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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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  • I'm surprised (Score:5, Informative)

    by msobkow (48369) on Tuesday July 16, 2013 @08:08AM (#44295041) Homepage Journal

    I'm surprised GitHub didn't require one to specify a code license of some kind when publishing code. The default if no license is specified is not "public domain", but private with all rights implicitly reserved for the owner of the code.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      "Public domain" is not a thing in many countries. In the UK for example, it is simply impossible to give up your copyrights while inside their term. The closest you can come is to license them under the WTFPL.

      • Even where it is a thing, I don't know of a single jurisdiction where it is the default thing. Arguably, something with no license information at all is probably on the bottom of the heap in terms of utility; because you don't even know who to call to beg for a license. At least 'conventional' proprietary code sometimes has a sales rep you can implore if you really need the stuff.

        • Works of the US government are, by default, public domain.
          • And when did GitHub become a work of the US Government? Git was originally one of Linus Torvalds' projects (when he got fed up with Bitkeeper), and GitHub offers both free and private repositories.
    • by Njovich (553857)

      Well, it's just about copyright. You still allow github to distribute the code, and anyone can use it, commercially and otherwise, as using something doesn't have any implication on copyright.

      • Nope, github by default lets you "view" and "fork" the code. No "use" rights were granted.
        • by VGPowerlord (621254) on Tuesday July 16, 2013 @08:52AM (#44295413)

          Forking is a "use" right.

          • by nedwidek (98930) on Tuesday July 16, 2013 @09:19AM (#44295687)

            From their terms of use:
            "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."

            So yes you can view and fork, but you don't get clone rights. The instant you do that, you infringe the copyright. So if you have no license that allows you to put out on your machine and use it, how useful is it? Until copyright or the Berne convention are changed, this is the world we live in.

            • by Njovich (553857)

              What is a "clone" right? You can clone it all you want. Copyright is about distribution. So if you mean distribute it in violation of copyright? Yes that is not allowed.

              "So if you have no license that allows you to put out on your machine and use it, how useful is it? "

              You can use it all you want, you just can't distribute it (ie. to others). If someone gives you a book, they don't have to give you a 'read' right. Under copyright you can use it for anything you want, you just can't make copies and give them

              • If you copy the code for your own use without distribution you have infringed the copyright. Distribution does not even come into it.
              • by Anonymous Coward

                You're getting confused with the GPL when you bring "distribution" into it. The GPL makes a distinction between distributed works and non-distributed works, i.e. if a work is distributed and it contains or links to GPL code, the entire work itself must be made available in source form.

                Other than the GPL and any other license which makes a clear distinction upon the act of distribution, distribution has no relevance whatsoever to copyright. In order to put it on your machine and use it, you have to copy it.

              • by dwheeler (321049) on Tuesday July 16, 2013 @10:59AM (#44297025) Homepage Journal

                Distribution is only part of the story. IANAL, but let's focus on US law, starting with the software-relevant portions of 17 USC 106 [cornell.edu]:

                "The owner of copyright under this title has the exclusive rights to do and to authorize any of the following: (1) to reproduce the copyrighted work in copies or phonorecords; (2) to prepare derivative works based upon the copyrighted work; (3) to distribute copies or phonorecords of the copyrighted work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending;"

                A common interpretation is that copies from storage to RAM are copies, and thus, you have to get a copyright holder's permission to run the software. I HATE this interpretation, I think it's a vile distortion of the original intent. However, it was upheld in "MAI Systems Corp. v. Peak Computer, Inc., 991 F.2d 511 (9th Cir. 1993)". For more about this controversial but widespread interpretation, see A new perspective on temporary copies: The Fourth Circuit's Opinion in Costar v. Loopnet (Band and Marcinko) [stanford.edu]. After the MAI decision, Congress then added 17 USC 117 [cornell.edu]: "it is not an infringement for the owner of a copy of a computer program to make or authorize the making of another copy or adaptation of that computer program provided: (1) that such a new copy or adaptation is created as an essential step in the utilization of the computer program in conjunction with a machine and that it is used in no other manner, ..." Basically, Congress said that even if copying to RAM would be considered a copyright violation (which it pointedly did not rescind), there's a special exception that it's okay to do if you're the owner of a copy of a computer program.

