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Beware of "Backspaceware"

CmdrTaco posted more than 6 years ago | from the we-hates-it-so-much dept.

257

SubLevel writes "Since conception in 2004, Paint.NET has been generously been offering the software community the taste of successful freeware, by allowing anyone to download and decipher the entire working of their extremely popular photo editing program. As posted in the Official Paint.NET blog by Rick Brewster, "Backspaceware" as he has so coined has become a tremendous issue. "Paint.NET's license is very generous, and I even release the source code. All free of charge. Unfortunately it gets taken advantage of every once in awhile by scum who are trying to profit from the work of others. I like to call this backspaceware*. They download the source code for something, load it up in to Visual Studio (or whatever), hit the backspace key over the software's name and credits, type in a new name and author, and re-release it. They send it to all the download mirror sites, and don't always do a good job covering up their tracks.""

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257 comments

Let me introduce you (5, Insightful)

0xdeadbeef (28836) | more than 6 years ago | (#21708376)

to the solution [gnu.org] to your problems.

Not all GPL violations get handled as smoothly (4, Informative)

tepples (727027) | more than 6 years ago | (#21708476)

to the solution [gnu.org] to your problems.
Years ago, I dealt with somebody who backspaced my freepuzzlearena [pineight.com] package, which was distributed under GNU GPL version 2 [fsf.org] or later. Specifically, he did not "includ[e] an appropriate copyright notice" on the title screen. We cleared it up amicably: he agreed to stop distributing the backspaced version. But not all GPL violations get handled as smoothly as this one was.

Re:Not all GPL violations get handled as smoothly (1)

kryten_nl (863119) | more than 6 years ago | (#21708684)

You can sign over your copyright to the EFF (correct me if I'm wrong) and they will defend your code vigorously.

Re:Not all GPL violations get handled as smoothly (3, Informative)

j-pimp (177072) | more than 6 years ago | (#21708728)

You can sign over your copyright to the EFF (correct me if I'm wrong) and they will defend your code vigorously.

I know the FSF provides this service. I did not know the EFF did.

Re:Not all GPL violations get handled as smoothly (1)

rucs_hack (784150) | more than 6 years ago | (#21709030)

Its just the FSF as far as I'm aware. I looked into it myself, but opted for them listing my project but not holding copyright.

Re:Let me introduce you (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21708614)

What, so stallman can take the credit and get the benefits? How does that help?

Re:Let me introduce you (4, Interesting)

pkadd (1203286) | more than 6 years ago | (#21708796)

Regardless of the lisence, people still breach it by making backspacewar eof it. I've seen it happend to alot of my work, which is why i avoid making it opensource unless people ask for it, or when it's a project i don't really care about. I don't make much commercial software, although i like to keep my name on my work to receive credit where credit is due.

The solutions easy (2, Insightful)

rucs_hack (784150) | more than 6 years ago | (#21709052)

Just have a project so obscure or specialised that no bugger's going to think its worthwhile nicking in the first place. Like mine for instance /sob.

Actually licensing is the way to go. True no license will stop someone stealing it, but it will give you the right to send 'cease and desist' notices to any site hosting the offending code. Its very hard to spread a usurped version of a program if reputable download locations won't host it.

Re:Let me introduce you (5, Insightful)

JesterXXV (680142) | more than 6 years ago | (#21708820)

If you RTFA, you'll see that this guy violated Paint.NET's current license, so putting a different license in there would solve absolutely nothing.

Re:Let me introduce you (2, Informative)

ucblockhead (63650) | more than 6 years ago | (#21709100)

If he were to GPL it, he could assign the rights to the FSF, which has things like lawyers and such whose job it is to go sue people for violating licenses.

Re:Let me introduce you (5, Interesting)

TopherC (412335) | more than 6 years ago | (#21709346)

If you RTFA, you'll see that this guy violated Paint.NET's current license, so putting a different license in there would solve absolutely nothing.

But the GPL has been "tested" in court, while Paint.NET's current license has, I assume, not been yet. Also there are organizations that will help you in court if it's a GPL violation. So in part it's a matter of practicality, not principle.

Also Paint.NET should consider exactly how they want legitimately derived works to happen. If the GPL prevents certain kinds of derived works that they might like to see others create, then it's not the right license on principle.

Hmm, currently they're using the MIT license [opensource.org] , which is extremely permissive. I don't even see a prohibition against re-branding and re-crediting in the license. So it's not obvious to me that the current license is being violated. Perhaps it is and I'm just not seeing it because IANAL. Anyway, consider that the current license provides next to nothing in terms of protection, and that's what the authors chose. The GPL provides substantial protection against abuses, and if paint.net wants to whine, they should "sublicense" (which is explicitly permissible under the MIT license) first to demonstrate that they really don't want this stuff to happen. The MIT license looks to me like a big "kick me" sign.

Re:Let me introduce you (1, Informative)

man_of_mr_e (217855) | more than 6 years ago | (#21709452)

Umm.. no. The GPL has not been tested in court. At least, not in the way you are implying. It's true that there have been a number of lawsuits against violators of the GPL, but every one of these has resulted in a settlement out of court. There has never been any decision by a court that explicitly upholds the GPL.

