Author Topic: Copyright and Licensing: Nothing to fear but fear itself?  (Read 27752 times)

Bear

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Re: Copyright and Licensing: Nothing to fear but fear itself?
« Reply #30 on: August 13, 2014, 10:59:32 PM »
If you really want to interpret it strictly in terms of fear?  That's ... weird, but okay.

You can fear being arrested, tried, and eventually commanded to pay a fine and reparations if you violate copyright terms. 

Specifically, that means if you take a GPL'd program, modify it, and release the result as a non-GPL program, the copyright holder (who may be the original author, or may be the Free Software Foundation or someone else to whom copyright has been assigned) can take you to court and sue you for the infringement.

That said, try not to be such a twit about saying GPL stuff is unusable for commercial projects.  If you want to write commercial closed-source programs, there is absolutely nothing that prevents you from using GPL tools to do so.  gcc, gdb, and the rest of the toolchain you need for creating software are all open source, and you can use them as much as you like to create things that aren't. 


Omnivore

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Re: Copyright and Licensing: Nothing to fear but fear itself?
« Reply #31 on: August 13, 2014, 11:13:40 PM »
That said, try not to be such a twit about saying GPL stuff is unusable for commercial projects.  If you want to write commercial closed-source programs, there is absolutely nothing that prevents you from using GPL tools to do so.  gcc, gdb, and the rest of the toolchain you need for creating software are all open source, and you can use them as much as you like to create things that aren't.

It goes further than that.  Reference: http://blog.milkingthegnu.org/2008/04/gpl-for-dummies.html and http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.html#GPLIncompatibleLibs.  One usage scenario would be to write your game under GPL as a fully playable but limited trial version, the proprietary plugin expands that into the full game.  This is perfectly legal using a GPLv3 section 7 exception clause.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, also possible is GPL client with proprietary server, where server can be an actual game server, a simple content server, or something in between.  There are numerous opportunities along these lines if you bother to look for them.
« Last Edit: August 13, 2014, 11:16:03 PM by Omnivore »

chooseusername

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Re: Copyright and Licensing: Nothing to fear but fear itself?
« Reply #32 on: August 13, 2014, 11:56:51 PM »
That said, try not to be such a twit about saying GPL stuff is unusable for commercial projects.  If you want to write commercial closed-source programs, there is absolutely nothing that prevents you from using GPL tools to do so.  gcc, gdb, and the rest of the toolchain you need for creating software are all open source, and you can use them as much as you like to create things that aren't.

It goes further than that.  Reference: http://blog.milkingthegnu.org/2008/04/gpl-for-dummies.html and http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.html#GPLIncompatibleLibs.  One usage scenario would be to write your game under GPL as a fully playable but limited trial version, the proprietary plugin expands that into the full game.  This is perfectly legal using a GPLv3 section 7 exception clause.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, also possible is GPL client with proprietary server, where server can be an actual game server, a simple content server, or something in between.  There are numerous opportunities along these lines if you bother to look for them.
I've come to the conclusion that the thing most dangerous about the GPL, is the people who post advocating it.

Your usage scenario makes no sense.  Let me explain.  If you write a game and release it under the GPL, you already own the full copyright and have the right to use the source licensed otherwise.  That includes as a closed amended source version, or even with closed source plugin game expansion.  There's nothing legally stopping you from doing that.  The GPL and releasing the source is irrelevant.

Then there's section 7 of the GPLv3.  The only way it would apply, was if you could add permissions allowing you to take changes people make to your GPL released code (which in turn are GPL licensed if they release them) back into your non-GPL version.  In which case their code doesn't get the benefits of the GPL, because you wish to do to them, what you don't wish them to do to you.

And Bear, don't be unpleasant bullying people into accepting the GPL with ridiculous arguments.  You can make a hat out of strawberries, but it's a dumb idea.  And so, just because you can contrive to release a commercial game with GPLed code doesn't make it a good idea.  Few people do it for a reason.  Using common tools like gcc and gdb is one thing, as they are so well developed that it is unlikely you will be patching them and releasing changes.  But using someone's niche custom library, means you are more than likely to bug fix it and modify it to remove eccentricities.  And of course, link it in.  It becomes a completely different kettle of fish.  A relevant one, compared to the irrelevant gdb/gcc one.

The fact is that this topic is strewn with vague claims.  The GPL is inclusive of other licensing - well, only in a viral sense that it forces the code in those other licenses to be open sourced as well.  Which is why it is called a viral license.  And yet, we have another pro-GPL supporter in the topic claiming it's not viral.

