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» SmaugMuds.org » General » General Discussions » A question on licensing
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A question on licensing
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Post is unread #1 Jan 31, 2008, 2:28 am
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eldhamud
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While in the process of drafting up a new license for the Eldhamud2 codebase, i noticed that neither smaug merc or diku make any claims in regards to Comments in code, only copyright notices.

I have someone who may be contributing code to the base who has expressively asked that the license extend to comments in their code, and so i was thinking at the same time to just blanket cover all comments and require they remain in place as well.

Does anyone think this would be a major issue? or that it would make for an unworkable situation were you were potentially required to keep the comments for a block of code you may wish to delete because it is now obsolete or unused.

Any thoughts would be welcome.
       
Post is unread #2 Jan 31, 2008, 3:47 am
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David Haley
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I think that it's slightly unreasonable to ask that no comment whatsoever be removed from the code, ever. Sometimes comments become obsolete, and are then confusing or downright incorrect. It would be unreasonable to not be able to remove those comments from the code.

Presumably if you wanted to just outright delete the code it would be fair to delete the associated comments since you are no longer using the code that has comments attached. It gets complicated if the no-comment-deleting license is understood to apply to the entire contribution, in which case you would not be able to delete just part of it.

I think it might be worthwhile to ask this person what exactly they are trying to accomplish. If they're interested in comments that note authorship of small portions of code, then that is more reasonable. If they want every single comment -- in particular, documenting or explanatory comments, not authorship comments -- to become eternal, that is, in my opinion, quite unreasonable.

Incidentally, the code itself isn't eternal and locked in place -- why should the comments be?

Might want to ask the question on MudBytes too, seems like a question that could apply to more than just SMAUG-based MUDs.
       
Post is unread #3 Jan 31, 2008, 7:08 am
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Samson
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Ultimately, it's your project. If the terms have caused you to question the contribution to the point of needing to ask if the conditions they want to impose are reasonable, it might not be worth the hassle.

If all they want is credit, they should be reasonably satisfied by an offer to include them in the credits page, or in some other contributors section of the helpfiles and documentation.

For me, if someone demanded that all their comments were immutable in a contribution they wanted to make, I'd reject it as being too restrictive.
       
Post is unread #4 Jan 31, 2008, 9:26 am
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Zeno
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What if someone was using your source, and wanted to rewrite a certain function that has some comments in it? They would delete the entire function and rewrite it, but then they just violated your license.

I can't see it working.
       
Post is unread #5 Feb 1, 2008, 5:28 pm
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eldhamud
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Yeah i thought to myself that it would be an unworkable situation, thanks for your opinions. I will need to look for a way to satisfy this persons requirements that do not make it impossible or painful to work with the rest of the code.

Also, most snippet authors add a clause in their terms of use that requires that comments remain in place. If you were to remove a function how would that leave you in regards to those terms of use.
       
Post is unread #6 Feb 1, 2008, 6:52 pm
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David Haley
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If they stipulate that as long as you use their code, you must include their comments, then as long as you are using their snippet, you must leave all comments intact. I suppose that you could always remove a function and just leave the comments floating in space... :wink: But technically since the snippet is not licensed on a per-function basis but on a whole-snippet basis, you'd be stuck with having to keep all of the comments if you want to use any of the snippet.
       
Post is unread #7 Feb 1, 2008, 7:39 pm
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Quixadhal
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IANAL.

In my opinion, copyrights are designed to protect the author of a work, to ensure their work is not claimed as anyone else's, and to ensure they have the opportunity to take advantage of opportunities the creation of their work might present (be it money, fame, self-esteem, whatever).

As such, retaining comments in a module, and retaining comments which show who authored a particular section of code, makes perfect sense.

Retaining every little comment, regardless of accuracy, applicability, and clarity is not only counter-productive to the entire point of sharing code, but it twists the spirit of the law into something that is, IMHO, morally wrong.

Anyone attempting to impose such a rigid restriction on their code clearly has no real interest in advancing the community through providing useful, mutable code... but simply wants their name out there at all costs. Personally, I would send them to another venue.
       