There is a lot of weight to the argument that a large number of settlements effectively make it "tested", but that's only really a probability, not a fact. Until such time as a decision is handed down by a court, upholding the validity of the GPL, and assigning damages to the copyright holder (either monetary or injunctive), there will still be a question.

Re:Let me introduce you (2, Insightful)

0xdeadbeef (28836) | more than 6 years ago | (#21709400)

Except the GPL has a posse, and GPL violations generate far more publicity than just some guy getting ripped off. Corporations are scared of it for a reason.

Copyright clauses are hardly a license. If he cares so much about plagiarism that he's now crippling the source, maybe community ownership is preferable to controlling a string with his name in it.

Re:Let me introduce you to a lie (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21708936)

Corrected your title.

And to provide instruction to ones who will. You see, the GPL does not offer protection. Courts can. If you don't have the 'nads to go to court, you don't get protection.
http://lkml.org/lkml/2000/8/5/75 [lkml.org]

So, whats the big deal? (-1, Flamebait)

webmaster404 (1148909) | more than 6 years ago | (#21708390)

Really, whats the big deal? If someone can download the program for free over the main site, with source, then unless it is adware (which I am sure it is not) they have nothing to lose by someone just deleting the credits. Even if they claim it as their own, if they don't have the coding talent to fix bugs or add features, people will go elsewhere. Its doing nothing except spread the program.

It's copyright infringement (4, Insightful)

tepples (727027) | more than 6 years ago | (#21708406)

The majority of copyright licenses used for popular free software applications require people who redistribute the software to preserve the original author's copyright notice. Failure to do so is plagiarism, and the license treats plagiarism as copyright infringement.

Re:It's copyright infringement (2, Insightful)

webmaster404 (1148909) | more than 6 years ago | (#21708464)

Yes, thats wrong, but does it hurt you that much? Not hardly at all. Sure its not nice but the real question is, did you lose any money or users that would contribute and such. I highly doubt that. This probobly happens to almost all F/OSS software at one point in time, but the people who do that don't have the coding talent to keep up with releases. I am not saying that it is not bad, but for a title of "beware of backspaceware" is kind of overstating that.

Statutory damages (3, Interesting)

tepples (727027) | more than 6 years ago | (#21708514)

Yes, thats wrong, but does it hurt you that much?
Under United States law, whether it hurts the author does not matter, except in the narrow reckoning of fair use (17 USC 107). Some free software maintainers are smart enough to register major releases of the software with the United States Copyright Office. If such a release gets backspaced, a jury may award the author $750 to $30,000 in statutory damages (17 USC 504(c)) despite that the author cannot prove economic harm.

Re:Statutory damages (1)

webmaster404 (1148909) | more than 6 years ago | (#21708544)

Still though, in reality it does absolutly nothing, sure it may be illegal, my point isn't to say that it is not illegal and that it is not bad, but to say that it shows absolutly no harm, and for 99.99% of F/OSS projects it will not affect them in the least.

Re:Statutory damages (1)

squiggleslash (241428) | more than 6 years ago | (#21708590)

You don't view it as doing harm. The authors who want recognition for their work do. And copyright law is on their side.

Re:Statutory damages (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21708678)

Stop talking about the law, you nitwit!!! He said, my point isn't to say that it is not illegal. Can you FUCKING READ? He ALREADY KNOWS it's against the law. Man! You pedantic fuckers!

Re:Statutory damages (2, Insightful)

BorgCopyeditor (590345) | more than 6 years ago | (#21708790)

You're the nitwit. The GP mentions the law, but the focus of the comment was on harm, which the GGP keeps insisting is what is relevant instead of the law.

Re:Statutory damages (5, Insightful)

Xaositecte (897197) | more than 6 years ago | (#21709074)

Here's the thing:

1. Various people in this thread cannot see the harm in distributing software without giving credit for it.

2. The Author of the software sees this practice as harmful, whether as a material loss, a potential to lose copyright by not defending it, The principle of the thing or any number of other reasons. The only thing that matters is the author believes he has been harmed by this copyright infringement.

3. These are contradictory viewpoints, and amount to little more than opinion when placed in a vacuum. The rational, logical discussion you think you're looking for is impossible. We are forced to look at how disputes like this have been settled in the past, an appeal to the majority in the form of looking at established laws.

Therefore, the law IS relevant, and is pretty clear cut in this circumstance. Society judges harm has occured.

If you want to make an arguement without considering established law, all you're doing is intellectual masturbation. If you want to make an arguement about how the law should be changed, by all means, make it.

Re:Statutory damages (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21708612)

If the name doesn't matter, what's the reason for changing it?

Re:Statutory damages (4, Insightful)

kryptkpr (180196) | more than 6 years ago | (#21708638)

I've had this happen to projects I lead. Adware/spyware is almost always bundled (it's distribution is the primary motivation for Backspaceware), and this definitely causes harm. Fortunately, sites like download.com have a review process and they found my email address buried in the 'about' dialog, I guess the backspacers missed one...

