I’ll use your code. I’ll use it, and I won’t even bother to check the license.
Publicly declaring that you deliberately ignore copyright law when performing your work is a really bad idea. You’ve confessed to violating your employment agreement’s IP assignment clause and left your employer liable for copyright infringement with a googleable smoking gun. Auditing your work to find unattributed code will be expensive; black box replacement of infringing material and anything that could be considered a derivative work could be ruinous. If you wrote early, core code on a project, a very expensive lawyer is going to tell the company that, absent tracking down and getting releases from everyone you might have copied from (who can refuse, be out of touch, or ask for the moon on a string), the whole project is toxic waste that should be entirely wiped.
Also, this entire argument is that you don’t feel obliged to follow laws that you feel won’t be effectively enforced against you, which is also pretty bad.
TLDR just because you don’t care doesn’t mean you won’t be sued.
We agree that this “fuck da police” attitude is silly. Randall believes that copyright is completely unenforceable, so we should stop pretending like licenses matter.
Almost all license issues are settled way before going to lawyers or courts. This is how the law is supposed to work, actually. We all read it and mostly follow it and only very rarely do we go through the trouble of asking the enforcers to do their job. If you put “all rights reserved, nobody can use this” on your work, it will have a chilling effect and fewer people will use it.
And the only way that will ever happen is if we all get our heads out of our asses, and stop acting like we own thoughts and ideas.
The funny thing is, we already tried this. You know how Richard Stallman talks about how his 1970s hacker world fell apart? When all of the free hackers started leaving the MIT labs and refused to share source code with each other? Back then nobody thought software could be copyrighted. The very idea that you could withhold source code from each other hadn’t even occurred to anyone yet. But the laws said otherwise, and they still say otherwise, and the GPL was the tool he built to fight against it. He didn’t say, my opponents are wrong to use the law, so we must ignore the law. Rather, he understood the law and decided to use it to fight against those taking software away.
If you want software to be shared and believe that owning software is silly, then the GPL is realpolitik. It works with the current legal system and ensures that sharing can happen and cannot be taken away.
As a developer, the very thought of having to ask permission to use a piece of code you can find freely online is insane.
You should know that I am offended when you say that you speak for me: I am a developer and I do not agree with your position.
You should also know that your use of passionate rhetoric is distracting, and I’ve hidden your article because exposure to your anger was making me angry.
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qmail is a fairly well-known bit of MTA software that was license-free for a long time, and as a result wasn’t bundled by any linux distribution, because they literally had no license to use it.
The author eventually explicitly released it into the public domain (late 2007), but by this point a lot of damage to its credibility and use had been done - no one was legally allowed to distribute modified or compiled versions, so in order to install it you had to generally compile from hand, and manually apply a set of patches to add missing functionality.
Excellent example! Younger people might not be aware just how extremely widely distributed qmail was - and is, I still use it to power a 100mm+ monthly mail site that I haven’t had to touch (hardware or software) for over ten years.
However DJB’s stand against a license was principled, and I’m certainly still frustrated by these things. The sheer force of will “packagers” have helped a lot – things like nix can help more, but I worry the future will be worse because we (the community) made him lose by feeling this same entitlement the author of this rant seems to feel.
Despite your quoting it, nobody said “less offensive”. And contrary to your assertion, nobody is trying to compare your behavior to the author’s behavior. I don’t think there’s a lot to discuss when you’re just going to put words in people’s mouths, but I’ll try.
Just because you have a right to express generalized anger at the world for no obvious reason, doesn’t justify your choice to actually do that. You could just choose to stop at any time.
People would like you more if you were polite, but I suspect that’s the point, so here’s another incentive to think about: An aggressive tone makes it difficult for anybody to pay attention to the actual content of what you say.
That said, the only reason I personally care how you behave is that I care about the health of this community, and once aggression becomes the norm, everybody else leaves - I’ve seen that over and over elsewhere and I’m not going to concede a space I care about.
You’re absolutely right.
I’ve deleted my comments and will rephrase.
It made me happy to wake up to that. Thank you.
Deleted my comment, too, it doesn’t make sense out of context. Thanks you.
Also, thank you to Irene for arguing that much better then I could at that moment.
It’s not your choice of vocabulary per se but your tone. A certain air of civility is what we like about Lobsters. I am American in the broad sense that America is not a country, but you should not think that only Americans in the narrow sense dislike your aggressive tone.
There are better ways to express your dismay without indiscriminately splattering insults at unintended targets.
If you can already find or view my code, then guess what – you have the ability to use it!
That’s an oversimplification. Parking my bike without a padlock (because I forgot the padlock) doesn’t imply that anybody can take it and use it. Letting my home open (because I forgot to lock the door, or simply because I trust my neighbors) doesn’t mean that anybody is authorised to enter.
If I want to give my bike or open my home, I’ll probably put a sign “feel free to take it” or “feel free to enter”. This is what an open source license, or unlicense, is for.
The idea of having some public code that’s legally unusable is akin to a writer not being able to use a dictionary while writing.
This comparison is not fully relevant. You “use” a dictionary, you don’t copy and distribute its content (it would probably be illegal).
This is what makes the internet great. The ability to share information with anyone, instantly, without restriction. As developers, we should be on the absolute forefront of encouraging this sort of thing.
Yes, yes, yes. This is why the movement towards a limited set of standard licenses (or “unlicense”) is good.
Programming, by its very nature, is something that’s meant to be shared. The amount of complexity needed to build modern applications would not be possible without a tremendous amount of publicly accessible code.
It’s funny how the author acknowledges the complexity of programming, while simultaneously dismissing the complexity of law and modern society in general.
Let’s rephrase the author' sentence by replacing “programming” with “law”: Law, by its very nature, is something that’s meant to be shared. The amount of complexity needed to build modern law would not be possible without a tremendous amount of publicly accessible law and jurisprudence.
The next time you decide to publish some open source software, I’d encourage you to seriously consider what software license you choose.
Exactly. Choose a license (or unlicense). Problem solved.
If you’d like to ensure as many people as possible can use your code without restriction, then either:
- Use a public domain license like UNLICENSE, or
- Don’t include a license at all.
Please don’t follow the advice of not including a license at all. Nobody will use your code because you can change your mind at any time and claim royalties.
For me, something that’s being overlooked is the intention of the original author.
When I choose an an open source license, I’m also (directly or indirectly) deciding how I’d like others to use that code and how I’d like the future contribution model to work. Take BSD-style licenses vs GPL, for example. If I choose GPL, I want contributors who distribute modifications to the code to be forced to release those under the same license (I’m using a very simple example here). If you follow the author’s model and do whatever the hell you want with my code (and ignore those portions of the GPL I mentioned), you’re ignoring my wishes and that’s inherently disrespectful.
Having respect for others is an important part of civilised society, at least in my eyes.