                But wait! That means you have to be the "owner of a copy of a computer program" to use the program (or get the owner's permission). Did github say you were the owner of a copy? No, it said that you could "view" and "fork". "View" sure isn't "owner of a copy", and it's dubious that "fork" means that either. Note that the github TOS doesn't define "fork", so it has no clear legal definition. Yes, technically there's no "use" right in copyright law, but under at least some common US law interpretations you can't use the software in US if the code is just posted on github. Many software EULAs claim you aren't the owner, and then grant you permission to run the program through contracts, but if there's no license you can't claim that a license gave you such permission.

                If you don't clearly give a right in a copyrighted work you create, then some judge gets to decide what rights (if any) are granted to users. You will probably not like what the judge says, especially since most judges don't understand software at all (there are glorious exceptions, but they're exceptional). Maybe "fork" gives users enough rights... but I wouldn't count on it. And since legal cases cost a lot of money, wise users will avoid software without licenses; they're not worth the legal risk. I hope that the "RAM copy as copy" interpretation is completely overturned someday, but that has not yet happened, and I wouldn't count on it happening soon.

                Lots of people have worked out software licenses for sharing software. Just pick a common open source software license (MIT, BSD 3-clause, Apache 2.0, LGPL 2.1 or 3, GPL 2+ or 3+).

                • A common interpretation is that copies from storage to RAM are copies, and thus, you have to get a copyright holder's permission to run the software. I HATE this interpretation, I think it's a vile distortion of the original intent.

                  Which is why 17 USC 117 [cornell.edu] exists. It's pretty clear that 117(a)(1) in intended to refers to a copy in RAM, but it's worded vaguely enough that it could refer to copies installed to a hard disk during installation as well.

                  Make no mistake, in US Copyright law, a EULA exists to take the end user's rights away, not give them permission to run the program.

              • > Copyright is about distribution.

                No, its about copying (which is why its called "copyright" and not "distributionright".)

            • by Yvanhoe (564877)
              Actually, by accepting that other people fork it, I do think that authors grant the implicit right to distribute it and produce derivative work. Their terms of use is a licence on its own. It would be very interesting to see how it is understood by a tribunal. "Forking" can be seen as implying copying, modifying it and distributing it. I welcome their move to push for licences, but I do think that they were already subtely pushing for a "kind-of" licence.
          • Forking may involve at least two of the rights that belong exclusively to the copyright owner.
            1. Copying
            2. Derivative Works
        • by Njovich (553857)

          They don't have to grant a 'use' right. There is no such thing as a 'use' right. Why would you not be allowed to use it? Do you live in North Korea with some insane laws or such?

          • by r_a_trip (612314)
            *** Why would you not be allowed to use it? ***

            Because to make effective use of the code on github, you have to make a copy of it. You duplicate what is on github and store it on a different medium. This, for the purpose of copyright, constitutes a copy and that is strictly forbidden without permission.

            So no license, no duplication, as you don't have the permission to make the duplicate. That is copyright in most countries and under the Berne Convention. So we all live in a draconian regime when it co
          • by dwheeler (321049)

            US law, as interpreted by many courts.

            The copyright law doesn't have a "use" right per se, but under many US districts making a copy from storage to RAM is considered a copy, and thus running software is forbidden unless specifically permitted by the copyright holder. You can thank the horrifically bad ruling "MAI Systems Corp. v. Peak Computer, Inc., 991 F.2d 511 (9th Cir. 1993)" for this travesty. See my post above for more.

