World".

For infringement to take place, you need to demonstrate that copying took place, that is, that the accused copier had access to the original and used it. Even if the source code is nearly identical, it does not mean there was infringement. You need to establish the copier had access to, and used, the original to create his copy.

I'm not sure a repository is useful for copyright issues. Those are proving minor, anyhow. For patent issues it would be very powerful, but there is another problem. The USPTO doesn't check outside the application and patent database. That is, if something HAS prior art, but that prior art is not patented or included in the application, then the patent examiner will grant the patent anyway in ignorance. The burden then falls on the holder of the prior art to establish that it is prior art. Which means hiring lawyers, litigating a case, etc. It is a PITA. And this is one of the principal ways the system is borked. Patent examiners have no means by which they can access prior art that is not in the system.

Where is he? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14760297)

Where is that King Solomon when you need him?

Reminder (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14760304)

Mathematical formulas are not copyrightable.

Next !

Google Books (4, Interesting)

Midnight Warrior (32619) | more than 8 years ago | (#14760305)

Google Books [google.com] seems like an ideal solution to this problem. Of course, I'd talk to Google about it first. Your source code repository would be transformed into book form with the source code as large excerpts and the revision control system being your chapter introductions. This would force the repository to be something organized and not just a mish-mash of inserted code. Their About [google.com] page says that they'll show you a couple of pages. I would ask them to restrict the search to only showing the section introduction and a 15 lines surrounding the code in question. Google could then wrap an API around it to make it easy to programatically search.

Then, there's the issue of licensing. This would be, I think, the first legitimate use of the GPL (not the LGPL) for a published document. Google promises to protect the work as a dark search until valid copyrights expire. If you put a hypertext link into each section where the code can be properly licensed (i.e. downloaded), then it works as a prior art repository and as a code reuse archive.

Good Try, but bad approach (2, Interesting)

argoff (142580) | more than 8 years ago | (#14760318)

I think the truth is that people instinctively know that copyrights (and patents esp on software) are harmfull, and that's why there are so many legal challanges to it and attempts to reform copyright law. But the truth is that the system is not going to change.

Rather than playing all sorts of legal tricks, I think people would be better served with outright defiance. Ignore copyrights no matter what, use technology to secure that right in the best way's possible, and eventually the system will come arround after it's totally obvious that they're irrelavent.

I know that the few examples of people they've attacked and left strung up to die were pretty harsh, but in practice the risks of being left behind in the information age and not getting practical use out of the code out there far exceed the risks of getting pounced by the legal system. In all truth, people are better off ignoring the legal witch hunt and just go on doing what they need to.

Re:Good Try, but bad approach (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14760598)

"I think the truth is that people instinctively ... reform copyright law."

What a butt-load. There are so many legal challenges because there are vast numbers of rip-off artists who get caught.

"Ignore copyrights no matter what, ..."

Please do, and when it's discovered that you've ripped off someone who is actually creative, you can then pay much more to them for their support.

"I know that the few examples ...go on doing what they need to."

Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't realize that you're a programmer wanting to change a system designed for far more than code to satisfy your inability to produce fresh, unique designs. My mistake, rip on and pay up.

Re:Good Try, but bad approach (1)

Jasper__unique_dammi (901401) | more than 8 years ago | (#14760917)

I hope people here understand the difference between copyright and patents. They are totally different things.
Copyright protects instances expressions of ideas, also sometimes variations of them. The variations are simply included so people dont just change some work and say its diffent, its commonsense. Ofcourse in some cases only small variations between seperate works can exist simply because the range of posibilities is small. For instance (as said earlier)saying "hello" or code for linked lists, the work doesnt nessesarally have to be short to have a good chance of looking like another!
Personnaly, I like the idea of people actually being rewarded for their creations, having some right to helps getting reward. Dont get me wrong, I certainly dislike intrusive, restrictive or overzealous policies to enfore copyright. (like DRM)

Patents protects the ideas themselves, they are much more vague, especially dealing with algorithms, or code.
It is a matter of philosofy whether an idea can be owned in the first place.
In mathematics for instance most people think that ideas are found, rather then created.
Also ideas can overlap, you can make a linked list for integers, but also for arbitrary data structures.
(btw you can replace linked list with black-white tree or whatever, but rather a trivial example)
I personnally hate software patents and i am unsure about physical invention-patents.

