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Open Source Programming

Github Finally Agrees Public Repos Should Have Explicit Licenses 120

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the largest-open-community-running-on-nonfree-platform dept.
WebMink writes "After strong criticism last year, Github has finally accepted the view that public repositories with no open source license are a bad thing. Self-described as the 'world's largest open source community,' a significant number of GitHub projects come with no rights whatsoever for you to use their code in an open source project. But from now on, creators of new repositories will have to pick from a small selection of OSI-approved licenses or explicitly opt for 'no license'. In Github's words, 'please note that opting out of open source licenses doesn't mean you're opting out of copyright law.'" A quick scan of their new choose a license site reveals at least a few flaws: they present simplicity, caring about patents, and sharing improvements with others as mutually exclusive points when they clearly are not (e.g. the Apache license and the GPLv3 both help with patent concerns, but only Apache is mentioned; and the MIT/X license is listed as the simple license when BSD-style is more prevalent). They also imply it is entirely optional to actually note your copyright in your files, when it is really bad practice not to unless you really want to make it impossible for people to understand the copyright history when e.g. merging your code into another project. Their list of licenses does provide a nice overview of the features of each, but regrettably encourages the use of the GPLv2 (without the "or later version" clause), listing the GPLv3 and all versions of the LGPL in league with seldom used licenses like the Perl Artistic license.
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Github Finally Agrees Public Repos Should Have Explicit Licenses

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  • by raymorris (2726007) on Tuesday July 16, 2013 @08:26AM (#44295209)
    I don't think it's "regrettably" that the classic GPL (v2) is featured over v3. Many, many GPL projects have decided v3 is a bad license, so newbies shouldn't be pushed in that direction.

        The wording of the patent clause is broader than most of those who participated in the drafting intended, in a way that could be problematic for most companies. The GNU project themselves, the creators of GPL. v3, have had to disavow the plain language of the license, claiming it doesn't say what it does.

    I think most people intended that if you release code under GPL, you give up patent rights related to the code you contribute. The wording is broader than that, though. The way GPL3 is actually worded, if a company contributes to any GPL project a third party can use that project to nullify other patents from some other division of the company, arguably. The issue hasn't been tested in court, but it's enough of a risk that many companies won't touch GPLv3 code. It could cost Apple, Samsung, or Google tens of millions of dollars if that loophole allowed competitors to nullify their patents, rather than having to cross-license them.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 16, 2013 @08:31AM (#44295245)

    It could also be argued that hiring you as a consultant means I get to spend weekends with your mother and a can of spray cheese. It's about as sensible, if you actually read the GPLv3.

  • by dwheeler (321049) on Tuesday July 16, 2013 @08:44AM (#44295353) Homepage Journal

    We can thank the RIAA and MPAA for the contempt many people have for copyright law. And I agree that copyright law needs a serious overhaul.

    But releasing code without a copyright license isn't "sticking it to the man", it's polluting the world with software that is not legal for users to use. Even if YOU won't sue, no one can be sure of that. If you die (see: Seth Vidal), whoever controls your estate can sue your users.

    Releasing software without a license is just another way of setting up an extortion scam. It may be unintentional, but that's still the effect. We already have patent trolls, porn trolls, and so. Really, we have enough extortion scams, thank you.

  • by Kjella (173770) on Tuesday July 16, 2013 @09:19AM (#44295699) Homepage

    I think most people intended that if you release code under GPL, you give up patent rights related to the code you contribute. The wording is broader than that, though. The way GPL3 is actually worded, if a company contributes to any GPL project a third party can use that project to nullify other patents from some other division of the company, arguably.

    How is that exactly? The definition of "essential patent rights" is

    A contributor's "essential patent claims" are all patent claims owned or controlled by the contributor, whether already acquired or hereafter acquired, that would be infringed by some manner, permitted by this License, of making, using, or selling its contributor version, but do not include claims that would be infringed only as a consequence of further modification of the contributor version.

    I suppose that if I'm playing devil's advocate you could have a patented algorithm in one division and another division contributes to LibreOffice Calc, then someone else implements that algorithm in a spreadsheet and says "Hey, I haven't modified the code so your patent grant now includes this algorithm" but it sounds extremely contrived.

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