            • This is a misleading statement of the holding in MAI Systems v. Peak Computer; at the time, US software law already had an exception for the owner of a copy of a copyright-protected work making a copy as necessary to use the work (as is the case with making a copy to RAM from storage), which was put in place specifically because this kind of thing was clearly viewed as copying before MAI Systems even if it had never been an issue in a case; the real substantive issue with regard to copyright law was that Pe

    • You're failing to appreciate the contempt people have for copyright law. It's all just "blah blah blah".

      • 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 odigity (266563)

          Just remember that you're blaming the victim.

          I didn't create the government or it's absurd copyright laws. When I post some code with no license, I'm not the one threatening to sue. I'm not the one creating a situation where you have to constantly fear me suing no matter how much I assure I won't.

          So now I have to go and slap a stupid label on my shit just so that you can feel safe and stop poking me with your but-the-government stick.

          The fact is, you're bitching at developers for not using licenses becaus

          • I didn't create the government or it's absurd copyright laws. When I post some code with no license, I'm not the one threatening to sue. I'm not the one creating a situation where you have to constantly fear me suing no matter how much I assure I won't.

            You are right. It's not your fault. Yet the situation exists and is unlikely to change.

            You write:

            . . . . you have to constantly fear me suing no matter how much I assure I won't.

            Let me make it easy for you. If you don't care what people do with your c

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 16, 2013 @08:21AM (#44295151)

    We've seen what happens with screwball licenses: anyone remember why qmail, djbdns, and daemontools never made it into major software distributions, despite being noticeably better than their alternatives? Because Dan J. Bernstein saddled them with a license where you couldn't publish your modified code or binaries from it, you had to publish *his* source and your diffs against it and let people build their own binaries locally. He finally got a clue and released it all as public domain, but it was too late. Inferior products (such as Postfix, BIND, and systemd) had evolved to the point where it wasn't worth investing any effort in Dan's technically and conceptually superior tools. I was in a stack of meetings where I had to explain that we couldn't get vendor support from those tools on our operating systems because Dan's license prohibited the vendors from shipping the tools.

    Hooray for reducing license wackiness!!!!!

    • by RevDisk (740008)
      I used qmail for a surprisingly long period of time. It's good, but I got the feeling he thought "This is perfect, no updates". Great security, good architecture, not great on diverse functionality. Had to move to postfix to support as many virtual domains as I was running.

      I could have modified qmail, but postfix did that I wanted out of the box and just needed the right config files.

      So, I wouldn't say licensing alone was the problem with DJB's projects. But that surely did not help. The guy seems ver
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Bernstein project were ignored because he wanted to run everything through daemontools, which UNIX did not need. Reporting bugs would be ignored, ever try it, he'd just delete the emails. He never bothers to respond, even a courtesy "thanks for the info", or "already fixed in next version", just silence. That is why the community gave up with him and his pet projects.

    • by BitZtream (692029)

      Right, thats why no one really uses his stuff.

      Not because it was less than useful for anything than your personal domain.

      His tools are far from technically superior since they dont' do things required that the others do. Used them all, they have their place, they are not the end all of solutions, they in fact don't fit most situations once you dig under the surface just a bit.

  • by mounthood (993037) on Tuesday July 16, 2013 @08:25AM (#44295195)

    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.

    No need for copyright notice on every file, a single LICENSE file is enough. If people want to merge files or copy parts of the code, then they can note the licensing. This attitude isn't helping when you imply that people aren't doing enough, even when they write open source code and license it appropriately.

    • Releasing software as free software is always good, but noting a file's copyright status in that file is simple and it's much easier for the author to do.

      The author can write "Copyright, 2013, me, released under GPLv3 or any later version". It's much harder for someone else to confidently write that, and it's hard to be confident of a file's copyright if the author of the copyright notice is some unrelated third-party.

