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The Code Catacombs submission page should have a license field.

by sintadil (Pilgrim)
on Sep 07, 2004 at 05:55 UTC ( #388937=monkdiscuss: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

It's really a simple request; it would make things immediately clear about what one can do with code. I'd like to modify cbhistory, for example, to create a permanent, searchable log of the CB, but I have to wait for an answer to see what the code license is.1 If the CC submission page had an obligatory license field, then people wishing to use future submissions wouldn't have this problem.

----

1: I've since learned (thanks, dbwiz) that such logging activities are considered unethical. Ergo my example is moot, but the point still stands.

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Re: The Code Catacombs submission page should have a license field.
by dbwiz (Curate) on Sep 07, 2004 at 06:37 UTC

    Before doing such change to CB history, be sure to read CB history - not an hour any more?.

    Not everybody in the Monastery feels that a permanent CB log should be a good idea.

      Thanks for the headsup.
Re: The Code Catacombs submission page should have a license field.
by Rhys (Pilgrim) on Sep 07, 2004 at 12:09 UTC
    The idea that the source for any code should have some sort of license attached to it - rather than relying on whatever the local laws are - is a good idea. In code, implicit is elegant. In legal, implicit sucks. I'd like it to be clear what I can/can't do with code I find posted somewhere.

    Another, much less flexible, option - the one used by the Linux kernel developers, apparently - is to have a blanket license on the Code Catacombs area that covers any code posted therein, and any poster has to click 'Accept' before the code is posted. Simpler, but reads 7 on the Policy Evil-o-Meter. :-)

    --J

      Another, much less flexible, option - the one used by the Linux kernel developers, apparently - is to have a blanket license on the Code Catacombs area that covers any code posted therein, and any poster has to click 'Accept' before the code is posted. Simpler, but reads 7 on the Policy Evil-o-Meter. :-)

      Let us hope that that never happens, or there will be much gnashing of teeth, and fewer submissions as a result. Perl is about freedom, and taking away someone's freedom to license their code as they wish is a Bad Idea (tm). If I wanted to not have license freedom, I'd work for $EL_CAMINO_BIGNUM_COMPANY. :)

Re: The Code Catacombs submission page should have a license field.
by graff (Chancellor) on Sep 08, 2004 at 07:03 UTC
    The idea of requiring that license terms be included for posts to Code Catacombs led me to consider a couple of personal biases:
    • Programmers aren't experts on licensing, and don't want to be

      Speaking as a non-expert myself, I think many who post code at PM (both professionals and amateurs) have only limited knowledge about (or interest in) the details and implications of various licensing terms. The fact that PM is a global community makes this more difficult, because licensing in an international context is even more obscure than licensing in any one country.

      At most, folks might blithely accept and apply some brief statement that covers "use at your own risk" and "keep my name on it" (and maybe "I'm giving it away for free here, so don't pretend that you can limit or deny the ability of others to obtain and use it for free"). Often, they just don't care, and take it for granted that source code posted on PM may as well be "public domain" (whatever that means).

    • The whole issue of software licensing is too complicated, and we should try to simplify things

      The PM community should do what it can to keep things simple, reasonable, and consistent with the spirit of open source development. Keeping things "safe for open source" is really pretty easy here -- this is a public web site (no real access restrictions) about a language in which source code cannot really be hidden from the end user (so far).

    More often than not, I think, people post code here for the benefit of getting peer review -- e.g. before posting to CPAN or other forums where the focus is on distributing code rather than discussing how it's written. For that matter, I'd guess that with relatively few exceptions (notably PM-related code), most of the code downloads are for the sake of reviewing and sending feedback to the author.

    So, if licensing terms really are felt to be required, it should be possible to include them in a way that adds little or no difficulty to the process of posting code, even for people whose native language (or legal system) is not English.

    I think it would be okay, and maybe even beneficial for all concerned, to provide, at most, a small number of radio buttons in the Code Catacombs posting form, offering choices for what sort of license should be applied/linked into the post, such as:

    • The default PM license (see below)
    • The GNU Public License (GPL)
    • The Same License As Perl Itself (if it's good enough for Larry...)
    • None of the above -- poster supplies own license terms within the post
    (Maybe there are one or two others that are in common use... but 5 choices is pushing the limit, and more than 6 would be too many.)

    The "default PM license", if any such is necessary, ought to be as brief and simple as possible -- maybe the default case should just be "This software is being placed in the public domain by its author, who hopes that it will be useful, and that users will act in a responsible manner when circulating copies of the software in original or modified forms. Use the software at your own risk."

    (Having something that applies by default could cover all the past nodes where no licensing was specified. I'm not sure about the legality or effectiveness of "updating" the choice of license terms at some later time, unless the update involves a switch to a less restrictive choice.)

    Having links to the other common license documents might be educational as well as handy. Let's hope that few people will opt for writing their own licensing terms... that really would not simplify things at all.

    In any event, the notion that legal actions might ensue from violations of license conditions stated on PM nodes seems quite implausible. Even the possibility that a monk might be sued for posting someone else's code as his/her own is pretty remote, since there is no financial gain to (im)poster, and probably not much in terms of tangible financial loss to the "plaintiff".