Re:Statutory damages (5, Insightful)

zakkie (170306) | more than 6 years ago | (#21708786)

Sometimes there is a direct loss when work is plagiarised. Also, Google has odd algorithms for determining how high one should place in their rankings. I release all my data under the GPL and often legitimate copies and absolute ripoffs both rank higher than I do for most search terms I would expect people to find my site with. Monetary loss aside, the fact that someone is trying to pass off another's hard work as their own is simply despicable.

Re:Statutory damages (1)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | more than 6 years ago | (#21709466)

Lying is the greatest harm in the world. It causes people to act irrationally.

In this case, you're giving people reason to believe that you the plagiarist have competency when you don't, and you're removing the evidence of the authors competence and skill. On top of that, you're making the whole world a place full of lies and deceit, where we need to recheck everything over and over in case some malignant asshole is polluting the truth.

Liars should be put to death.

Re:It's copyright infringement (4, Insightful)

pipatron (966506) | more than 6 years ago | (#21708566)

but the real question is, did you lose any money or users that would contribute and such

Fortunately, for most people, money is not everything, nor even that important. A big reason for working on free software is simply to get your name out there. To be recognized. This is exactly what the person robs you of, doing this.

Re:It's copyright infringement (1)

Penguinisto (415985) | more than 6 years ago | (#21708808)

It certainly didn't hurt Microsoft when they ripped off FreeBSD's TCP/IP networking stack and called it their own, no?

'course, it didn't do the FOSS community any favors by that action...

/P

Re:It's copyright infringement (5, Insightful)

rucs_hack (784150) | more than 6 years ago | (#21709070)

It certainly didn't hurt Microsoft when they ripped off FreeBSD's TCP/IP networking stack and called it their own, no? /sigh

Here we go again.

Microsoft did not rip off the BSC TCP/IP stack. They, and every other OS vendor were *expected* (almost required I think) to use it, AND they left the copyright notices in, as required. The idea was that everyone would be on the same page, as it were. OK Microsoft buggered it a bit with their darn silly extensions, but even these did not stop network connections from other OS's from working properly.

Re:It's copyright infringement (1)

DECS (891519) | more than 6 years ago | (#21709208)

Microsoft appears to have used the BSD networking code according to its license, as did many other operating systems. This is actually a good thing, because it ensured Windows would at least be interoperable with other IP clients, and likely have better networking compatibility than had Microsoft written up an implementation itself.

There are a variety of reasons to support open source, and not all are "to end all proprietary development." BSD/MIT/Apache licenses in particular are open to encourage interoperability and code reuse. Writing GPL software that nobody can really use commercially in a closed project provides alternatives to those who want only open software, but does nothing for the vast majority of users who just want things to work.

Microsoft should now drop its IE code and adopt Mozilla or KHTML, and support Open Document by basing the next version of Office on OpenOffice code. Tee Hee. Oh, my sides hurt. Perhaps Windows 7 could just be Linux with a Microsoft .Net middleware running Microsoft branded OpenOffice and Microsoft Firefox.

Should Apple TV Copy Tivo and Media Center? [roughlydrafted.com]

With Apple holding onto 91% of the market for digital video downloads, one might think that the company's rapid ascendancy in movie sales would have received more attention by the media. Instead, reporters have suggested reasons why the figures don't really matter and analysts are offering their advice on how to "fix" Apple's digital strategy. Most of the suggestions involve Apple stooping to copy the failure of Microsoft's DRM-centric rental revocations or the Media Center/Tivo DVR money pit between the rock of cable providers and the hard place of consumers looking for cheap hardware.

Re:It's copyright infringement (2, Insightful)

Kjella (173770) | more than 6 years ago | (#21709442)

His copyright notices yes, but the "About" box is not a copyright notice. You can replace any about box with "Backspacesoftware Deluxe, (c) Backspacecorporation Inc. This software contains code licensed from third parties, click link below for details". All you need to do is to notify people is to obfuscate yet still technically inform people it's under the GPL and have a source file available and you're home free. Example would be to hide it behind a separate page "License details", and during installation not mention the intent of the license or the name, just that this is a licensing agreement you need to click through like other closed source software.

Technically there's nothing the GPL can or should do about this, for example because Debian had some trouble with the Firefox trademark requirements, they released iceweasel. Iceweasel is in pretty much every form of definition "backspaceware", even though there's nothing malevolent about it. Nor is "backspaceware" really distinguishable from a fork in its infancy. The good guys of course give credit and say "this is baed on..." but the bad guys don't. But trying to make that a formal requirement would probably lead of pages of everything all your software and libraries once upon a time was based on.

They are no longer sharing the program (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21708530)

They have subsumed the "program" by re-assigning its identity.

What was once a program being passed around became a vestige of that person's ego.

If you're not adding features or fixing bugs, why bother, except to get recognition?