      Then there's the problem of mistakes. If the author makes a mistake in his copyright not

    • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Tuesday July 16, 2013 @09:41AM (#44296007) Journal

      Not having a license on every file is a colossal pain for people wanting to take part of your code and integrate it into something else. I recently went through this with OpenIndiana: they wanted to take some of my code from another project and include it in their libc. This is fine - the license I'm using is more permissive than their libc so there's no legal problem - but I'd forgotten to include the license text in the file, I'd only put it in a LICENSE file in the repository root. Keeping track of the license for one file that is different from the others in the project imposes a burden for them and, without the copyright in the file, potentially means that others will grab that file and think it's under a different license.

      In short: Please put licenses in files. It makes life much easier for anyone wanting to use your code. If you don't want people to use your code, then you can save effort by not publishing it in the first place.

  • The lack of mention of GPLv3's patent-fighting provisions is the major bungle.

    It's hard to find a good name for non-copyleft licences since there are various versions of "the BSD" licence, and some are non-free. "MIT" is also ambiguous since that university surely has written various licences. "The licence of X Windows" is non-ambiguous, but not very recognisable.

    LGPLv3 is the only other licence I'd considering adding to that mix, with a link to FSF's own Why you shouldn't use the Lesser GPL for your next library [gnu.org]. It would be good to encourage the AGPLv3 too, but that could be an opt-in checkbox in a later screen.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      you shouldn't use the Lesser GPL for your next library

      Yes, because when I'm writing a library, what I want most of all is for fewer people to be able to use it.

      If anything, the LGPL should be used more often; it's a nice balance between the onerous GPL and the overly permissive BSD license.

      • Anon wrote:
        > ...when I'm writing a library, what I want most of all is...

        The LGPL is a tactical compromise. The aim is to get as many people using that library, but still encourage those software developers to contribute to free software projects.

        It's an admission that a firmer stance is likely to backfire.

        Conversely, when a firmer stance won't backfire, when it will instead lead to more people contributing to free software, then compromising is needless and self-defeating.

        For example, Glibc is LGPL'd b

        • by Rosyna (80334)

          For example, Glibc is LGPL'd because FSF knows that if it was GPL'd, then some Unix vendor would push projects to ignore Glibc and use their proprietary libc instead.

          As opposed to using the free libc that's part of clang/LLVM?

          • Clang/LLVM does not include any libc. All of the BSDs, however, ship their own (BSD licensed) libc. The libc in Android is mostly code from FreeBSD libc.
          • > As opposed to using the free libc that's part of clang/LLVM?

            Apple and other proprietary software companies would love everyone to move to LLVM. That's why Apple's funding it: LLVM's success benefits Apple (and other companies that don't want to compete against free software).

            Funding LLVM is a tactical compromise that Apple was forced into. FSF's use of the LGPL succeeded in making it too hard to get everyone to move away from free software, so Apple has to settle for undermining the copyleft system t

            • by samkass (174571)

              This post is supported by zero evidence. Apple moved to LLVM because gcc moved to GPLv3 which is incompatible with the way most software companies do business. They've released anything and everything related to it under BSD license so anyone can fork any of it at any time. You can even download and recompile your MacOS X [apple.com] kernel [apple.com] from source if you want to using completely open source tools [apple.com]. Apple is one of the more prolific open source contributors out there, including Bonjour, WebKit, stream servers, C

              • They just don't to GPL

                They actually do, since they publish CUPS, though with proprietary exceptions.

                • by kthreadd (1558445)

                  More specifically they don't do GPLv3, but has no direct problem with using and contributing to GPLv2.

              • > GPLv3 which is incompatible with the way most software companies do business

                Marketing FUD. What part of GPLv3 is anti-business? The part that says you can't give someone software and then sue them for patent infringement when they use it?

                > They've released anything and everything related to it under BSD license

                Apple's approach to free software is to use the BSD licence for stuff that already exists elsewhere (makes them look good and they get others to maintain it for free) and use a proprietary l

                • Marketing FUD. What part of GPLv3 is anti-business?

                  All of it, its viruslike nature that requires it to infect anything associated with it is why businesses want nothing to do with it. This is by design of your glorious leader RMS, it is intentional because he's a tree hugging hippie who forgets that someone has to actually work so his fat ass can eat.

