Open source, closed source, and the value of code

Matt Maier blueback09 at
Mon Feb 29 17:28:38 EST 2016

[disclaimer: I'm not a lawyer and this is not legal advice]

I sympathize with your confusion. There is inherent confusion around the
differences between "sharing" and "free/open source." In the former case,
it's just something people do. In the latter case, it is a legal standard.

Livecode Community uses the GPL
This is important primarily because your standalones include the Livecode
engine. Livecode owns the copyright on the engine because their programmers
wrote it and assigned their copyright to the corporation. Leaving it at
that means that nobody else has any right to anything with regards to the
Livecode engine. In order to facilitate things like community, and
learning, and customer development, Livecode is giving you (us) a license
to use the engine provided certain conditions are followed. In this case,
the GPL is a viral license in that you are only given a license to use the
code if the binary you produce with it also uses the GPL (or compatible)
license. Those are the terms under which Livecode is comfortable allowing
you to use their intellectual property.

It's worth mentioning that the language itself doesn't work the same way.
If you open up a text editor, and write down words which the Livecode
engine might happen to understand, then you still own the full copyright on
those words. You can do anything you want with them. So the copyright on
the source of a script-only stack belongs to you. If you compile it into
the standalone then it must be licensed GPL.

That means there's a gray area around something like distributing a
Livecode-compiled binary under the GPL (source must be provided) and also
providing one or more encrypted scripts which that application can decrypt
and access if it needs to. As I understand it, the GPL blocks distribution
of a GPL-licensed executable that *requires* closed-source libraries to
run, but does allow the copyright holder to write in a specific exception
if they want to. The gray area refers to an optional library that *enhances*
(like a plug-in) the GPL-licensed application. I think that is merely
discouraged, but not actually blocked.

So it might be worth asking Livecode if they'd be willing to add an
exception to their GPL license allowing "hobbyists" to distribute a
closed-source library that is not compiled into the GPL-licensed
standalone. That would allow "hobbyists" to keep some of their code secret.
Maybe Livecode could even charge a different amount for that license.

[Disclaimer: Again, I'm not a lawyer and this is not legal advice.]

On Mon, Feb 29, 2016 at 12:31 PM, Robert Mann <rman at> wrote:

> hi folks, what is this fuss about?
> First : no. The allegation about hypercard forcing the open source path on
> all usage is not true. There was a command to protect a stack ("protect" of
> course!) . And some interesting pieces of software were sold as protected
> stacks.
> And it is precisely that positioning which is about to be abandoned by
> livecode and why i think it's going backwards (with LESS) rather than going
> forward (with MORE).
> What the fuss is NOT :
> 1) I never questioned the Open Source version of Livecode. it's fantastic
> and needed.
> 2) I never questioned the Commercial version. Again it's great and helps
> going forward.
> What I questionned is that we're going to be missing an intermediate
> tool/license that would allow somebody to close SOME of his work at a
> reasonable cost for a hobbyist. Just as was originally designed in
> Hypercard.
> Now most reactions are : if it is to play around just don't bother and
> distribute as open sourced. Ok guys.
> But things are not just that "idealistically" simple. Sometimes you just do
> not know yet. And wish to try out something. Because some people just do
> not
> know everything in advance.
> And on a deeper level, please, do pay attention that it is our whole
> copyright system which is being thus challenged.
> -- would you find it "ok" that everything you write with your open sourced
> word processor be absolutely open sourced? Whatever you write? even if it
> is
> your next brilliant patent?
> -- same question for the various open sourced "tools" that allow to edit
> pictures, drawings, videos and so on.
> The fuss about is that in the present state of the license applicable to
> open sourced livecode,
> whatever you "write" with live code, if "given" "shared" to anybody else,
> then becomes open sourced.
> THe frontier between the tool itself (its modules etc) and the "day to day"
> work you can produce with it have been blurred. Fine if that is what was
> really wanted!  But did we really all mean that???
> Actually it would be interesting to precise what rights get open sourced in
> a stack :
> -- do all the media incorporated in a stack become open sourced when
> shared?
> -- what about the copyright on the layout of the application ?
> -- what about the writing of the documentation included?
> -- what about the logo of the company/individual  included?
> -- what about the trade marks eventually?
> What happens if you incoportate in a stack a specific copyright protection
> for some elements.
> There would be a kind of conflict there.
> That is why, I thought it would not be a bad idea to keep a door opened for
> some protection on some cases even for individuals indies etc. that will
> not
> pay 999$ every year.
> And if you think these question over copyrights and so on are just a do
> about nothing, for most of us it is, clearly, but for Disney who managed to
> extend the copyright period by another 25 years and more in effect it is
> vital. A largest part of our economy will now more and more rely on these
> rights.
> Last : are there other computer programming languages that are open sourced
> and that impose on all programs written with it to be open sourced same
> way??
> best to all,
> Robert
> --
> View this message in context:
> Sent from the Revolution - User mailing list archive at
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