Post is unread #8 Feb 2, 2008, 1:30 pm
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Samson
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There is another possible angle to this that I'm not sure anyone though of. Perhaps the person who imposed those terms is simply trying to make sure that anyone using the code leaves the appropriate credit notices in place and doesn't find some sneaky way to sidestep that by stripping them out?

It's a sad testament to the state of the community when these kinds of things have to happen because there are folks like Vryce who have turned us all paranoid about having due credit stripped and someone flaunting it as their own work instead.
       
Post is unread #9 Feb 3, 2008, 2:15 am
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David Haley
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Here's another thing to consider. If the code was released as a snippet, and not to you personally, then all you have to follow are the snippet's public license rules. The license would, technically I suppose, have to explicitly mention you (or mention revocability) in order to be able to bind you in particular to terms that are not mentioned in the public snippet. And if the snippet is indeed released publicly, it would be a fairly edgy precedent to set to require you personally to follow a different license from every other person who downloads the snippet.
       
Post is unread #10 Feb 3, 2008, 10:00 am
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Samson
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There is already precedent for this within the community. The Rom codebase has a specific stipulation that those who associate with known code thieves and license violators are not allowed to use the codebase, and they provide Vryce as a specific example of the type of person they mean.

Also consider, a snippet's license is usually implied to mean you have permission to use it in your own codebase, but unless there's explicit permission granted to then distribute that in a codebase you've been developing, you can't assume those rights. A license exists only to grant permission to use one of the copyright holder's exclusive rights.

This is why FUSS 1.9 is allowed to use the code and have it distributed as part of that. Kayle granted the project a license to use the code and distribute it as part of the codebase. He's also granted me a license to distribute the code as part of AFKMud. I've granted permission for the parts I contributed to become part of FUSS. But that license does not by default extend anywhere else as far as derivative distributions unless that permission is granted.

Which probably means we need to cook up a quick license to go with the distribution so that problems like this don't come up later with folks assuming "I downloaded it, therefore I can."
       
Post is unread #11 Feb 4, 2008, 2:28 am
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David Haley
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If snippets are going to play games with licenses, it should perhaps be a requirement that uploaded snippets include a license to solve the problem entirely (or there be a default but explicit license for snippets that don't include one). Your idea of the implicit license is different from mine: the implicit snippet license for me is that you may use it in your codebase, as long as you give me credit, and you can still share your codebase. (Actually, I thought this was everybody's implicit understanding, including yours -- you also use and redistribute snippets that don't always have licenses, do you not?) People can't just arbitrarily assume one set of implied rights but not another.

And yes, it would probably be a good idea to have a FUSS license so that related issues are taken care of. Since FUSS derivatives are implicitly allowed to be redistributed, there really is no reason why somebody who didn't get permission to redistribute a snippet wouldn't be able to if they were a FUSS derivative -- even if they never got permission from the snippet author.
       
Post is unread #12 Feb 4, 2008, 6:34 am
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Samson
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I think it's safe to say that when someone uploads code, they intend for other people to use it in their codebases. Otherwise, exactly what is the point?

The problem is, that doesn't necessarily mean that someone wants their code distributed as part of a new codebase by someone else, unless the license already says that's allowed - or the person has been given permission to do so by the author on an individual basis.

FUSS is a bit of a different animal in that regard because it started off as nothing more than bugfixes, but has since suffered "feature creep" and has become more that that. However, that still does not change the fact that the Smaug license does not specifically grant anyone the right to redistribute the resulting work as a derivative. And before anyone gets their panties in a wad, Thoric and Nivek both granted permission for FUSS to be distributed.
       
Post is unread #13 Feb 4, 2008, 12:01 pm
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David Haley
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Samson said:

I think it's safe to say that when someone uploads code, they intend for other people to use it in their codebases. Otherwise, exactly what is the point?

The problem is, that doesn't necessarily mean that someone wants their code distributed as part of a new codebase by someone else, unless the license already says that's allowed - or the person has been given permission to do so by the author on an individual basis.