There's also an irrational fear by some pro-GPL posters.  That some mystical evil-doers will swoop in and take their non-GPL code and make something out of it they don't want made.  People are already doing this.  My satellite receiver firmware has GPL code linked into it, and it has been reported to the GPL violations mailing list years and years ago.  But nothing ever happened.   The GPL offers no real protection above what a more free and permissive license like the MIT license offers.  Not unless the FSF can earn some publicity.

Again, I use the GPL for software I have released to others, and use software licensed under the GPL released by others.  The GPL is a valid choice if you choose to use it with all the facts in mind.  But the problem is that lots of people want other people to use it, and they either don't understand it fully, are rude in their pushing of it (for example calling people twits) or make disingenous claims so as to foist it on others.

Please stop bullying people into using the GPL with false claims, tangentially related claims and name calling.  I am sure we all understand how it's viral nature is good, in the way it is intended.  But it isn't an all purpose solution which can be as easily manipulated to suit, as many pro-GPL posters here claim.

It's no wonder people are afraid to even read GPL code, with so much disinformation and confusion.
« Last Edit: August 13, 2014, 11:58:47 PM by chooseusername »

Paul Jeffries

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Re: Copyright and Licensing: Nothing to fear but fear itself?
« Reply #33 on: August 14, 2014, 12:03:16 AM »
That said, try not to be such a twit about saying GPL stuff is unusable for commercial projects.  If you want to write commercial closed-source programs, there is absolutely nothing that prevents you from using GPL tools to do so.  gcc, gdb, and the rest of the toolchain you need for creating software are all open source, and you can use them as much as you like to create things that aren't.

It goes further than that.  Reference: http://blog.milkingthegnu.org/2008/04/gpl-for-dummies.html and http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.html#GPLIncompatibleLibs.  One usage scenario would be to write your game under GPL as a fully playable but limited trial version, the proprietary plugin expands that into the full game.  This is perfectly legal using a GPLv3 section 7 exception clause.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, also possible is GPL client with proprietary server, where server can be an actual game server, a simple content server, or something in between.  There are numerous opportunities along these lines if you bother to look for them.


You could do all that, but is there any particularly compelling reason why you would?  In your scenario the heart of your commercial offering is proprietary code (which seems against the spirit of the thing) and you're having to specifically exempt yourself from part of the GPL to even do that, something which you can't do anyway if you're using anybody else's GPL code which doesn't include that exception clause.  Most likely, you can only do this if you're the original author of the whole program, in which case you're only making life more difficult for yourself by using the GPL in the first place, for no real benefit that I can see.

More to the point, there's no reason why you should be able to make money off of GPL code that other people have written.  But it does mean that the GPL isn't always an appropriate license to use.  To be clear; I think the GPL is great (and I have the Blender T-shirt to prove it) when it matches the goals and intentions of the people using it and they have made an informed choice to adopt it.  I don't think that is always the case and I don't think that pretending it doesn't have significant drawbacks so far as commercial development goes helps anybody.

chooseusername

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Re: Copyright and Licensing: Nothing to fear but fear itself?
« Reply #34 on: August 14, 2014, 12:05:09 AM »
No, there's no reason for not to let anyone else to make money from the GPL code you wrote and the license does not stop that. It just states that if they distribute the program, they also have to distribute the source code. That's two different things. GPL is about making code free as speech, not free as beer.
How does it make code free as speech?  I don't understand how this even makes sense.  It sound like some nonsensical advocacy sound bite that many pro-GPL people bandy about, but never quite think through.

Omnivore

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Re: Copyright and Licensing: Nothing to fear but fear itself?
« Reply #35 on: August 14, 2014, 01:39:39 AM »
People claiming to know about GPL lose all credibility the moment they say "viral".  Unlike a virus, GPL is spread only by intentional contact, and then only in specific cases.  Calling the GPL viral is a biased misrepresentation that can only be used out of ignorance or with the intention of fear mongering.

There are numerous ways, and I do not pretend to know them all, that money can be made using a GPL code base.  I've illustrated a few earlier, if none of them make any sense to you I can only surmise that you are being deliberately obtuse.  [even if I may have misplaced an 'or']

Why would you want to?  First, and foremost, the source is available for others to study, review, submit realistic improvement requests, or even submit actual patches.  You get a higher level of feed back from players who are also programmers and who would like to help improve the game.   Even if someone forks the game and replaces any proprietary hooks you may have made use of, you still win - improvements to the overlapping code base apply to both.  Finally, any truly unique perspective of the genre you bring to the table will be preserved, expanded upon, and quite possibly replaced by something even better.  I'm sure there exists a myriad of other good reasons.

