Hi,

From: "Jeremy Henty" <jeremy / chaos.org.uk>
>
> (Disclaimer: the isn't really (directly) about Ruby, so you may think
> it off-topic.  But it is (indirectly) about the consequences of
> looking at the Ruby source, so I hope it is on-topic.)
> 
> In article <019301c46db9$6a9f7930$6442a8c0@musicbox>, Bill Kelly wrote:
> 
> > I thought open source wasn't doing a good job of being open source
> > if you had to be wary of reading it for legal reasons?
> 
> "Open source" only means "you have the right to do certain things with
> this software".  It does *not* mean "you can do whatever you like with
> it and not worry about the consequences".  *That* is only true of
> software released into the public domain.

Certainly.  I thought that copyright law (IANAL) distinguished
between modifying someone else's code (derivative work) and 
writing your own code from scratch.  I have seen *a lot* of code
in my life so far, much of it proprietary and closed source.
You aren't supposed to be able to copyright an *idea*.  That's
what Software Patents do (and I think they are an abomination,
but that's a different topic.)  My point is that I don't live
in fear that I might accidentally "steal" someone else's code
just because I've looked at it.  I know the difference between
"copying someone else' code modifying it" vs. "implementing my
own code from scratch based on all the knowledge I've picked up
over my career."

I guess I'm approaching this using my own GPL software as a
yardstick - would I care if someone learned from my GPL code,
and then decided to re-implement the same functionality from
scratch, just using what they'd learned?  No!  I'd be thrilled
that my code was useful to someone.  That's why I released it!!

> > An example in my field of interest is id Software's generous release
> > of their older game engines, such as DOOM, Quake, and Quake 2 under
> > the GPL.  I was a game developer when the Quake source was released,
> > and it never would have occurred to me to be afraid to look at it.
> 
> Pardon my bluntness, but that was foolish of you.

No worries, I'm here to learn . . .

>  The GPL requires
> you to release all derived works under the GPL too.  If you looked at
> id Software's source and used it in a closed source product of your
> own then id Software would have grounds for suing you for damages.

Apologies if this is getting too off-topic... But here is an
excerpt from id Software's release of the Quake 2 code:

  The code is all licensed under the terms of the GPL (gnu public license).  
  You should read the entire license, but the gist of it is that you can do 
  anything you want with the code, including sell your new version.  The catch 
  is that if you distribute new binary versions, you are required to make the 
  entire source code available for free to everyone.

  The primary intent of this release is for entertainment and educational 
  purposes, but the GPL does allow commercial exploitation if you obey the 
  full license.

I firmly believe id Software's intent was not to say: Here's our
code for you to learn from!  DON'T LOOK AT IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I truly do not believe the purpose of their releasing their code
was to try to drum up lawsuits against anyone who might have wanted
to learn from it.

> I am not accusing you of trying to rob id Software (nor am I accusing
> id Software of being litigious <disrespectful_term>s).  I just want to
> point out that good intentions may not be enough to keep you out of
> court.  Companies have sued ex-employees simply for working in the
> same industry, claiming "inevitable disclosure" ie. "this person
> learned their skills with us, so if they use those skills elsewhere
> they are violating our IP rights".  I don't condone their behaviour (I
> actually find it loathsome), but the practical upshot is that if you
> don't like the idea of being sued by people with much more lawyers and
> money than you then you should think very hard about the licenses of
> any software you look at.

OK.  But perhaps we can take this on a case-by-case basis?  Meaning,
We're talking about Matz here, (and in my examples, John Carmack).

I am personally willing to trust that I understand the intent of
id Software releasing their code.  And that for people to be afraid
to look at it for fear of getting sued based on what they learned from
it, is COMPLETELY CONTRARY to that intent.  (Again I'm distinguishing
between learning from the code, and *copying* it.)

Oh well, that's just me.  I think there's something a little sad
about all this though...  (Maybe our nations should cease development
of missile defense shields, and start working on lawyer containment
mechanisms... ;-P)


Regards,

Bill