Re:So, whats the big deal? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21708556)

As a freeware author, reputation is all you can expect to get in return for your work. It's bad enough that so many ad-laden download sites exist which make users jump through hoops to get the actual file or find a link to the homepage, all the while bombarding them with banners and popups. Never mind that the file is usually available from the well-sorted homepage without a hitch. But now some people even rip you off for the attribution. Quite frankly, be thankful for every piece of freeware that is still out there, because most authors wouldn't take that kind of shit if they got paid for it.

Re:So, whats the big deal? (2, Insightful)

Neoprofin (871029) | more than 6 years ago | (#21708846)

I think rather than the problem be "I am not getting my due recognition and payment (if applicable)" is that someone else is taking all the time an effort of someone else which allows them to get the recognition and potentially payments if they incorporate a program they got for free and simply slap a $5 price tag on it.

Operation as normal (1, Insightful)

explosivejared (1186049) | more than 6 years ago | (#21708396)

Unfortunately it gets taken advantage of every once in awhile by scum who are trying to profit from the work of others

When there is profit involved, that is going to happen. If you can be scammed expect to be scammed. You just have to hope that users are informed and intelligent enough to realize who was really responsible for the software. Welcome to capitalism. If one can get away with it, one can make as much money as they want

Re:Operation as normal (5, Insightful)

BlueParrot (965239) | more than 6 years ago | (#21708510)

Welcome to capitalism. If one can get away with it, one can make as much money as they want


That isn't a feature of capitalism, it's a feature of human nature. Yes, it does mean you can't blindly trust a capitalist system from sorting everything out, but it is the very same principles which causes communist countries to go corrupt, and it is also why extreme liberalism will be taken advantage of by those who have the power/influence/money whatever to game the system.

Corruption isn't a matter of how governance is organised or how you set prices in your economy, it is a matter of transparency, openness and people being held responsible for their actions. If that does not apply it matters fuck all what economic system you use, you will just get different people screwing you over.

Now before people start suggesting direct democracy or some far-fetched ideal about having every company democratically controlled by the workers, you need to take into consideration that for democracy to work you need a transparent electoral system you can trust. Thus it still boils down to government transparency and people being slapped when they break the rules. There is no way around that.

Re:Operation as normal (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21708570)

WRONG! The MARKET solves ALL problems! Communist!

Re:Operation as normal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21708886)

no any economy related school knows that the market can fail, for various reasons, even though many extreme captialists tend to deny that.

Re:Operation as normal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21708946)

That was a joke, son.

Re:Operation as normal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21709104)

That was a joke, son.
So is President Bush, but too many still take him seriously. (new AC)

Re:Operation as normal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21708986)

WRONG! The SOVIET solves ALL problems! Capitalist Pig!

Re:Operation as normal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21709174)

The reason you weren't modded up as funny, is because nobody actually believes that. A large number of FOX news viewers believe that the market solves all problems, and call people who disagree with them communists. And they are serious. That's why the PP was modded funny.

Re:Operation as normal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21709298)

In Soviet Russa, the Communist markets YOU!

Obfuscated C (5, Funny)

Bios_Hakr (68586) | more than 6 years ago | (#21708408)

This is a good reason to implement obfuscated C for things like the program name and author.

Source code defined (4, Informative)

tepples (727027) | more than 6 years ago | (#21708582)

This is a good reason to implement obfuscated C for things like the program name and author.
But obfuscated code is arguably not "source code" as many common copyleft licenses define it. For example, the source code for a work under the GNU General Public License is "the preferred form of the work for making modifications to it". GNU manuals are distributed under the GNU Free Documentation License, which addresses obfuscation more directly: A "Transparent" copy of a document "is suitable for revising the document straightforwardly with generic" software, and "A copy made in an otherwise Transparent file format whose markup, or absence of markup, has been arranged to thwart or discourage subsequent modification by readers is not Transparent."

Re:Source code defined (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21708716)

For example, the source code for a work under the GNU General Public License is "the preferred form of the work for making modifications to it".


You're smoking crack if you think "the preferred for of the work for making modifications to it" refers to readability and understandability. Sometimes people just aren't smart enough to understand and nothing in the GPL will ever imply that the contributor adding the complex code must explain to the stupid how it works and why.

Creative Commons (1)

thomas.galvin (551471) | more than 6 years ago | (#21708418)

The merging of Creative Commons Non-Commercial licenses for resource files with GPL or MIT style licenses for the code is going to get interesting. Basically, it says "yo can do anything you want with this code, except this part right here, and the whole thing will fail to work without this part right here." At least, that's what I get out of the text...

Closing the source? (4, Insightful)

Richard W.M. Jones (591125) | more than 6 years ago | (#21708440)

His "solution" to this seems to be to close the source for parts of the program, which is a major overreaction to this joker.

I don't think he should be worried - as long as his (the "genuine") program appears higher up in Google for the name and the important search terms, people will ignore the plagiarist.

Rich.

Re:Closing the source? (1)

GoofyBoy (44399) | more than 6 years ago | (#21708676)

>I don't think he should be worried - as long as his (the "genuine") program appears higher up in Google for the name and the important search terms, people will ignore the plagiarist.

Then definitely he should be worried.