Now to respond to the replied-to post. I am all for legal tricks to get round patents. As i read somewhere: In a dungeon you must first kill the monsters you meet before you destroy the source of them.

PS i am no expert, what i've written here is the current status of my thinking of patents and copyright. If there something dumm in here feel free to reply. (if im correct ill get a mail that there was a reply)
I think all people who reply in /. should always check back if there is a response. The idea is that people are aware of their critics, and corrected in their facts.

No new stories. (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14760331)

...since no one's written a truly new story in like five thousand years.

I somehow think this can be easily remidied, though it would not work as well as people like. To create a "truly new story", one would simply need to abandon the idea of "writing a story" and just write randomly. If the result is something people would not recognize as a story, a new story has effectively been written. I'm gonna go try that now.

Oh, and if this works, I claim prior art !-)

Re:No new stories. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14760365)

The Italian Futurist movement did that with the Parole in Libertà thing.

Once upon a time.. (0, Troll)

somersault (912633) | more than 8 years ago | (#14760340)

there was a man. This man took an ant, increased its size twenty-fold using an anti-shrink ray, which he patented as the 'grow ray'. He then shoved a coke bottle up the ant's excuse for an ass, and set the beastie on fire. The end.

That's got to be pretty new? _

Re:Once upon a time.. (1)

jthayden (811997) | more than 8 years ago | (#14760449)

Nope as my English teacher would have said, "Man vs. Nature" been there, done that.

Re:Once upon a time.. (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 8 years ago | (#14760470)

hmmm yeah.. I wasnt thinking it as so much of a battle as an experiment. How about 'A man spits out of a car as he's driving, and it hits the side of his car'? Or is that more of an anecdote >_>

No new stories? (1)

Spacejock (727523) | more than 8 years ago | (#14760355)

It's not the plot, it's the way you tell it. Otherwise publishers wouldn't bother with new authors, and would just keep reprinting out-of-copyright works from Project Gutenberg.

This is surely irrelevent? (4, Insightful)

NigelJohnstone (242811) | more than 8 years ago | (#14760361)

The problem with software patents is not copyright it's trade secrets. The source code is never released, so no database of prior art can cover any closed source software. The more innovative the algorithms, the more likely it will be strongly protected with tradesecrets and the less useful a prior art database would be.

Not only that, the source code isn't always a good description of an algorithm which is why every project I've ever worked on has lots of comments and documentation delivered with it.

So I don't see what the point of building a database of prior art actually achieves! How is it different from the GNU libraries? They're partial coverage of software available in sourcecode form too.

new histories... (2, Interesting)

bogado (25959) | more than 8 years ago | (#14760362)

no one's written a truly new story in like five thousand years.


Bold comment, but I would say compleatly untrue. Sure if you define a story in broad terms like "a romance that is forbiden and it ends with a tragedy" you can fit a few thousand books, movies and plays into that. But only one of those is "Romeu and Juliet", would you say that all of those are the same?

I guess you will try to argue that the newer are "rip-offs" from the original. But I would say that there's no culture without "riping off". Coping and improving is what we do, and when is done well it can be good, very good. Most of the music is done in a similar way, good musitian influence the newer generation and were infuenced by big names that he used to hear when he was young.

I believe that all this race to protect every single idea that can be selled to the point that people can't replay a "buffy episode" in the comunity theather or Joseph Doe can't create a fan fiction featuring batman or maybe "batguy" is bad for the culture in general.

All that said, I would like to say that if this Joseph Doe character starts selling, or attempt to get a profit from his fan-fiction, then maybe the original authors could ask for a piece of those profits.

