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Open Source Software

Half of GitHub Code Unsafe To Use (If You Want Open Source) 218

Posted by timothy
from the but-they-said-to-download dept.
WebMink writes "GitHub is a great open source hosting site, right? Wrong. There's no requirement that projects on GitHub provide any copyright license, let alone an open source one, so roughly half the projects on GitHub are "all rights reserved" — meaning you could well be violating copyright if you make any use of the code in them. And GitHub management seem just fine with this state of affairs, saying picking a license is too hard for ordinary developers. But if you're not going to give anyone permission to use your code, why post it on GitHub in the first place?"
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Half of GitHub Code Unsafe To Use (If You Want Open Source)

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  • Because (Score:5, Interesting)

    by OverlordQ (264228) on Saturday December 01, 2012 @01:41PM (#42155175) Journal

    Because it's a free place to store a git repo as a backup.

  • That (Score:4, Interesting)

    by M0j0_j0j0 (1250800) on Saturday December 01, 2012 @01:45PM (#42155197)

    Is only a problem in places where computer algorithms can be patented. and beside, anyone just grabbing code and pasting direct onto a product without audit or modification is asking for a nice backdoor.

  • Terms of github (Score:5, Interesting)

    by phantomfive (622387) on Saturday December 01, 2012 @02:27PM (#42155475) Journal
    From the terms of service from github [github.com]:

    We claim no intellectual property rights over the material you provide to the Service. Your profile and materials uploaded remain yours. However, by setting your pages to be viewed publicly, you agree to allow others to view your Content. By setting your repositories to be viewed publicly, you agree to allow others to view and fork your repositories.

    If you use source code found on github, it's going to be hard for the author to win a copyright lawsuit. This is a non-issue. They've basically allowed you to fork the code (with the implication that you're going to modify it). I don't see them in any way being able to recover punitive or even statutory damages.

    The real danger with github, as with all open source, is ensuring that the project's owner hasn't stolen proprietary code from somewhere else. Imagine if Linus had grabbed some files from Unix, then IBM would have been in a lot more difficulty during the SCO case. Fortunately the only things Linus copied were semicolons and braces.

    But if you use someone's code through an open source project, you can be liable, even if you got the code under the GPL or BSD license, because the project's owner didn't have the right to give you that code.

  • by SwashbucklingCowboy (727629) on Saturday December 01, 2012 @02:39PM (#42155559)

    Lots of so called open source projects either don't provide a license or provide conflicting license information. For example, we recently looked at a project where the web site says it's MIT, but the code says it's public domain.

  • by rasmusbr (2186518) on Saturday December 01, 2012 @03:36PM (#42156041)

    In order to have copyright you must first create a work. Most of the code examples that people post on those sites are so short and trivial that I doubt that very many of them (as published in isolation) would qualify as works in most jurisdictions. Even if you have a code example that is complex enough to qualify as a work you could still probably copy-paste a few lines from that work without breaching the copyright, especially if those lines are trivial or obvious or constitute best practice in the language.

  • Re:Because (Score:4, Interesting)

    by cheesybagel (670288) on Saturday December 01, 2012 @04:25PM (#42156443)
    I only use GitHub for code I have written under non-commercial licenses. Mostly Linux ports of former commercial games. SourceForge won't host them. Icculus is a bit of a pain to convince to host your code. GitHub is one of the few choices available gratis.
  • Re:Because (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 01, 2012 @05:34PM (#42156787)

    Stop likening a web site to an unlocked house. That meme is tired and inappropriate.
    HTTP is a request response protocol. The server has every opportunity to deny a request.

  • Re:Because (Score:5, Interesting)

    by amorsen (7485) <benny+slashdot@amorsen.dk> on Saturday December 01, 2012 @07:36PM (#42157589)

    In sensible jurisdictions, the act of running a program is not a copyright event, since it does not involve distribution. When you download, compile, and execute something from Github, the only copyright event is Github distributing the source file. The rest is not of concern to copyright law.

    Alas, when copyright was conceived, copying and distribution were practically one and the same, so "right to distribute" was unfortunately misnamed "copyright". Many jurisdictions later looked at computers and misunderstood any bit duplication to be a copyright event. Denmark is one of the most extreme cases, where every (ISP or otherwise) router is subject to copyright law whenever it moves copyrighted bits around. That level of absurdity is fortunately fairly rare.

  • Re:Because (Score:0, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 01, 2012 @09:45PM (#42158333)

    Yes they should. Otherwise we would have no coders..

    I started coding at age seven and had no idea what licensing or copyright was at the time. It's just that line of text you put in a comment at the top of your code, right? Right? Used code from wherever I could to build my awesome apps. Then one day (age 8 I think) I got an angry email from a guy somewhere telling me I was infringing on his copyright. I had stolen most of his code, improved it and then mailed it back to him, super proud of what I had done. Didn't even share it with anyone else, but he still seemed quite angry. That was a horrifying experience and since then I've been extremely wary of what the licenses have to say, and what you can and cannot do.

    I bet that no one that starts coding have very much insight into licenses and what purpose they have. Most of those people have probably copied some code that they shouldn't have, and that's OK! Because one day it will come back and bite them in the ass and they will suddenly be very aware of what licenses are all about. And by that time they will probably be pretty good coders with a great interest in continuing to learn all about that stuff.

    Would you tell everyone interested in programming that they had to read up on all the different licenses and what they are all about before they were allowed to actually start coding?

    Failing is the best way to learn, and that includes licensing.

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