                  Has Apple brought FreeBSD to a higher level? Nope. Have they profited massively from the free labour? Yep.

                  Seriously? You know absolutely nothing about this conversation do you?

                  The Apple kernel is in no way related to FreeBSD. Its a Mach kernel. A small portion of the FreeBSD Userland provides the 'unix' feel under the hood of OSX.

                  Apple did however contribute back FBSD's current USB stack. Contributed SMP code that removed the giant kernel lock, filesystem journaling came from darwin, superpages, dtrace support, ARM support, support for more than 16TB of ram, pure 64 bit support.

                  But heres the thing ... BSD licensed people ... give for free without silly virus like catches that come with GPL.

                  FreeBSD doesnt' EXPECT anything back, its not a false openness that really translates to 'If I show you mine, you have to show the entire world yours too!', BSD is a 'heres mine, enjoy, do whatever you want with it.'

                  Its the difference between giving and pretending to give with expectations on return.

                  You really have no clue. I haven't even listed the entire OSS projects that apple pretty much eats the maintenance costs for that you certainly benefit from, its not a short list.

                  You pretend to give, but what you really are doing is bartering for source code using something other than money then pretending to be on some holy God-sent quest of enlightenment. You're just a fake.

                • > What part of GPLv3 is anti-business?

                  The market-based restrictions on hardware products are anti-business (except in the B2B market that they exclude from the restrictions.)

                  • > The market-based restrictions on hardware products are anti-business

                    What part of the licence are you referring to?

                    https://gnu.org/licenses/gpl.html [gnu.org]

                    • Section 6, from the paragraph opening with A "User Product" is...

                    • That section says that if you give someone a device with software that's supposed to come with the freedom to run, study, modify, and redistribute, then you can't prevent them from modifying the software on that device and running it.

                      Where's the controversy?

                      The only problem is that some mega corps don't want to give those freedoms to users. If some companies won't keep their side of the deal, why should free software developers help them?

                      GPLv3 didn't create the problem of locked down devices. It's part of

                    • > That section says that if you give someone a device with software that's supposed to come with the freedom to run, study, modify, and redistribute, then you can't prevent them from modifying the software on that device and running it

                      Well, no. It says that a product sold in a certain market that comes with GPL-licensed software must come with the tools to enable running modified software on the device.

                      > Where's the controversy?

                      "Controversy" wasn't an issue. "Anti-business" was. And that restriction i

            • by BitZtream (692029)

              Uhm, Apple HAS moved to LLVM, an OS release ago.

              LGPL and GPL have succeeded in driving most businesses away from it due to fears of being sued by some asshole. That in and of itself is why GPL'd software is losing. You guys and your 'we're open ... but only open in a way that benefits us from your work!' Its a faux openness.

              Apple is going to have a hard time extinguishing something they don't own. Your statements are as retarded as saying Apple can extinguish GCC.

              Its REALLY fucking hard to make slower b

              • by kthreadd (1558445)

                And just to point out. Just because Apple isn't interested in gcc anymore and doesn't ship with it doesn't mean that you can't use it. Gcc works just fine on OS X, even modern versions.

              • > Please explain how apple is going to destroy a project that they contribute to, but do not own.

                If Apple puts all it's best work into proprietary extensions, LLVM could find that in a few years their compiler doesn't support the latest hardware, doesn't work with modern tools (debuggers etc.), and is slower than the proprietary version.

                Nothing gets "destroyed" in the sense of not existing any more, but who then would use LLVM?

                Copyleft is share-alike. Everyone respects the same standards of freedom for

        • by Anonymous Coward

          No, I read the essay, I just don't agree with it. Licensing your library as GPL so that only free* software developers get to link to it feels to me to be the same as licensing some software tool with a "if you write proprietary software you may not use this tool" license.