Re:new histories... (1)

RobotRunAmok (595286) | more than 8 years ago | (#14760545)

I believe that all this race to protect every single idea that can be selled to the point that people can't replay a "buffy episode" in the comunity theather or Joseph Doe can't create a fan fiction featuring batman or maybe "batguy" is bad for the culture in general.

What would be bad for the culture in general would be if Joe Doe can make a living from stealing Bob Kane's or Joss Whedon's ideas without any kind of repercussion, because then there would be no incentive to create something original. The "culture" would die.

That said, the laws still remain loose enough for Marvel to create a "Moon Knight" and for every animation house the world over to field their own Sailor Moon riff, so I wouldn't worry too much about the "little" (less creative) guy getting squeezed out from the pop culture trough anytime soon.

Re:new histories... (1)

bogado (25959) | more than 8 years ago | (#14760913)

I don't belive, if something isn't creative it will not be successfull forever. This type of incentive to monopoly of Batmans and say Sailor Moons is a incentive to the original author repeat the same old blah blah blah.

And in fact this is exactly what we see in the comic book world, the story lines are recreated regularly. And even batman and the daredevil (even more), if weren't for Frank Miller would have a very lower popularity today. The kind of recicling I was talking about do happen, in a controlled and slower way, today, since DC copies it self over and over and ocasionaly something new grabs to the character.

Also I was not saying that Joe Doe should be making a living ou of his fan fiction, all I am saying is that he should be able to create a history about batman or harry potter without fear of having to surrender all his money and live forever in debt for a big company. People should be allowed to create what ever they want, the comercial exploration of those things could be controlated.

Off course 99% of the stuff will be as bad ot worst then the official stuff... But who knows what are we loosing in the last 1%?

Source Code & Copyright (1)

rs232 (849320) | more than 8 years ago | (#14760368)

I've just patented a method for comparing source code trees and tell Senior Gonzales that he is now violating my Intellectiual Property and I'm going to sue his ass off (as they say in America).

http://fudwatcher.blogspot.com/ [blogspot.com]

totally (1)

cybin (141668) | more than 8 years ago | (#14760385)

...since no one's written a truly new story in like five thousand years.

i thought Brokeback Mountain was fiercely original.

but yeah, i'd rather read crappy source code. i'm gonna cancel my subscription to Penthouse Forum and get like, Dr. Dobbs' Journal instead.

Identical code (1)

Chemisor (97276) | more than 8 years ago | (#14760409)

You ought to be able to show that code is non-copyrightable if it logically follows from problem specification. If you can show that this code is the one and only way of solving the given problem, then it is obviously "obvious", and is no more copyrightable than "hi, how are you?".

Re:Identical code (1)

frodo527 (614767) | more than 8 years ago | (#14760652)

Obivousness isn't a criteria when determining whether something is copyrightable. You're thinking of patents.

Copyrights protect expression, not ideas. For example, I could write a story about a whiny kid living on some backward planet who hooks up with a wizard, a rogue, his rogue's hirsute buddy, a hot chick, and go destroy an evil empire lead by a big tall evil guy in a mask. As long as my expression of this general idea was original, I wouldn't be infringing George Lucas's copyright on Star Wars.

Most code is the same as some other code. (5, Interesting)

thogard (43403) | more than 8 years ago | (#14760412)

Two decades ago when doing stupid things with neural nets was fashionable in computer science, I built a neural net C compiler. Odd thing is it worked on small programs so I expanded it.

Its parser would takes code of the form foo=foo+bar; and reduces it to foo+=bar; or other minimal C with translation to var1+=var2; It would then hand that off to the NN compiler. It then ran every bit of C code I could find through it. Its interesting that there were only about 160 (if I remember right) common statements that appeared more than once and most of them were followed by a very limited subset of other statements.
If you reduced a program another step into:
common_line1;
common_line23;
common_line7; ...

