Open source, closed source, and the value of code
ambassador at fourthworld.com
Thu Mar 3 21:07:19 CET 2016
Robert Mann wrote:
> GPL is a very special kind of automatic contract that is attached
> to a piece of work and which describes what the receiver of that
> piece of work can or not do with it.
> As such it is a very special contract in the world of contracts
> because it does not require the agreement of the receiver, which
> is "implied" by the act of receiving.
All works, software or otherwise and regardless whether the license is
open source or proprietary, must include its license terms if the person
distributing it wants others to use it at all.
The only safe interpretation of a work distributed with no license is
that it has no license.
Software under proprietary license includes a license, as does software
under open source license.
There's nothing all that special about the GPL in this regard, nor are
its terms merely "implied". The recipient has the license with the
software, and it's a good idea to read it, as is expected with any
software, even proprietary packages.
As for the rest of your post, I'm not an attorney. And while my own
layman's understanding of GPL terms more closely reflects Mark Wilcox's,
I've been unable to convince anyone at Drupal, Wordpress, Joomla, or the
FSF that all of them are wrong with regard to their common
interpretation of "derived works".
As I wrote here back in Dec of '13 and have referred to since, a clear
definition distinguishing "derivative work" from "mere aggregation" is,
in the words of the FSF themselves, "a legal question, which ultimately
judges will decide."
And given the vast and ever-growing variety of ways code can co-mingle,
a single definition for all possible cases may even elude a judge if
this definition is ever needed in court.
It's more than I could claim to offer legally-binding advice to others
on. "I'm just a humble caveman programmer. The ways of your attorneys
frighten and confuse me." :)
So for myself, I tend to interpret all licenses, GPL, proprietary, or
any other, in the narrowest terms which limit my rights as severely as
could be reasonably interpreted, so that the odds of my running afoul of
any possible future definition are as narrowly contained as they can
If I need something that isn't clear, I'll sometimes write the creator
of the work to have them clarify their intentions in writing. And other
times I just write my own code. I made my own CMS because Drupal offers
no way to deliver proprietary plugins without annoying that community. I
like Drupal folks; it does me no good to annoy them.
This is just my personal policy, but it lets me get a day's work done
and sleep at night.
Others may have different goals. It's possible to spend one's time
poking and prodding around the edges of what's written to find out where
the boundaries might be, how much we might be able to get away with even
if it differs from what we know the author intended. We can choose to
spend our time lots of ways.
I'm not an attorney and can offer no legal advice, and unless someone
here is licensed to practice law in your jurisdiction and willing to do
so, your query may be best taken up with a lawyer licensed as such in
Fourth World Systems
Software Design and Development for the Desktop, Mobile, and the Web
Ambassador at FourthWorld.com http://www.FourthWorld.com
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