The users suffer when they lose their freedom. (0, Troll)

jbn-o (555068) | more than 6 years ago | (#21708822)

So if Paint.NET's entry somehow appeared lower in some search engine's rankings, writing and distributing non-free software would somehow be justified? No, it wouldn't, but only if you value software freedom for its own sake [gnu.org] . This shows yet another instance of how different the free software and open source philosophies are: open source philosophy will lead to defending endorsing programs which don't qualify as open source (which, I take it, is the movement you advocate for since you refer to "closing the source [gnu.org] ").

If what you're saying is true, I will not recommend the use of Paint.NET because that program no longer respects its users software freedom. I will recommend The GIMP instead, even for people who find The GIMP to have far more features than they really need (as so many do with the proprietary Photoshop program).

Re:Closing the source? (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 6 years ago | (#21708850)

which is a major overreaction to this joker.

This guy is definitely overreacting big time. He's trying to make it sound like it's a chronic problem. Why call it "backspaceware" when it's one guy? Just call it "whatever the guy calls his ripoff program."

Re:Closing the source? (2, Insightful)

Threni (635302) | more than 6 years ago | (#21708892)

> His "solution" to this seems to be to close the source for parts of the program, which is a major overreaction to this joker.

Exactly. It's a free program. Why should anyone care? Is this an ego thing?

Re:Closing the source? (3, Interesting)

mysticgoat (582871) | more than 6 years ago | (#21709106)

OTOH, his behavior is consistent with having first decided to close the source, and then coming up with this as an acceptable excuse to lay out before his user base.

Perhaps the people at his day job, at Microsoft, have offered to buy his copyright. There would be a need to close the source in a way that would not offend potential purchasers of any Microsoft product that would be marketed as a follow-on to the users of his original work.

Either the author of TFA is incredibly naive about the software community, or he is attempting to do something clever in the way of marketdroid spin. I doubt very much that he could have gained sufficient experience to write a major piece of software without losing his naivety along the way. OTOH, he works in an environment that values cleverness in exploiting markets and marks above honesty, ethics, or legalities.

Just saying.

Re:Closing the source? (4, Insightful)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 6 years ago | (#21709356)

Yeah. I think this is an interesting example of how underdeveloped and pathetic the OSS scene on Windows is. It's like going back in a time machine to 1988, when nobody had ever heard of the Gnu Project, nobody had ever heard of copyleft, and "free" software meant a mixture of illegally copied closed-source software and legally downloaded closed-source nagware, tipware, and crippleware. I sympathize with the author of Paint.NET, but he's fighting against a culture where most people have no idea what OSS is, and where all the social mechanisms the Linux/BSD community has developed don't exist. It's as though some British banker showed up in the Trobriand Islands in 1880 and announced that he was going to build a stock exchange. This whole thing would be a nonissue if this was Linux rather than Windows. Paint.NET is apparently a very popular piece of software with an active user community, so if it was Linux software, it would certainly have been packaged for Debian by now. People would be getting the latest version by doing an "apt-get install paint-dot-net." Imagine if someone made a backspaceware version of The Gimp -- obviously it just wouldn't work.

I used to be interested in the idea of spreading the word about OSS by making cross-platform apps available on both Windows and Linux -- the kind of thing that theopencd.org used to do. I had a a GUI app I'd written for my own use on Linux, and while I was at it, I made sure it ran on Windows. On the one hand, it was surprisingly successful. Judging by the emails I was getting, the vast majority of my users were on Windows. On the other hand, it was a huge amount of work to support those Windows users, and I started to question whether I was really accomplishing anything useful. When you write OSS that runs on Linux, you get that warm fuzzy feeling of belonging to a community and building something big and exciting. When you write OSS that runs on Windows, the users are not a community that has the same philosophical goals and is working toward the same ends; the users are people who typically couldn't care less about OSS (that's why they run Windows) but who simply want something for free. I ended up putting a notice on the web site saying that I would no longer provide support for Windows users; the source is still open, and they're welcome to try running it, but if it doesn't work, I don't have any motivation anymore to put in time helping a community that doesn't care about the things I care about. I don't think I'm alone in having this kind of experience. For instance, theopencd.org's site now says they're no longer actively developing the CD, and just has links to ubuntu, etc.

What's sad about the Paint.NET story is that the author seems genuinely pained and bewildered by the situation he's in, and since he doesn't seem to care about free information per se, it's like he doesn't have a compass to guide him. He runs up against this issue, and his reaction is, "oh well, I'll take the software closed-source." That's what the whole Windows OSS scene is like -- a bunch of people wandering around without any common vision of what they're trying to accompish. It's like watching the Israelites wandering around in the desert without Moses.

Shady business practices (4, Interesting)

drspliff (652992) | more than 6 years ago | (#21708456)

I've seen this a number of times, shady people who only want to make a quick buck or have entirely unrealistic expectations of what software development costs or how it's done. At the root of this problem are either the shady people trying to make a quick buck, or the shady freelancers trying to meet the requirements on a non-existant budget.