It ended up that many bits of code where exactly the same in many programs or had very small differences.
The most interesting stat was most C used less than about 100 common statements but the guys at Bells Labs added about 40 (of which I think Joe Ossanna was responsible for 30 or so) and BSD guys added about 10. The IOCCC entries didn't change the results but I don't think the compiler ever got any of them right even after a cb and extra reduction step which says something about their code.

Literature is not source code... (4, Interesting)

Goth Biker Babe (311502) | more than 8 years ago | (#14760415)

The argument that source code is uncopyrightable, with some extensions could be applied to almost all, say, fiction stories since no one's written a truly new story in like five thousand years.

The difference is that programming languages are usually pretty logical and to achieve an aim there's usually an obvious and correct way of solving a problem. For example if I asked a collection of programmers to write a function to sum the elements of an array it would inevitably look like the following (for C at least).

int sumArray(int array[], int elements) {
      int i, t = 0;
      for (i = 0; i elements; i++) t += array[i];
      return t;
}

There would be variations but everyone would essentially write the same code.

When writing literature, writers are restricted by the language, but for some they are extremely flexible and the same concepts can be written about and result in a completely different book.

It's the same for any art. The Queen of England has had hundreds of portrates painted and yet they are all very different depite the use of similar materials. Yes the basic subject is the same but you cannot say the paintings are the same. Coding is more like photography.

At it's extreme source code is a mathematical description of an algorithm. It's either write or wrong. I can't see how you can copywrite it any more than copywriting 2 + 2 = 4.

Re:Literature is not source code... (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 8 years ago | (#14760482)

Well, a former Lisp programmer might also write it like this:
int sumArray(int* array, int elements)
{
  if (elements == 0)
    return 0;
  else
    return *array + sumArray(array+1, elements-1);
/* *array means (car array), array+1 means (cdr array) */
}
:-)

Re:Literature is not source code... (1)

Goth Biker Babe (311502) | more than 8 years ago | (#14760659)

Perfectly acceptable :-) But as I'm an embedded engineer always "iterate rather than recurse when ever possible" to save stack space.

Re:Literature is not source code... (1)

Haeleth (414428) | more than 8 years ago | (#14760707)

always "iterate rather than recurse when ever possible" to save stack space.

Bah. Get a decent compiler that knows about tail-call optimisation, and you can recurse to your heart's desire in constant stack space.

Re:Literature is not source code... (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 8 years ago | (#14760815)

Isn't that terribly inefficient? If you have an array of length 1000, then your call stack is now 1000. I'm not sure how deep the call stack goes, or how it's handled in lisp, but I don't think this function would perform very well with an array of 1,000,000. Especially when compared to a loop. just the overhead in calling a function for every addition would make this a terrible function.

Re:Literature is not source code... (1)

mikael (484) | more than 8 years ago | (#14761065)

As a insane code optimisation freak, I would optimise it as follows.
The assignment to zero and additional loop counter are redundant:


int sumArray(int array[], int elements) {
            int t = array[--elements];
            while ( --elements )
                t += array[elements];
            return t;
}

Re:Literature is not source code... (1)

NorbrookC (674063) | more than 8 years ago | (#14760544)

The difference is that programming languages are usually pretty logical and to achieve an aim there's usually an obvious and correct way of solving a problem.

Exactly. It's one of those areas that the concept of "copyright," as it was originally meant, becomes problematical, even meaningless. Even if a "clean room" development is done, it's still going to look a lot like the original coding, simply because there are only so many ways to write working code. This is why it's lead to a lot of the legal battles, unfortunately.

Re:Literature is not source code... (1)

Haeleth (414428) | more than 8 years ago | (#14760764)

For example if I asked a collection of programmers to write a function to sum the elements of an array it would inevitably look like [example snipped]. There would be variations but everyone would essentially write the same code.

Your example only works because you chose a very, very low-level example. Let's consider something a bit more interesting.