But hey, guess what?  You don't have to agree.  You don't have to use it.  You don't have to have anything to do with GPL.  No one is forcing you to.

Which gets back to the 'fear', people fear things they don't understand.  Read the GPL, read the various discussions about it.   When reading the various discussions, be aware of the writer's agenda.  Two of the most vocal opponents of GPL, and presumably the original source of the  'viral' misrepresentation, are Craig Mundie and Steve Ballmer both of Microsoft.  Gee, what agenda might they have?  I have no idea where the absurd claim that merely reading GPL'd code somehow 'infected' all further software written by the reader comes from.

My agenda is that I would like to see more open source roguelikes.  I don't really care whether they are licensed GPL, MIT, Boost, Apache, etc.

Bear

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Re: Copyright and Licensing: Nothing to fear but fear itself?
« Reply #36 on: August 14, 2014, 01:47:51 AM »

That said, try not to be such a twit about saying GPL stuff is unusable for commercial projects.  If you want to write commercial closed-source programs, there is absolutely nothing that prevents you from using GPL tools to do so.  gcc, gdb, and the rest of the toolchain you need for creating software are all open source, and you can use them as much as you like to create things that aren't.


And Bear, don't be unpleasant bullying people into accepting the GPL with ridiculous arguments.  You can make a hat out of strawberries, but it's a dumb idea.  And so, just because you can contrive to release a commercial game with GPLed code doesn't make it a good idea. 

B'huh?  No, I didn't say you could include GPL'd code into your commercial game.  What I said is that you can use tools that are GPL'd to build your commercial game.  There is a world of difference between including something and using something.  The specific examples I used are gcc and gdb. Making use of all the extensive suites of GPL'd development tools does  not in any way constrain your power to determine the license of anything you create with them.  But libraries are to be included, not just used, and the GPL (or whatever license) becomes an issue.  The GPL becomes an issue when you are specifically including code in your project, not when you are using tools to build it.

You may be replying to Omnivore, who was talking about interacting systems some parts of which are GPL software and some parts of which are not.  I didn't talk about that stuff. 


Using common tools like gcc and gdb is one thing, as they are so well developed that it is unlikely you will be patching them and releasing changes.  But using someone's niche custom library, means you are more than likely to bug fix it and modify it to remove eccentricities.  And of course, link it in.  It becomes a completely different kettle of fish.  A relevant one, compared to the irrelevant gdb/gcc one.


If you're including someone's niche custom library, you're talking about code you will include in your project, not about tools you're using to build your project.  If you're including GPL'd code, then as I understand it you're working on something you intend to release under GPL.  If you're doing something else, it's probably a mistake to include GPL'd libraries.


The fact is that this topic is strewn with vague claims.  The GPL is inclusive of other licensing - well, only in a viral sense that it forces the code in those other licenses to be open sourced as well.  Which is why it is called a viral license.  And yet, we have another pro-GPL supporter in the topic claiming it's not viral.

I haven't used the word "viral" at all yet, and won't except in this single paragraph.  I never made any claim one way or the other, because any such claim is meaningless.  Anyone can define "viral" in such a way that it is, or is not.  Making such a claim is just trying to assert what the majority definition of "viral" is, not saying anything about the license itself.  The GPL makes code available to people who make their changes to that code and projects made which include that code available under the GPL.  If you think that's "viral", then the GPL is indeed a viral license.  If that doesn't fit your definition of "viral", then it's not.

I also dislike being characterized as "Pro-GPL".  The GPL just is what it is.  I observe that it has a purpose (leveraging each other's efforts to create software that no single person is capable of creating) and that it works for that purpose.  Closed-source licenses also have a purpose (making profits) and work for that purpose.  There is really no value judgement, at least not from me; each license simply is what it is and is useful for what it's useful for.  Real Pro-GPL partisans attack me just as strongly for being "Anti-GPL" (because after all, I'm using a different license that doesn't impose any such restrictions on people who include my own code) and I dislike that too.

All the advice I have ever given anyone about licensing their stuff is to use the license that their stuff needs.  I don't think I've ever specifically suggested GPL to anyone, and I wouldn't unless someone specifically was concerned that others might make changes to the code without making those changes available to the author or others as a basis for further work.   And all the advice I've ever given anyone about including other people's stuff is to include only stuff whose license they're willing to abide by.  I don't frankly give a crap whether that license is GPL or not, so quit trying to cast me in a role I'm refusing to play.