          Take git, for example. Let's say hypothetically, git came with a license that stated that it may only be used to manage source control on free* software projects and may not be used as a source control tool for proprietary software. Would

          • Copyright doesn't allow your git or text editor examples, but I would agree that those two situations would be wrong. Tools shouldn't be able to tell users what they can do. It'd be like pencil's coming with terms and conditions.

            But it's also not true that GPL'ing a library would cause its terms to apply to code you had nothing to do with. The third-party coder has a choice: write his own library, or use yours and share-alike. That's just fair. Nobody's forced.

            If proprietary developers can ask for paym

            • by kthreadd (1558445)

              It actually does. I guess it might depend on which jurisdiction you're in but usually you as a copyright holder can set any term you like, more or less. Some software is even licensed different specifically for open source work, like for example IntelliJ IDEA which you usually have to pay for but can get it for free if you're using it for open source. That's the same way that Microsoft can sell you a cheaper copy of Office which you agree should not be used commercially.

        • by kthreadd (1558445)

          If you're at the point where you have to compromise then why don't you just use something like BSD or Apache? Free but still restrictive like LGPL sounds like a really bad compromise which just complicated things.

          • LGPL is a compromise. Apache is just giving up and saying "please use my code, Mr. Company, you don't have to pay me anything for my work and you can make proprietary forks that exclude me".

            It's rare that the situation is so bad that we have to get that low. Ogg audio/video formats are a good example of where we have to beg companies to accept our donation of free work. The most important thing in that sector is to get away from non-free formats.

            But there's almost no other examples. Using LGPL requires

  • 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.
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      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 Immerman (2627577)

        But what does sensibility have to do with law? As a rule a law ceases to function as intended and begins to function as lawyers can twist the wording about five seconds after being passed. Contracts/licenses/etc are distorted similarly any time one of the participants deals in bad faith.

        It's not a desirable situation, but until the reality changes "in the trenches" it must be dealt with as-is.

    • 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.

      • We're speaking in the context of Github. Github, specifically, makes the improbable "exploit" of this loophole much more probable. Maybe not particularly
        likely, but likely enough to be a risk that should be considered.

        As part of my job, I contribute to an open source project, using Github. I sync my Github to upstream so it's up to date, and commit our changes to it.
        That way, our contributions are publicly accessible. In fact, they are publicly accessible in the context of a complete copy which includes
  • I'm using SourceForge.net and am happy with it, although there are some minor things I don't like about it: heavy use of JavaScript, the web layout is weak (size set in pixels, no attention made to accessibility, etc...) but overall I didn't find anything better short of hosting myself. I considered Google code, Launchpad, Savannah and Github and found SF.net to be the most complete and advanced source hosting service. I found some advantages in using Google code, Launchpad and Savannah. I'm using Launchpad
    • Well I could be wrong, but I believe SourceForge doesn't support private repositories. With Github, you can move a repository you own between public and private as you please (as long as you pay for the privilege of making a repo private). Github also seems to be oriented around developers more than it is around projects, as a result of being a 'social' tool.
  • "By downloading this software, you agree that you will gawk while I unzip, touch, head, and fsck some tail ..."

  • Default to BSD license or Public domain. Simply run a query that if one is not set, set it to Public domain.

    That will fix everything.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by ta_gueule (2795275)
      Not sure they can. I don't think Github get to decide what license to apply to the code they host. The code belongs to the author until he grants Github a license. If the user doesn't do it explicitly, I'm afraid Github is distributing the code illegally. I don't think Github is allowed to add a public domain license file by default.
      • by rioki (1328185)

        True and false. Through the TOS of github you grant github and it's users the right to view and fork the code; github and it's users are ok; as long as it is done in the context of github. The moment some user clones the repository locally, your start to get in the domain, where the license of the project becomes relevant. Here is the point where all the critique came from, viewing the code on the website ok, viewing on you machine, mabe ok, unsure, alliterating one bit or processing it, not ok.

      • by mlippert (526036)

        Github could require a particular license for pubic repositories if they wanted. I actually think it might even be a good idea. Not a specific license, but requiring that public repo's must specify one of a particular set of "open" licenses.