Suppose I asked a collection of programmers to write a program to translate C++ source code into ELF/x86 object files. I guarantee you, I would not get back two remotely similar programs. Almost certainly, I wouldn't even get two identical approaches to parsing the code, let alone identical optimisation and code generation phases. Some of the programs would run very fast, some very slowly. Some of them would generate efficient code, some inefficient. They would all be doing something functionally equivalent - taking the same input, and producing output that satisfied certain specifications - but there would be very little overlap in their implementation.

When writing literature, writers are restricted by the language, but for some they are extremely flexible and the same concepts can be written about and result in a completely different book.

When writing source code, programmers are restricted by the specification, but for some they are extremely flexible and the same specifications can be implemented and result in a completely different program.

So how are the two cases different?

At it's extreme source code is a mathematical description of an algorithm. It's either write or wrong.

So, of GNU's C++ compiler and Intel's C++ compiler, which perform the same task but have practically nothing in common internally, which is right and which is wrong?

Come on - if source code is "either write or wrong", then since they produce different (though equivalent) results, presumably one of them must be "wrong" - so which is it? If it's a simple black-and-white issue, surely you're able to give a snap answer to a trivial question like this!

Alternatively, we could try admitting that source code does, in fact, contain a significant amount of creative expression - that exact quality which copyright is intended to protect.

The SCO methods and Concepts theory (1)

codepunk (167897) | more than 8 years ago | (#14760423)

I noticed that one yesterday, kind of gives IBM some ammo as it relates to
the SCO methods and concepts theory now doesn't it. If it is a little different and written by somebody else it is not copyrightable.

The Phoenix BIOS experiment (5, Informative)

Richard Kirk (535523) | more than 8 years ago | (#14760427)

Usually this sort of discussion relies on hypothetical arguments. However, there are real cases where software has been created under controlled conditions, and then analysed for similarity. The Phoenix BIOS was written by people with coding experience but with no prior knowledge of the BIOS used in the IBM PC. They were given a functional description of what the BIOS should do. Care was taken to ensure they could not reverse engineer the IBM BIOS or directly compare their code to the IBM code.

What they wrote ended up having large bursts of code that was identical to the IBM PC BIOS. Sometimes there is only one good way of doing something.

Well, this is what I remembered reading years ago. It was an unusual exercise because the actual amount of code was small, so the potential legal cost per byte was very high. If there is someone out there who actually was part of this project, maybe they can post their experiences, and say whether I have got it vaguely right.

Re:The Phoenix BIOS experiment (4, Interesting)

BillAtHRST (848238) | more than 8 years ago | (#14760768)

Of course, BIOS was written in assembler, which tends to restrict the universe of potential ways of accomplishing the same thing. Some of these operations (e.g., subroutine calls) can only be done one way -- the way that the architecture specifies. If you factor in that BIOS writers would tend to try to keep variables in registers, that restricts things even further.
With high-level languages, it would seem to be less likely to find large areas of similarity.

Why is this such a difficult concept to grasp? (4, Insightful)

stubear (130454) | more than 8 years ago | (#14760433)

Copyright protects the expression of an idea, not the idea itself. It is the expression of the idea which creates value for the copyrighted work. Anyone can write a 4-bar blues progression in a-Major, just don't rip off B.B. King's lyrics or melody while you're doing it. We become richer, intellectually, as a society when creators are forced to think beyond what's already been done, to create their own expression of common cultural ideas, not by letting a bunch of hacks monkey around with things which they would otherwise not be able to create on their own.

Heh? 5 thousand years ago? (2, Funny)

layer3switch (783864) | more than 8 years ago | (#14760447)

fiction stories since no one's written a truly new story in like five thousand years.

People wrote original fictions back 5 thousand years ago? heh! Imagine that.

Mountain: the final frontier.
These are the voyages of the Bare-Foot Enterprise. Its five stone mission: to explore strange new worlds; to seek out new food and new women; to boldly go where no man has gone before.


Ahh... that's where it came from...