Bear

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Re: Copyright and Licensing: Nothing to fear but fear itself?
« Reply #37 on: August 14, 2014, 02:20:28 AM »
I think I should present a "worked example" so people know where I'm coming from.

The GPL does not provide the protections that are important to me.  Therefore I decided at the outset that my game would not be a GPL'd program.  Therefore I knew that I would not be including any GPL libraries.  Simple enough.

The libraries I do include - the Linux versions of ncursesw.h, stdio.h, math.h, stdlib.h, locale.h, string.h unistd.h, signal.h, and so on - are not GPL.  They are LGPL.  The LGPL does not impose any restrictions I have a problem with, and in particular does not in any way affect the terms under which I can license my own code, so I use them freely and gratefully.  My code meets its few requirements; it can link without changes against other implementations of the same functionality, so the LGPL libraries remain "separate" from my project in the way that matters to that license.

The tools I use - gcc, gdb, emacs, etc - are GPL software.  The GPL says that I can't produce a modified version of any of these tools and distribute it without distributing the source code of the modified version.  I have no problem with that.  If I tweak or bugfix any of these tools, then unless I want to distribute the modified version, the GPL requires exactly nothing from me.   

If in the course of my development it actually happens that I tweak or bugfix any GPL tool, I'll cheerfully contribute the tweak or bugfix back to the maintainers as a patch.  This is not required, but I'm happy to have the use of the tools and I don't mind making contributions in exchange for all the use I've gotten out of them. 


Omnivore

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Re: Copyright and Licensing: Nothing to fear but fear itself?
« Reply #38 on: August 14, 2014, 03:04:23 AM »
You may be replying to Omnivore, who was talking about interacting systems some parts of which are GPL software and some parts of which are not.  I didn't talk about that stuff. 
Just to elaborate a bit since evidently my explanation was either too concise or assumed too much of the reader:

There is a hole a mile wide both legally and ethically in the GPL.   Whether you use GPL or not, whether you like it or dislike it, understand that when it comes to the subject of interoperability it is fundamentally broken.  GPL makes sense in regards to a single binary.  It makes less sense and has lesser impact the more you begin to speak of two or more loosely coupled binaries.

This can easily be seen in the simplest terms in the client server case.  Even if both client and server are specifically designed to work with each other, the fact that one is licensed with a particular license has absolutely no impact on how the other is licensed.  This is because the coupling is loose.  Any agency satisfying the interface can use either part.

There is quite a bit of argument over more tightly coupled cases such as DLLs.  However, in one particular subset of those cases, the hole becomes an elephant in the room that no one seems to want to talk about.  That case is plugins.

If you write a stand alone program which is suitable for use and allow for expansion of capabilities in any manner by plugins, the fact that the stand alone program is GPL is absolutely no legal or ethical barrier to a future plugin being proprietary.

If you write a game in a manner similar to ToME for instance, you could easily slap a GPL on the engine part and distribute it with a playable 'coffee break' roguelike content plugin.   You can then write and sell a proprietary plugin that adds capability to and expands the GPL'd game.  You just can't distribute them together.*

Why would you do so?  In order to legally use GPL'd libraries with the core GPL game and reap all the other benefits of open source development with the core portion.  It even makes sense from a business standpoint, the free giveaway loss leader (trial version) is already free, GPL costs nothing even if you believe you can't sell GPL'd software.  Fans of the game will invariably want more, and will, at least in some cases, buy your proprietary plugin to enjoy more content.

There are no victims in this scenario.  The GPL'd library authors have suffered absolutely no harm as the game itself is still open source GPL.  If you think otherwise, consider for a moment that the plugin could just as easily be some form of data.  In other words, the plugin is content.

The GPL was written for simpler times.

*This is where the GPL begins to fall apart, it is assuming there is some magical difference between content as data and content as code.

Note: just to further snarf up the arguments, assume that the plugin interface is separately published as public domain.
« Last Edit: August 14, 2014, 03:07:50 AM by Omnivore »

mushroom patch

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Re: Copyright and Licensing: Nothing to fear but fear itself?
« Reply #39 on: August 14, 2014, 04:42:31 AM »
How does this stuff continue to generate so much heat? I can understand people getting this exercised about the GPL in connection with Linux in 1998, when some people thought a Linux revolution might be in the offing and the big software giant was Microsoft, but today? Come on.

The reality today is that everything worthwhile is on a network. If you're distributing binaries of your game, you are doing it wrong (and if you need GPL libraries to write your roguelike game, I'm pretty sure you're doing something wrong there too). The ability to occasionally get a good patch for your game is insignificant next to the power of the network.