        They would probably have to implement this by requiring that a license be specified for any newly created public repository, and by giving existing public repositories a deadline by which they would have to specify a license or be "disabled". Disabled as in no one can pu

    • by BitZtream (692029)

      That would be illegal in every possible way.

      All content created in America is explicitly copyrighted, all rights reserved by the author.

      Github has absolutely no authority to change that, the only reason this topic is even in play is because the shear number of people who completely fail to understand copyright, such as yourself, think there needs to be some 'default'.

      There already is a default, and its not there so you get other peoples works because they forgot to tell you that you can't.

      Its not your code,

  • Can somebody point to (or write) an open source license chooser?

    Heck, back in 1998, I got a dog and Excite had a dog breed chooser at the time that was useful. There are also useful ones for cell phones. I'm guessing that if it existed already GitHub would have used it, but if that's not so, they should know about it.

    • In the simple case:

      If you don't care what others do with it, make it public domain.
      If you want recognition and copyright but still have others able to use it, make it BSD.
      If you want others to get access to changes people make in the code you wrote, make it LGPL
      If you believe in the Free Software movement, make it GPL

      • Don't make it public domain, because that's not valid everywhere. Use CC0 or WTFPL.

  • Evalimine is a publication, on github, of the software the Estonian government uses for electronic voting. [github.com] Confusion has arisen on that project ( see the issues ) about the license the guys used who put that code on github: they chose Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License [creativecommons.org] which basically forbids forking. Strange.
  • 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.

    I'm not going to shit up my code with copyright notices. I barely recognize copyright law as it is.

    • by BitZtream (692029)

      Awe, aren't you a such a cool rebel!

      No, no you aren't, you're just a little kid trying to show us how you aren't conforming!@!@%!%#!#

      Heres reality: You'll do what society demands, like it or not. You can 'not recognize' it all you want, and thats roughly the same as not recognizing water is wet ... all it does is makes it clear you're out of touch with reality.

      • by hammyhew (2729501)

        Awe, aren't you a such a cool rebel! No, no you aren't, you're just a little kid trying to show us how you aren't conforming!@!@%!%#!#

        What? So you're saying that the reason I don't include copyright notices inside my source files is...so that I can stick it to the man? That's not the reason at all. Those copyright notices at the top of source files are an eyesore, and I do not wish to look at them. They are not code, they do not belong in the source files.

        Heres reality: You'll do what society demands, like it or not.

        Really? Here I am, not doing what the unnamed group you've determined to be representative of all of society says I should. Therefore, you're wrong.

  • > but regrettably encourages the use of the GPLv2 (without the "or later version" clause)

    The GPLv2 is a much simpler and easier-to-understand license without the market/use-based restrictions of the GPLv3, and the "or later version" clause allows other people to relicense your code with you having no control of the terms (it basically involves trusting whoever ends up running the FSF for the remainder of the copyright term of your code,

    So, I don't think that encouraging the GPLv2 without the "or later ve

    • by yuhong (1378501)

      Personally, I think GPLv2 *or later* should be the default.

      • by yuhong (1378501)

        Unfortunately, the GitHub interface seems to make this more difficult than selecting one version.

      • I don't think anything that allows downstream licensees to relicense freely subject to only a third-party actor and not the licensor should be the default. Other than the FSF, no one benefits from that.

  • The cowboy contractor my company hired to write the first version of our flagship software used an unlicensed library he found on Github. (Actually there is a license file; it says "All Rights Reserved.") I've been trying to convince my bosses that this opens us to liability and we need to replace/rewrite that part of our app. But they're like... "whatever, it's open source."
  • This is really good news. Github has started to get seriously polluted with unlicensed software. Since copyright by default gives everyone else NO rights, this should help clean up things. I'm sure there are ways to improve their license info, but making it more obvious that people need to pick licenses is a good first step.

Remember, UNIX spelled backwards is XINU. -- Mt.

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