Patents vs Copywrite (2, Interesting)

Veteran (203989) | more than 8 years ago | (#14760453)

While I don't like the idea of patents in software - there is one huge advantage of patents: when the patent expires, the patented technology becomes Public Domain and can never be patented again.

Patents have a maximum life of 20 years as opposed to copywrites - which for all practical purposes - are forever. Nobody alive today is likely to see Mickey Mouse become public domain, even though copywrites are supposed to be for a 'limited' time.

Patents are viewed by the patent office as a 'teaching method'; when discussing a patent an examiner will say something like: "Willford (referring to a patent by the name of the primary inventor) teaches so and so..." As such patents are a very useful record of how to do things; they keep technology from being lost when the people involved with it die. Because of this patents are very useful to society as a whole.

For example: Philo Farnsworth patented a vacuum tube which was able to produce controlled desktop thermonuclear fusion in 1967. The problem with the Farnsworth tube is that once the fusion reaction started the plasma became so hot that it was difficult to get more fuel into it. Of course, that is a problem with any hot fusion device; magnetic confinement simply hasn't reached the levels that Farnsworth achieved in 1967, so the problem has not yet become apparent in their research.

Had Farnsworth not patented his work (U.S. Patent number 3,386,883) we would have no record of what he did, and the thoughts of one of the most insightful inventors in history would have been lost forever.

The fusor tube is a brilliant design which deserves much more attention than it has received.

Re:Patents vs Copywrite (1)

Veteran (203989) | more than 8 years ago | (#14760533)

And yes, I misspelled copyright. Sorry.

Re:Patents vs Copywrite (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 8 years ago | (#14760542)

Had Farnsworth instead published his work in some scientific journal, we would also have had a record on what he did. It's not that patents are the only way to reveal information to the public.

Re:Patents vs Copywrite (1)

Veteran (203989) | more than 8 years ago | (#14760653)

Farnsworth was restricted by the company he was working for from publishing in a journal. Even if he had, the record of exactly how to build his device would not have been there.

The scientific world is hardly perfect either - the disgraceful treatment of Fleischmann and Pons by the scientific community is an example of that. By the way, Fleischmann and Pons have stated that a large part of the problem in duplicating their work is that Palladium appears to have about 16 different atomic arrangements, and that only one of those arrangements supports cold fusion. There have been a couple of Slashdot articles about the DOE admitting last year that Cold Fusion does appear to be real.

Re:Patents vs Copywrite (1)

Jasper__unique_dammi (901401) | more than 8 years ago | (#14761044)

I dont see that benefit of the patents, in software a method is patented, the code isnt, its under copyright. So basically you still have to write your own code, but only after the patent runs out. (rather then just using the method when its first found out) As for patents being usefull for the public record, we have these people called historians. Besides important code/ideas circulating the web will get stored at many places where we can "dig em up" later. Ofcourse we can always reinvent them. Unfortunate deaths can also occur before publication/patentation. Btw i thought mickey mouse was going out of copyright soon?

no one's written a truly new story in 5000 years (1)

Yosho (135835) | more than 8 years ago | (#14760460)

and Slashdot keeps posting the same ones over and over...

Bollocks (1)

daigu (111684) | more than 8 years ago | (#14760514)

...some extensions could be applied to almost all, say, fiction stories since no one's written a truly new story in like five thousand years.

Joyce's Ulysses, Mann's Magic Mountain, Proust's Rememberence of Things Past, Faulkner's As I Lay Dying - these are just off the top of my head. If you think there hasn't been an original fictional story in 5,000 years, you haven't read much.

Not copied? Not infringing copyright. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14760550)

The point in the summary is very simple:
If you don't copy someone else's work you will never run afoul of copyright.

Copyright is the right of the copyright holder to control copying.
If you don't copy then you are obviously not infringing that right.

Now: if two or more people write code independently (without sight of each other's work) and that code happens to be identical what you have is a coincidence. None of the people involved have a cause for damages under a theory of copyright infringement.

