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Licensing and Rape-Proofing your ideals.

by deprecated (Priest)
on Apr 24, 2001 at 00:07 UTC ( #74852=perlmeditation: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

Hello, Monks.

Today is a very sad day for me. I just learned that a company I helped get to its feet has been doing despicable things with it.

I dont know if youre familiar with the OpenNap project. Regardless of the ideals behind whether its piracy or not, we created a small community of developers and started working together towards a common goal. The software progressed rapidly. I started running a server in August last year and soon realized that it was important to write perl interfaces for it.

I was approached by MusicCity to help them get their servers online, back when they had 10 servers, cobbled together from spare units. I installed their software, educated their administrators, and configured all the appropriate files. This, to me, was a pretty easy thing to do, but for most, its an endless headache. I did all this in the interest of the community. I had repeatedly asked them "so where are you getting the money for your bandwidth and resources?" I was satisfied with the answer I got: "well, our bosses dont really know we're doing this." Its important to note here that these servers are run on Porn Industry bandwidth and funds. I fell for it, hook, line, and sinker. They finally got to their feet, and began to grow. After they grew, they began to have growing pains that my network had had months ago, and asked what I had done to minimize "lag" and "netsplits." I told them about my perl scripts and shell scripts which I ran both manually and in cronjobs. I gave them a big (> 10 pages) writeup on how to use them, patted them on the tush, and told them to enjoy.

They, however, kept growing. Kept getting bigger, and soon, very few people went anywhere else. This was mostly okay in everyone's eyes because their servers could accomodate 50,000 users. This was great, we were all in one place, united as a community, and protected from the RIAA (MusicCity is offshore by nature of being connected to the porn industry, so it is not susceptible to US Law -- this is awful convenient for them).

Then everything went sour. MusicCity unveiled a new client and a new server this last week. The prohibited filesharing on their servers with all clients but their own. They disconnected the servers but made the client able to span their entire network. So with a non-MC client, you cannot connect to other users, share files, or anything. They deliberately crippled the ability of their users (who trusted them) to make money. Their new client supports ad spaces, and the ability for them to sell (you guessed it) porn. They have a stipulation in the license prohibiting people under the age of 13 on their network entirely and have a note mentioning that content on their network is intended for mature users.

Monks, they took over our community with promises of good wishes, and then fragmented (if you ask me, crushed) that community and closed open-source servers and prohibited open-source clients from being a part of it. This is A Bad Thing.

What really irritates me is they used MY SOFTWARE to do it!!

I distributed my software under the Perl License because I believe in the opensource ideal. Because I believed that they had good intentions. They outright lied to me and, I feel, stole my software, and what it stood for. They corrupted that, and now they are making a profit off of my hard work doing something I dont condone.

What can I do to prevent this happening in the future???

My thought has been to include a "full disclosure clause" in my future software's license. I dont want my software used in conjunction with applications that are not opensource, that are not 100% available to the public. In short, if I cant have access to what you're doing with my software, I dont want you using it there. A friend said "well what about intranets?" My response to that is "that sounds like commercial use to me, and I have been burned one too many times."

I feel so dirty having been a part of this. I really do. Have any of you guys written code that required a license other than the BSD/GPL/Artistic license? Included extra stipulations? Has this happened to you anyone else here before? Is there a way I can express my extreme displeasure with what theyve done in fashion that can be compelling? I clearly have no legal means to pursue this, but I want it made VERY clear that I am unhappy with this.

brother dep.

update: I have pretty well moved on. I am very upset with them, but I am not looking to pursue any action against them. What I would like is opinions from people about what can be done to protect my code from stuff like this in the future. I am particularly interested in what people think of my "full disclosure" clause, above.

Laziness, Impatience, Hubris, and Generosity. (well maybe not anymore!! >:-()

Replies are listed 'Best First'.
Re: Licensing and Rape-Proofing your ideals.
by footpad (Abbot) on Apr 24, 2001 at 01:55 UTC

    One thought might be to share the information you gave them as widely as possible. For example, I'd be interested in reading that ten page write-up you mentioned.