And I would counter with the following question: what is the point in a snippet that, without specifying a license, forbids all future distribution of a codebase? It doesn't make sense that a snippet that doesn't say anything about distribution would expect people to stop distributing their base for as long as the snippet is in there.

Technically it doesn't matter if it makes sense or not: if the license doesn't say it, you can't do it. So even using it in code is taking a right you weren't given. It seems just as clear to me that you're implicitly allowed to still redistribute your code as it seems clear to you that you can use snippets without an explicit license.

Regardless, my point is that if people are going to even think about snippet licenses (giving them to the public, revoking licenses, etc.), it makes no sense to do so unless the snippet has a license to consider. Otherwise we're in this nasty and incomprehensible mess of who thinks which implied rights have been given.

Samson said:

And before anyone gets their panties in a wad, Thoric and Nivek both granted permission for FUSS to be distributed.

That's all well and good, (and indeed a very good thing! :wink:) but it says nothing about other people down the line. Following your own reasoning, it should be concluded that every single distributed FUSS derivative is breaking the license because they do not have a license to redistribute -- FUSS has the license, not people who derive from FUSS. Clearly, that situation is rather untenable and certainly not what people intended... so something somewhere is quite broken.
       
Post is unread #14 Feb 4, 2008, 2:11 pm
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Kayle
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<sarcasm>David, I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to file suit against you for pursuing an argument . Sorry.


Since that seems to be the trend now-a-days and all.</sarcasm>

:lol:

(Just to be perfectly clear, I'm not being serious.)
       
Post is unread #15 Feb 4, 2008, 2:19 pm
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David Haley
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I counter-sue you for ... uh ... public defamation about suing me! There, take that. :evil:
       
Post is unread #16 Feb 4, 2008, 2:38 pm
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Kayle
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Oh yeah?! Well..

I counter-sue your counter-suit against my suit for Um... Cheezburgers!!

So There!!!! :devil:
       
Post is unread #17 Feb 4, 2008, 2:49 pm
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David Haley
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Well, I can't argue with Cheezburgers, so I have to concede defeat on this one. :lol:
       
Post is unread #18 Feb 4, 2008, 2:59 pm
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Kayle
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I win? Hawt.
       
Post is unread #19 Feb 4, 2008, 7:01 pm
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eldhamud
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If you publish *any* part of dikumud, we as creators must appear in the
article, and the article must be clearly copyrighted subject to this
license. Before publishing you must first send us a message, by
snail-mail or e-mail, and inform us what, where and when you are
publishing (remember to include your address, name etc.)


The Diku license grants you the permission to redistribute,


In order to use SMAUG you must follow the Diku license and our license. The
exact terms of the Diku license are in the file 'license.diku'. A summary of
these terms is:


The smaug license grants you the same basic rights as the diku license and extents on it somewhat. So no one has to ask anyone permission to do anything because the licenses grants it already. What asking does however, in the FUSS example and also in regards to asking for rights to redistribute as part of a base the work of a snippet author, is create a contract between the 2 parties. A contract exists when there is negotiation and agreement between 2 parties. There does not have to be a signature or a written contract, verbal contracts are well supported by most civilized nations.

People already know what i think of licenses in general, they are a joke and a create a world of hypothetical situations that we waste our time arguing over. Heck I revoked license on samson and yet in the light of much other discussion that i have read, i doubt that i even have the legal right to do so.

I for one much prefer to work in the world of contracts. I deal with them every single day and you always know where you stand, and if someone screws you over you can sue their asses off for breach of contract or failure to deliver or a great many other laws that we know the outcomes from.

Im sure that someone out there can contractualize the use of snippets, because i know not everyone wants to public domain their code work, a simple click through would do it, this give the user of the snippet certainty of use and for the writer of the snippet real recourse through tried and tested contract laws that have been tested in places other then the court of public opinion.

       
Post is unread #20 Feb 4, 2008, 8:20 pm
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David Haley
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Somehow the idea of contractualizing snippets seems excessive to me, and would be a very unfortunate departure from the relatively free spirit of collaboration we have. In fact, that is the same sentiment that makes me uneasy and unhappy about all these license revocations, personal licenses, etc.
       
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