Compare that with patents where the first to invent can file a patent application. If another person then implements something that solves the same problem in a similar way they could face a patent infringement lawsuit, even after working entirely independently.

Balance of probability (1)

john-da-luthrun (876866) | more than 8 years ago | (#14760592)

Copyright is a protection against copying. If you independently create a similar work then (at least in theory) it will not infringe copyright even if it is "near identical" to the previous work.

Contrast with patents, where your software will infringe a patent if it falls within that patent's claims, even if you created it entirely independently and had no idea the patented technology even existed - one reason why software patents are such a bad idea.

However, if your source code is "near identical" to the source code of another program, then a lawyer is going to have a field day waving the two versions of the code under a judge's nose and inviting the judge to draw the "obvious" conclusion. In a civil case the copyright holder only needs to show it is more likely than not that you copied their code.

So to answer the original question: "how does one defend "nearly identical" independently created source code from a copyright infringement lawsuit?"

In the end, the only way to do this is by being able to demonstrate that you did not copy the previous version. So that means having clear, documented processes (clean room techniques etc) so that you have enough evidence of independent creation to overcome what could otherwise be a powerful prima facie case of infringement.

That said, I suspect it is pretty unlikely that this particular situation would arise with anything other than very trivial programs. You're more likely to end up with either (i) flagrant lifting of code, or (ii) disputes over whether a "reimplementation" of an earlier program crosses the line from being an independent program of the same type, to having copied substantial parts of the earlier program (e.g. "look and feel" disputes).

How do you defend nearly identical code? Ask IBM. (1)

argent (18001) | more than 8 years ago | (#14760605)

How's IBM doing it in the SCO lawsuit over Linux?

I mean, that's one of SCO's claims, the argument that code that is similar because it's functionally equivalent must have been copied. Which is ludicrous. I've written code and then found open source equivalents that had the same function names, the same variable names, almost the same code, because some things just are natural and obvious.

To argue that similarities imply copyright infringement would like claiming that if two stories have a dog named "spot" that rides a firetruck, that's copyright infringement. Software contains elements much more complex and much more constrained than narrative, so even large sequences of common code are not automatically evidence of copyright violation.

i, j, k (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14760639)

Same variable names

Your honor, you can see at line 10 where the defendant clearly copied plaintiffs variable list, "int i, j, k;".

LMAO at Ya'll (1)

RecycledElectrons (695206) | more than 8 years ago | (#14760622)

I'm sitting here laughing at every one of you...read Sun Tzu...the copyirght war is over...you lost...and you're still debating how to reason with them....he he he he....pffttt....halarious!

Andy Out!

Nothing new on /. either (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14760651)

"The argument that source code is uncopyrightable, with some extensions could be applied to almost all, say, fiction stories since no one's written a truly new story in like five thousand years."

Someone with this shallow an understanding of the written word and story-telling should be ignored in-toto as to their views on copyright.

P.S. What's with the friggin' extended posting intervals?

Shit post. (0, Offtopic)

einexile (159759) | more than 8 years ago | (#14760681)

And this is a headline story on a well-read news page.

"The argument that source code is uncopyrightable, with some extensions could be applied to almost all, say, fiction stories since no one's written a truly new story in like five thousand years."

Flamebait. This is tantamount to saying nothing unexpected has happened to anyone in 5000 years. Ever notice how people who make this claim never offer a serious argument? Much less some examples. It's just tossed out there. Those of us who find the statment infantile are all too familiar with the pattern. "What about N?" we ask, to which the flamebaiter replies," Well, that's really just a hybrid of X, Y, and Z, with a little bit of Q thrown in."

There are really only three ways of responding to this stupid, nihilistic view of creativity and culture. You can give into it and accept the premise simply because you lack the time and energy to attack a black-hole argument based upon bitterness, or you can do the healthy thing and ignore it... or you can get sick of just ignoring it and flip the bird.