Lets take the average scenario:
- Shady person sees a piece of software and thinks they can make some money if they made their own.
- Shady person has no programming knowledge, so posts on rentacoder or similar.
- Because they have no idea of what software development entails, or in order to make money it must cost next to nothing.
- Shady freelancer or outsourcing business wins the bid.
- Shady freelancer re-brands an existing piece of software in a day and the job's complete.

Quite a few times this is down to freelancers knowing they can just re-brand an existing open-source project, or even the shady business knowing they can get it cheap if freelancers do that.

Some times they get lucky and their "product" gets more success than the original project, but it's origins are now hidden and will be forever because you can't just come clean 6-12 months down the line when it's making money.

I've long called this pump and dump software, companies or individuals trying to build up a large portfolio of software under a common brand covering the widest market possible in the remote hope that they'll profit from some.

Re:Shady business practices (0, Troll)

Woodpeckeruk (1098697) | more than 6 years ago | (#21708506)

Isn't that how Microsoft got started?

Re:Shady business practices (1)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 6 years ago | (#21708988)

To their credit, I'm fairly sure they actually bought the rights off the original author legitimately, and did not steal DOS.

Re:Shady business practices (1)

VGPowerlord (621254) | more than 6 years ago | (#21709470)

I'm pretty sure that they actually wrote the BASIC interpreter for the Altair. Heck, Paul Allen apparently wrote the bootloader on the plane trip out to Altair's HQ because Bill Gates forgot to write one.

Oh, wait, were you referring to DOS? See the reply above mine.

So... use an appropriate license (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21708520)

Offer the source on the condition they don't change the name or remove the author. If they violate that, you sue.

WTF? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21708524)

It's usually called copyright infringement, if this guy is too stupid to assert his authorship rights... that's his problem.

What an asshole!

Re:WTF? (2, Interesting)

dosius (230542) | more than 6 years ago | (#21708730)

Nah, it's worse (imho) than copyright infringement.

Most of us who casually infringe copyright don't delete the existing copyright notices and claim the stuff to be our own. These people do, making it plagiarism, which to me is copyright infringement compounded by *fraud*. I could care less about copyright infringement myself, but woe betide anyone who takes my work and calls it theirs!

-uso.

Re:WTF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21709026)

Nah, it's worse (imho) than copyright infringement.

Most of us who casually infringe copyright don't delete the existing copyright notices and claim the stuff to be our own. These people do, making it plagiarism, which to me is copyright infringement compounded by *fraud*. I could care less about copyright infringement myself, but woe betide anyone who takes my work and calls it theirs!

Not so much a humble opinion as an ignorant one. Removing or doctoring attribution invalidates (nearly) all permissive copyright licenses. That you don't understand this doesn't change the legality of the situation.

Fear not; perhaps others will start respecting your views on plagiarism (covered under copyright statutes) when you start respecting their views on redistribution?

Perception of copyright (3, Insightful)

michaelmalak (91262) | more than 6 years ago | (#21708568)

This is of course no different than what can be done with a hex editor on a binary. Somehow, being able to see the source code gives a lot of people the sense that they can do whatever they want with it. There has always been that mistaken notion that source code is the keys to the kingdom; for example, companies take great pains from letting their source code leak out, especially to their competitors. There are rarely secrets contained in source code (except for Microsoft's NSA backdoors), and if a competitor got it, more power to them wasting their time trying to reverse engineer it.

But there's something new contributing to this perception, which is the general disdain for copyrights these days. It's the record companies' fault, of course, for withholding sales of digital audio during the entire dot-com boom. Now they're struggling to sell singles for a fourth the price they were selling for 25 years ago, adjusting for inflation.

People think they have an entitlement to commercial music, and they think catching a glimpse of the source code gives them full rights.

Re:Perception of copyright (3, Insightful)

doshell (757915) | more than 6 years ago | (#21708662)

There has always been that mistaken notion that source code is the keys to the kingdom; for example, companies take great pains from letting their source code leak out, especially to their competitors. There are rarely secrets contained in source code (except for Microsoft's NSA backdoors), and if a competitor got it, more power to them wasting their time trying to reverse engineer it.

It is orders of magnitude easier to reverse-engineer source code in a high-level language than it is to reverse-engineer machine code or even assembly code (especially when you have software at your disposal that can obfuscate the compiled machine code). That's why leaaking out source code is much more dangerous from the point of view of the proprietary software company.

My impression... (1)

pkadd (1203286) | more than 6 years ago | (#21708574)

...is that changing the name of the author a breach of pretty much any lisence there is, as well as the general copyright law. I am aware of this happening alot, which is why i rarely release source code of my works, unless it is a project that took less than a day to write.

Now why didn't I think of that? (1)

anss123 (985305) | more than 6 years ago | (#21708598)

Anyone know?

Re:Now why didn't I think of that? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21709156)

It's because deep down you're no capatilist, just like the rest of us aren't. Only a very small and very disturbed collection of people are and have somehow tricked us into thinking that it's the answer to everything.

This comment sponsored by the RIAA (1)

carou (88501) | more than 6 years ago | (#21708628)

Do you still have all of your source files? Yes. Has anything been stolen? No. They're only 1s and 0s. None of those users were going to pay for support anyway. No harm, no foul.

