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here's a sticky wicket if ever there was one

Started by on Feb 11, 2007 – Contents updated: Feb 11, 2007

Feb 11, 2007 15:23    

Okay here's the scoop. Imagine someone out there in the world wild web says

Yes, I’ll be releasing under an open source licence once I’ve nished the {item} cache and done a bit more testing.

Then adds an update to their web that says

Update: a development copy of the source code has now been released. Have fun!

"source code" is linked to (surprise) source code.

Next someone else comes along and says "I have made some improvements to your code that fixes an issue you mentioned, and here is the link to this improved version". A link is provided, and is clearly directly related to the original, and fixes the problem mentioned.

Then I get my hands on both the original and the companion code, and make an awesome hack/mod/extension for b2evolution that takes advantage of this thing. Elements of both files have been retained and ejected. I package it up neat as a pin for b2evolution users to enjoy, but first want to make sure I'm on the up and up, so I ask a question. I ask "is your code open source because I took your work and the derivative and made a cool hack for an open source blog app that I want to give away" because that's what I want to do.

The reply is, and I'll quote it:

I’m glad to see others are nding my (rough) code useful. You can consider my code as public domain and so are free to do whatever you like with it! Unfortunately, I can’t speak for {the other person} so it might be good to conrm with him.

Unfortunately the other person's web is (a) in a language I can't even guess at and (b) totally useless because nothing that clicks goes anywhere. So I went back to the original guy and said thanks but the other's guys web sucks. He said I'll see if I can get in touch with him via email, and that's where the story dies.

So is it open source since I part of what I use as a "here is the improvement to your open source code you desired" or is it crappy lousy lame closed proprietary stupid source because the guy smart enough to improve the code is too stupid to have a web with a workable contact path?

If I say "to hell with it" and give it up to b2evolution and they throw me in jail for the rest of my life would y'all every now and then wonder 'what ever happened to that dork who used to post all the time'?

Seriously: how does 'open source' work? No specific license or restriction was stated in either the source code or the dialog online. In fact there is nothing in the source and only the phrase "open source" used in discussion online. So WTF? It's a really cool hack that I'm sure a million people will want to have, and I've got it ready to go.


Feb 11, 2007 17:57

Ooo is this some backstory to why your plugins are so unbeatable? :P

I've asked around, and code is instantly copyrighted material as soon as it's written (Well that's the law here in australia)...

Licences come in when you want to distrubute the code, and it ensures that people just can't take it and then break the agreement in your licence, eg. someone taking b2evolution and then calling it wordpress360 and selling it for 10$ a pop.

So seeing as they have actually released the code, without a licence, you could do whatever you dam well please with it. But i think they can still take you to court if they wanted, but you just show those messages that you had with the co-author and it will work out.

I dunno, i'm probably just a little less confused as you on how this whole open source thing works. But pretty dam sure you have nothing to worry about.

Francois and Blueyed would have the best knowledge about this stuff I would imagine.

Feb 11, 2007 23:54

Given the fact that you have made all reasonable contact and received a positive "permission" I would go ahead and simple give an attribution plus a short disclaimer note about the "other" developer/contributorthat cannot be contacted.

Your arse is covered as you have done all you reasonably could be expected to.

Feb 12, 2007 06:28

Cool then, as that's sort of where I was at. I mean like the code is out there to see and it doesn't say anything special and it's not like I had to work to find it - it's linked on a blog post. And I have tried. And I'll of course give credit.

So look forward to visiglyphs for b2evolution in the morning. What's a visiglyph you might ask? Google the term and you'll see, or dig this: your commenter's IP is salted and hashed and salted and hashed, then the result is used to make a quilt-like 9-block .png file. In my hack-mod thing I then prepend the comment with the image tag and a class to flow the text around it.

Think of it as an IP-driven avatar.

Yeah. Cool. Especially for those of you who get comments because, like for example, you post about stuff people like to read about.

Feb 14, 2007 00:43

Interesting plugin and hackage. I saw it in action on your site and ... it looks like a 3rd party is now involved in the "credits"?

Personally, regarding your concern and original post, I think that:

1/ The fact that yer using it for open-source and giving it away would convince ANY legal intentity that yer not anybody to worry about,

2/ If you document (just don't delete ... nothing formal) any correspondence that shows you TRIED ... no one could ever really have a claim


3/ That it's better to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission! :D


Feb 14, 2007 16:36

As I understand it, one of the big advantages of the [url=]GPL[/url] is that when you release something under it, anyone who makes a derivative work must also release their code under the GPL and make it freely available. If the original code author had done GPL instead of public domain, then you would have known for sure that you can take any derivative work and make a further derivative work.

There are other open source licenses which don't require that derivative works also be open source. That's how Apple was able to take the BSD operating system and make a commercial version of it called OS X. The [url=]BSD license[/url] is more like public domain.

b2evolution is mostly GPL. There are some dual-licensed parts, too. That's why you can fork the code and make your own project from it, but it would have to be free and open source, too. GPL guarantees that any innovation built on GPL code will be shared with the community. That's good most of the time, but it also means that some commercial companies will choose not to use GPL code because they don't want to share.

Francois and Daniel know loads about this and can probably correct me on a few things.

I do agree with everyone else who's saying that you'll be fine. The worst you would get is a cease and desist letter asking you to take down your code. I doubt that ever happens. But this is a good reminder. I've been thinking that plugin authors (myself included) should pick licenses for their work and put in the appropriate notices.

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