On behalf of those who are tired of just rolling our eyes and letting you get away with it, go fuck yourself.

At court, prolog rulez! (1)

Maljin Jolt (746064) | more than 8 years ago | (#14760819)

But how does one defend "nearly identical" independently created source code from a copyright infringement lawsuit?"

Use a logic programming language for coding. Lawyers never understand formal logic, thus logic programs are safe from any lawsuits against them, either valid or not.

Copyright in a nutshell (3, Informative)

n8ur (230546) | more than 8 years ago | (#14760829)

1. Copyright exists from the moment of creation, regardless of whether the work is ever published, and regardless of whether there's a copyright notice. Formalities like including the notice and filing a registration can be very helpful, particularly if you want to sue an infringer and collect money from him, but they are necessary for the existence of the copyright.

2. The copyright holder enjoys five exclusive rights over his creation: the rights to copy, distribute, display, perform, and create derivative works. Derivative works include modifications, translations, etc. He can grant licenses to others to allow them to do any combination of these things. Running software mainly falls under the right to copy since you need to copy the work into temporary storage in order to use it. The GPL focuses mainly on the right to distribute.

3. Slightly oversimplified, the test for copyright infringement is access to the work plus "substantial similarity." If you had access to the original, and produce something substantially similar, the burden shifts to you to show non-infringement. If you didn't have access to the original, no infringement. Period. If the two works aren't substantially similar, no infringement. Period. Of course, the legal and factual determination of what constitutes substantial similarity is where it gets interesting.

4. Copyright does *not* protect ideas, only the *expression* of ideas. If there's only one way to express an idea, you can't copyright that expression. An example is a language (computer or otherwise) -- since the idea behind the language and the way it is expressed are inextricably linked (i.e., the vocabulary, grammar, and syntax), the idea of the language and its expression are said to have merged, resulting in no copyright. APIs often fall under this analysis as well -- if there's only one way to interface to a system, that interface may not be subject to copyright.

5. "Fair use" is a defense to infringement -- it applies where the court finds (based on a number of factors enumerated in the copyright act) that the infringement was excused because the social good resulting from the infringement outweighs the harm to the copyright holder. Except for the relatively few areas where the Supremes or enough circuit courts have made a ruling (as in the Betamax decision), you never an absolute guarantee that fair use will apply; it's always a roll of the dice based on how a court weighs all the factors.

(Note: the above is all based on US law. Most countries are roughly similar, but there are differences.)

Copyright the WORK, not the source (2, Insightful)

PFI_Optix (936301) | more than 8 years ago | (#14760845)

You can't copyright a particular method of playing guitar. You can't copyright a process in writing a song. You can copyright the song itself, though. That is the end product of a creative process and should be considered unique to the artist.

As that relates to code, the code itself should not be copyrighted. In programming there are only so many ways to arrive at the same solution (sometimes), and copyrights could potentially remove ALL of those apporaches as options. The finished work should be copyrighted and protected in ways similar to music copyrights.

With music, if another artist clearly uses elements of the song in their own work without permission, it can be considered infringement. Software should be treated the same way. A user interface, a particular structure, and novel ideas should be copyrightable. It's the end result that is the work, the source is part of the creative process.

Access (1)

Absolut187 (816431) | more than 8 years ago | (#14761004)

>>
But how does one defend "nearly identical" independently created source code from a copyright infringement lawsuit?"
>>

Simple: you show that there was no copying - the same way you defend against any copyright infringement suit.

If your client's code is nearly identical, you have to do a really, really good job of showing that your client did not have access to the plaintiff's code.

IP, source code, and teaching (1)

thewiz (24994) | more than 8 years ago | (#14761027)

One of the big problems I see with copyrighting source code is how do you teach programming (no matter the language) without showing examples? Looking at examples and then trying to replicate something similar is how we learn to use a programming language. If all the ideas (hashing, tables, objects, etc) get copyrighted, then how do we teach the next generation of programmers?
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