    Similarly, since your code was open sourced, you should be allowed to redistribute derivative works. Meaning: fight back. Create modules and what not to allow the open source community to do those very things that they're not permitting. Oh, sure, you'll need to build a new community, find new servers, and so forth. Nevertheless, if you're angry enough to take effective action, it may be possible to put them out of business. Barring that happy circumstance, you can at least dent their success in that business to some degree.

    If you take that latter approach, I'd be sure to change certain things subtly, just in case their administrators and code monkeys weren't listening as carefully as they should have been during your training sessions. Make them work to participate in any new projects along these lines. Confuse 'em even. That way, mebbe they'll have to reconsider their tactics.

    Remember: Resistance is not futile.


Re: Licensing and Rape-Proofing your ideals.
by lemming (Priest) on Apr 24, 2001 at 00:24 UTC

    I was satisfied with the answer I got: "well, our bosses dont really know we're doing this."

    That could be where the latest change came from.

    I was working at a company to Open Source a particular product of theirs and it got killed from upper management after some rather nasty political stuff went down. I later found docs on why it wasn't to be Open Sourced. Mainly due to much of the code having different styles. (Because most of the code had been Open in the first place.)
    Was I bitter about this? yes.
    Was I upset that it got killed due to someone elses misconceptions or bias? yes.
    Did I realize it was totally out of my control and that it was better to just let it go? yes

    dep Unless you can bring legal bearing on them, it's better to chalk it up to experience. Have the client sign a contract, etc... to make sure your code isn't abused. You can write a letter to Music City expressing your displeasure and it may help you get some stuff off your chest, but don't count on any change. It may happen, but don't count on it.

    A reply falls below the community's threshold of quality. You may see it by logging in.
Re: Licensing and Rape-Proofing your ideals.
by arturo (Vicar) on Apr 24, 2001 at 00:29 UTC

    I'm sorry I don't have anything to say that's terribly comforting about this. If you want to prevent your code from being used by people for purposes other than those of which you approve, then you will be, to that extent, closing up your license, even if the provision is weaker than the (obviously too strong) "I reserve the right to revoke your right to use this software and its source code if I determine that your project contravenes (provisions from my value system)".

    The BSD license obviously won't prevent this sort of abuse, nor will the GPL. The GPL might thwart their desire to close up their source, because they're distributing the software to their users, which would at least give their users some sort of hook into their code, and to a limited extent, to their servers and protocols. But there's no morals clause in the GPL.

    I'm less familiar with the Artistic license, but I see no language in there that prevents this sort of abuse of your good will.

Re: Licensing and Rape-Proofing your ideals.
by gregor42 (Parson) on Apr 24, 2001 at 01:00 UTC

    In truth there's nothing that you can do.

    Trying to take control of your sofware after the fact is like a retroactive abortion.

    Whatever one's personal opinions about pr0n are, it is important to note that the licenses you mention successfully protect the company from you. You have to understand that what's going on there is the same as if they had hired someone else, they had D/L'ed code you wrote as a Module and then used it in a manner that offends you.

    What people need to understand about Open Source is this:

    1. You still can own Open Source code. It's all in your license. I suggest that if this sort of thing worries you that you create a contract of service and use that to protect yourself.

    2. If what you've published is intended to be freeware then you've got to assume that pr0n & nuclear weapons engineers will eventually do something with it that you might not like.

    3. As a Software Professional it is up to you to conduct yourself in a professional manner. This includes asking and getting paid for your work. We all have to eat somehow.

    4. 'freedom of the press belongs to those who own one.' If you want to control your own servers, buy them & set them up. Put your money where your mouth is.

    And now "priceless advice": Get your revenge, sell the code to their chief competetor. Even if you need to wait the 6 months after your contract expires.

    Yes, Save the World & Write PERL code. But don't forget to feed your children along the way. It's only fair.

    Wait! This isn't a Parachute, this is a Backpack!
Re: Licensing and Rape-Proofing your ideals.
by t0mas (Priest) on Apr 24, 2001 at 14:57 UTC
    Had they been a Swedish company operating in Sweden, you could have suied them...