Right?

Backspaced comments (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 6 years ago | (#21708660)

Tell me about it. I post some really insightful comment in slashdot and somescum cut and paste it and post it as their own insight in other fora and blogs.

Certified that this comment is not a cut and paste of another poster's comment. Well, as far as I know. And I don't know much.

Re:Backspaced comments (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21708736)

I was thinking similarly, I post some really insightful comment on slashdot and some scumbag posts it as their own insight on other forums and blogs.

- AC

Re:Backspaced comments (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21708816)

Tell me about it. I post some really insightful comment in slashdot and somescum cut and paste it and post it as their own insight in other fora and blogs.

Certified that this comment is not a cut and paste of another poster's comment. Well, as far as I know. And I don't know much.

--
If you think the whole world revolves around you, quit staring at the GPS display while driving.

Backspaced comments (2, Funny)

Xocet_00 (635069) | more than 6 years ago | (#21708856)

Tell me about it. I post some really insightful comment in slashdot and somescum cut and paste it and post it as their own insight in other fora and blogs.

Certified that this comment is not a cut and paste of another poster's comment. Well, as far as I know. And I don't know much.

Re:Backspaced comments (1)

stormguard2099 (1177733) | more than 6 years ago | (#21708862)

I think you should feel pride that you have created comments insightful enough to be copied. Surely, the reason you posted them was to spread insightful knowledge and not merely to appear intelligent so your goal is still being accomplished right?

CentOS = backspaceware? (4, Funny)

MeanMF (631837) | more than 6 years ago | (#21708694)

Better not give that prominent North American Enterprise Linux vendor any ideas. They might try to put CentOS out of business.

Re:CentOS = backspaceware? (3, Insightful)

caseih (160668) | more than 6 years ago | (#21709042)

Glad to see the moderators correctly marking your post as funny. On a serious note, though, this "prominent North American Enterprice Linux vendor" doesn't own the copyright on most of the software they distribute to begin with. Both they and CentOS properly attribute the copyright owners. And despite the removal of trademarks (done at this "prominent North American Enterprice Linux" vendor's request), they do still attribute copyright to RedHat on programs and scripts that RH created.

Re:CentOS = backspaceware? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21709370)

Shouldn't this read : RHEL == backspaceware ?

captcha: bastards...

don't let the door hit you on the way out (1)

m2943 (1140797) | more than 6 years ago | (#21708696)

If you feel someone hasn't complied with your license, then enforce your rights.

Going closed source because of a license abuse of a single individual just shows Brewster wasn't serious about open source in the first place.

beware of geeks bearing gifts? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21708734)

'nothing is free', unless it's membership in the creators' wwwildly popular planet/population rescue initiative, or, nothing at all. to regain yOUR freedom may be more costly than one might imagine.

in the end, the creators will prevail (world without end, etc...), as it has always been. the of gaining yOUR release from the hostage situation may not be what you might think it is. butt of course, most of US don't know, or care what a precarious/fatal situation we're in.

some 'races' we'll wish we lost;

for example; the insidious attempts by the felonious corepirate nazi execrable to block the suns' light, interfering with a requirement (sunlight) for us to stay healthy/alive. it's likely not good for yOUR health/memories 'else they'd be bragging about it?

we're intending for the nazis to give up/fail even further, in attempting to control the 'weather'.

http://video.google.com/videosearch?hl=en&q=video+cloud+spraying [google.com]

meanwhile, the life0cidal philistines continues on their path of death, debt, & disruption for most of US;

gov. bush denies health care for the little ones

http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/10/03/bush.veto/index.html [cnn.com]

whilst demanding/extorting billions to paint more targets on the bigger kids

http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/12/12/bush.war.funding/index.html [cnn.com]

all is not lost/forgotten/forgiven

whilst (yOUR elected) president al gore (deciding not to wait for the much anticipated 'lonesome al answers yOUR questions' interview here on /.) continues to attempt to shed some light on yOUR foibles;

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article3046116.ece [timesonline.co.uk]

still making his views known worldwide, whilst many of US keep yOUR heads firmly lodged up yOUR infactdead.asp(s) hoping (against overwhelming information to the contrary) that the party LIEn scriptdead pr ?firm? fairytail hypenosys scenario will never end.

for each of the creators' innocents harmed in any way, there is a debt that must/will be repaid by you/us, as the perpetrators/minions of unprecedented evile, will not be available after the big flash occurs.

'vote' with (what's left in) yOUR wallet. help bring an end to unprecedented evile's manifestation through yOUR owned felonious corepirate nazi glowbull warmongering execrable.

consult with/trust in yOUR creators. providing more than enough of everything for everyone (without any distracting/spiritdead personal gain motives), whilst badtolling unprecedented evile, using an unlimited supply of newclear power, since/until forever. see you there?

And why do I care? (0, Troll)

mi (197448) | more than 6 years ago | (#21708754)

I am a Slashdot participant. Information wants to be free. I can download other people's music and movies, and share them with millions of my friends via the Internet. Why can't somebody else do the same with software?