The GPL has nothing to say about network services, they are just one possible private use of GPL'd code.

Omnivore

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Re: Copyright and Licensing: Nothing to fear but fear itself?
« Reply #40 on: August 14, 2014, 05:00:24 AM »
The reality today is that everything worthwhile is on a network. If you're distributing binaries of your game, you are doing it wrong (and if you need GPL libraries to write your roguelike game, I'm pretty sure you're doing something wrong there too). The ability to occasionally get a good patch for your game is insignificant next to the power of the network.
Someday you may be right.  However, I've been hearing that since 1993 and 'thin client'.  Funny how today, most games are still distributed as binaries.  Come to think of it, except for chatting, posting, and research, everything I do is encompassed by software distributed as binaries.

Bear

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Re: Copyright and Licensing: Nothing to fear but fear itself?
« Reply #41 on: August 14, 2014, 05:17:41 AM »

If you write a stand alone program which is suitable for use and allow for expansion of capabilities in any manner by plugins, the fact that the stand alone program is GPL is absolutely no legal or ethical barrier to a future plugin being proprietary.

If you write a game in a manner similar to ToME for instance, you could easily slap a GPL on the engine part and distribute it with a playable 'coffee break' roguelike content plugin.   You can then write and sell a proprietary plugin that adds capability to and expands the GPL'd game.  You just can't distribute them together.*


Both of these are tautological.  What you have written, you can license in any way you darn well please at any time, whether you've put a license on it that permits those privileges to others or not. 

You can release something as GPL, then release the next version proprietary and closed-source if you want to.  You can't take back the release of the earlier version, but you aren't under any restrictions due to  your own license; you're not licensing the code from yourself, you flatly own it.

Bear

Omnivore

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Re: Copyright and Licensing: Nothing to fear but fear itself?
« Reply #42 on: August 14, 2014, 05:26:04 AM »

If you write a stand alone program which is suitable for use and allow for expansion of capabilities in any manner by plugins, the fact that the stand alone program is GPL is absolutely no legal or ethical barrier to a future plugin being proprietary.

If you write a game in a manner similar to ToME for instance, you could easily slap a GPL on the engine part and distribute it with a playable 'coffee break' roguelike content plugin.   You can then write and sell a proprietary plugin that adds capability to and expands the GPL'd game.  You just can't distribute them together.*


Both of these are tautological.  What you have written, you can license in any way you darn well please at any time, whether you've put a license on it that permits those privileges to others or not. 

You can release something as GPL, then release the next version proprietary and closed-source if you want to.  You can't take back the release of the earlier version, but you aren't under any restrictions due to  your own license; you're not licensing the code from yourself, you flatly own it.

Bear

Ever worked in an open source team environment?  You need express permission from every contributor to change the license.  Moreover, the license may limit what third party libraries you can use.  Consider DC:SS, if the maintainer wants to change the license, they have to get all the contributors to agree.  Over the lifetime of any similar open source project, that can add up quickly to a large number of people and it may be difficult to even contact some contributors.

So no those aren't tautologies. 

mushroom patch

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Re: Copyright and Licensing: Nothing to fear but fear itself?
« Reply #43 on: August 14, 2014, 05:28:46 AM »
The reality today is that everything worthwhile is on a network. If you're distributing binaries of your game, you are doing it wrong (and if you need GPL libraries to write your roguelike game, I'm pretty sure you're doing something wrong there too). The ability to occasionally get a good patch for your game is insignificant next to the power of the network.
Someday you may be right.  However, I've been hearing that since 1993 and 'thin client'.  Funny how today, most games are still distributed as binaries.  Come to think of it, except for chatting, posting, and research, everything I do is encompassed by software distributed as binaries.

I'm right today. Your computer use is atypical. I've never seen my wife play a game less than ten years old on anything but a "thin client." Most people play facebook games, cell phone games, or no games.

Roguelike games are played on "thin clients" too, as much as people cling to the 1993 shareware catalog model updated for web 1.0. If you play roguelike games only on a local system, it's your own mistake.

Kevin Granade

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Re: Copyright and Licensing: Nothing to fear but fear itself?
« Reply #44 on: August 14, 2014, 06:24:33 AM »
I've never seen my wife play a game less than ten years old on anything but a "thin client." Most people play facebook games, cell phone games, or no games.
You realize you're addressing a group of roguelike fans arguing about a software license right?  What about that makes you think ad populum is going to get you anywhere?  This is a group of people who at best* only check the state of the mainstream to check where NOT to go, and more likely simply ignore it.

*For the sake of your argument.