    (Of course, the only "practical" reason for imposing licenses on all Code nodes is to make it easier/less worrisome for people at big companies to actually use code from PM -- that in itself is not a bad reason.)

      I don't think it's neccessary to include any extra fields for license (nothing stops users from including comments/pod about license), but if one gets included, the license field should state "unknown" by default. There are a lot of posts in the catacombs already, and presenting them as being under any kind of license other than as stated in the code/documentation is just wrong. And finally, if there ever is a license field, perlmonks should have the same disclaimer as the module list (http://search.cpan.org/dlsip?MpdOp):
      DISCLAIMER: The status of the Public License field is there for informational purpose only and does not constitute a legal binding of any kind. To obtain proper information about the Licencing terms of a module and its accompanying files, please refer to the distribution of the modules or contact the author as appropriate. Please inform ... modules@perl.org if you encounter any mismatch between the contents of the Public License field and what the distribution actually says about it.

      update: Actually, perlmonks ought to have some kind of disclaimer already.

      MJD says "you can't just make shit up and expect the computer to know what you mean, retardo!"
      I run a Win32 PPM repository for perl 5.6.x and 5.8.x -- I take requests (README).
      ** The third rule of perl club is a statement of fact: pod is sexy.

      Programmers aren't experts on licensing, and don't want to be

      I personally hold this view, but unfortunately a rather large sect of (open source, no less) programmers doesn't. I'd just as happily release everything I've ever written into the public domain. But there are some people -- the GNUheads in particular -- who have a tendency to get pretty peeved if you do anything with their code that isn't specified by their GPL. Since the code that I was intending to modify was written by someone who seems (by his website) to be a proponent of the GPL, I was inspired to ask for a licensing field to encourage people to specify what can and can't be done with code, lest someone (like me) do something with their code which was implicitly GPL and convert it into some license which is Not Compatible with GNU(TM).

      The whole issue of software licensing is too complicated, and we should try to simplify things

      Yep. Again, I agree. But as stated above, certain sects of programmers (again the GNUheads) disagree. In fact, the entire reason why the GNU | FSF and the GPL exist are for legal issues.

      More often than not, I think, people post code here for the benefit of getting peer review -- e.g. before posting to CPAN or other forums where the focus is on distributing code rather than discussing how it's written. For that matter, I'd guess that with relatively few exceptions (notably PM-related code), most of the code downloads are for the sake of reviewing and sending feedback to the author.

      I think it ironic to mention that the code which I was intending to modify was, in fact, PM-related.

      • The default PM license (see below)
      • The GNU Public License (GPL)
      • The Same License As Perl Itself (if it's good enough for Larry...)
      • None of the above -- poster supplies own license terms within the post

      I find it interesting that the licenses which you've suggested do not include the one that I would use for licensing code.

      (Maybe there are one or two others that are in common use...

      I can name several, without pause.

      (Having something that applies by default could cover all the past nodes where no licensing was specified.

      That's extremely illegal, and would cause great uproar. There's no disclaimers anywhere (of which I know) stating the nature, ownership, or status of any code submitted to PM, and thus, the owners retain copyright of that code. You can't just relicense all of it because it's on a website that you run. This is the exact sort of thing that I'm trying to avoid and prevent with my suggestion.

      In any event, the notion that legal actions might ensue from violations of license conditions stated on PM nodes seems quite implausible. Even the possibility that a monk might be sued for posting someone else's code as his/her own is pretty remote, since there is no financial gain to (im)poster, and probably not much in terms of tangible financial loss to the "plaintiff".

      It's interesting that you feel so comfortable around people who use such licenses as the GPL and who have gone to court before because of violations of it. I personally don't feel like spending weeks or months in court with a GNUhead. It's not about financial gain, in most cases. It's a matter of principal.

      Please keep in mind that I'm lobbying for this feature not because I'm a pedantic coder with nothing better to do than quabble licensing issues. I'm doing it to make people who do care about licensing issues happy. As stated above, I don't want to be a licensing expert -- but the presence of those who care so much about licensing means that I have to know about and deal with it. I really couldn't care less otherwise. Licensing detracts from the code, and that's (i.e., the code) what it's all about, right?

Re: The Code Catacombs submission page should have a license field.
by Anonymous Monk on Sep 07, 2004 at 15:07 UTC
    Here in the USA, any code posted there has an implicit copyright to the owner, who may or may not have granted a public-use license. If they haven't explicitly provided a license for use, write them and ask permission. Now was that so hard?
      Now was that so hard?

      Yes it was. Besides being dicey, you'd have to hold on to the communication as legal proof of the permission which in this case could possibly be the chatterbox messaging; html? screenshot? both so easily forged it's not even worth talking about. And it's not even possible to get that far all the time--there are lots of monks on permanent or semi-permanent sabbatical.

      A drop down (with a note box too?) for selecting the license you want attached to your code is a really good idea.

      Update: you could also have your default license in your user prefs which would automatically attach to snippets and CC submissions.

      Let me re-explain the point of my post. If people were required to put a license on all code that they post, I wouldn't need to do that. And there's also the case of people who post code but who don't visit the site frequently, so you get to wait a long time for an answer.

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