Re:And why do I care? (4, Insightful)

Mr2001 (90979) | more than 6 years ago | (#21708998)

I am a Slashdot participant. Information wants to be free. I can download other people's music and movies, and share them with millions of my friends via the Internet. Why can't somebody else do the same with software?
You're trolling, of course, but here's an answer anyway. The objection is not that the software is being shared -- Paint.NET is freeware anyway, it's supposed to be shared -- but that someone else is taking credit for the real author's work.

That's fraud: the "backspacer" is lying to every person who downloads the modified software from him (and probably infecting them with spyware too). Many Slashdot participants, like myself, believe that copying and redistribution should be legal with or without the author's permission, but that doesn't mean we approve of fraud. Sharing copies of Star Wars is not the same as telling everyone you're George Lucas.

Re:And why do I care? (1)

mi (197448) | more than 6 years ago | (#21709302)

Many Slashdot participants, like myself, believe that copying and redistribution should be legal with or without the author's permission (emphasis mine -mi)

Thanks, I'll bookmark your post to illustrate my argument in future debates.

but that doesn't mean we approve of fraud. Sharing copies of Star Wars is not the same as telling everyone you're George Lucas.

Broken analogy. The injured software author in the article is not being impersonated. If you want to stick with movies, the situation being discussed is more like Michael Moore renaming "Star Wars" into "Stripe Wars" and replacing Emperor with Bush.

this happened to me (5, Interesting)

drtsystems (775462) | more than 6 years ago | (#21708788)

I spend a lot of time writing a PHP script for myself and decided to release it to the public. I think I threw a GPL notice on it but the source was included either way due to it being PHP. Well I put it up on my website and a few months later go back to update it. I search online and find someone selling it for $50. He refused to take it down when I asked him to which really added insult to injury. (He claimed he downloaded it from limewire therefore its fair game? wtf?) Considering he was actively advertised "his program" (mine with my name and stuff backspaced) he got a lot more people to download it then I did even though mine was free. I eventually got him to take it down by sending a cease and desist notice. (Thanks for the template RIAA)

Re:this happened to me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21709014)

He was fully within his rights under the GPL to take your name out and sell your script. If you don't want people doing that, then don't release under GPL.

Re:this happened to me (1)

thona (556334) | more than 6 years ago | (#21709032)

Actually he is not. He is fully in his rights to sell it, but he is not in the rights to take the authors name out and sell it as his own work.

Re:this happened to me (3, Informative)

psychiccyberfreak (1158187) | more than 6 years ago | (#21709034)

4. Conveying Verbatim Copies. You may convey verbatim copies of the Program's source code as you receive it, in any medium, provided that you conspicuously and appropriately publish on each copy an appropriate copyright notice; keep intact all notices stating that this License and any non-permissive terms added in accord with section 7 apply to the code; keep intact all notices of the absence of any warranty; and give all recipients a copy of this License along with the Program. You may charge any price or no price for each copy that you convey, and you may offer support or warranty protection for a fee. So in other words you can modify it and sell it, but if it's copywriten under your name and he removed that, then it's breaking the GPL and you can sue him.

Re:this happened to me (4, Interesting)

drtsystems (775462) | more than 6 years ago | (#21709214)

well he completely got rid of any GPL notices. The fact that it was a PHP script meant that the source was there but he was trying to sell "licenses." I would have no problem with someone adding features to my script and releasing it as a derivative work. I'm obviously not trying to make money off of this seeing as I released it for free in the first place. Its the fact that he pretended it was his, gave me no credit, and tried to make money off of it without doing anything besides backspacing a few lines in the code.

Re:this happened to me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21709284)

assign copyrights to the FSF. they will sue if you wont. they have on staff lawyers for exacty this thing.

One of the culprits (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21708802)

This person was one of the named examples:
Ultra Software backspaceware [ultra-software.com]
On the products page a number of applications have been "re-branded".
I would imagine Mr. Hardy is blissfully unaware whether anyone has noticed.

If he doesn't like it (0, Troll)

masterrr (1169953) | more than 6 years ago | (#21708832)

If he doesn't like it he shouldn't be releasing the source under a license that permits it. Isn't the MIT license GPL compatible? And I know that with a GPL program you can do exactly what he is complaining about, as long as you release your source as well. Sure, no matter what the license there will be douchebags out there that will break it, but if your license allows something don't complain about it when it happens. And you don't like the ones that are breaking the license? Then don't release the source code. I know there are a lot of FOSS lovers here that will hate me for saying that but if it is your code and you don't want people using it then don't open source it.

ahh (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21708894)

They download the source code for something, load it up in to Visual Studio (or whatever), hit the backspace key over the software's name and credits, type in a new name and author, and re-release it.

Ahh, the Eric S. Raymond school of software development.

Free Open Source Software (1)

tristian_was_here (865394) | more than 6 years ago | (#21709336)

If FOSS was crap then nobody would want to distribute it. Do you think Vista would get redistributed if it was any good let alone free.
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