    We have a pretty good law taking care of that. This law is governs the use of literature, software, music, movies, photos, architecture and other art.
    Software, database schemas and other structures that can be made to hold large ammounts of data is considered works of art in Sweden. (Look Ma, I'm an artist! :)

    This law states that (this is my own crappy translation) that:
    A work of art may not be changed in such a way that it violates the creators reputation or distinctive character as an artist; neither may the work of art be made available to the public in a shape or context that is insulting to the creator.

    So, you could have said "No way!".

    Here is a link to the full text (in Swedish).

    /brother t0mas
Re: Licensing and Rape-Proofing your ideals.
by fmogavero (Monk) on Apr 24, 2001 at 17:43 UTC
    Brother dep, I know wxactly how you feel. I experienced the same thing through the music industry. I had a demo tape that I was pasing around in Southern California. Imagine when my shock when I heard my song as the background for a car commercial!

    I should have copyrighted that song sooner. It wouldn't have made any difference. In a court of law you have to prove that someone was able to hear your song. Good Luck!

    That was a lesson that I learned about the music business! It's not about music, it's about business. Just like the porn business or show business or the software business. It all comes down to the almighty dollar.

    That's all my song was worth to them. Dollars! They did not care about the intention behind my song. They screwed me so well that if I told you the car commercial, I'd get my hand legally slapped.

    The only thing we can do as a community to prevent things like this from happening, is to band together and let the money hoarders know we don't want to take their (explitive deleted). Lotta good that will do when I gotta feed my children.

    Don't sign the "Intellectual Property" paperwork. That means that you might not get the gig. Have them add a stipulation stating that they can have the actual code but (add the Microsoft reverse engineering clause) they can't have the underlying methodology. You probably still won't get the gig.

    Any music I compose now stays inside my studio. I may try to release it some day. And you can bet if I do I will have to go into business just to save my songs from exploitation.

    I'm crying right along side you.

      I should have copyrighted that song sooner.
      Actually you already did have it copyrighted. In both the US and Canada you become the owner of the copyright of an original work that you've created automatically.

      For more deatils, start here

        You are 100% correct mothra. There is a ruling in the US courts that says the only legally permissable evidence is a proof of authorship from the library of congress. That is why the old "mail yourself a copy and keep it unopened" does not work. They decided against that method.

        Also, I don't have the time or money to go up against a corporation. I don't know where my witnesses are at this point and I don't even think that they used more than four or five bars from it.

        Thanks for the link!

        But it is not a registered copyright, only *implied* and you have to prove it is your work, original, and created/published before the alleged infraction or the work.
Re: Licensing and Rape-Proofing your ideals.
by muzakfetch (Scribe) on Apr 24, 2001 at 22:26 UTC
    Well after reading the responses to deprecated and his being "raped" by MusicCity and their admins, let me tell you more of the story.

    Back in December, deprecated and I went to MusicCity after watching their stats on Napigator climb to the top. Because of the nature of the climb (extremely fast) we assumed that they had modified Dr. Scholl's code to "spoof". After talking with Firestormo (apparently the lead SysAdmin) for awhile, we discovered (or so we thought) that this was apparently being run in a porn data center WITHOUT the knowledge of the higher ups.

    That was lie #1. Lie #2: We vow to remain FREE!!

    This was told to us by someone claiming to be the "CEO" during our conversation with Firestormo. After much banter with Firestormo deprecated and I both offered our help and advice. deprecated more so then I since my knowledge is limited.

    Over the next several months, firestormo would pop into our network from time to time asking questions. This would usually end with deprecated going over to MusicCity and working on solutions for their growing pains.

    Did deprecated assist MusicCity? Yes.

    I know this, because the very scripts (in Perl of course) they used, I use. I am part of deprecated's merry band of opennap server admins, and I talk to him quite a bit.

    One last note to MusicCity:

    Way to crap on the OpenSource movement guys. You make me want to puke. Also, why are you running your software on top of the Internet Explorer interface? Are your people just retarded?



Boom! (was: Re: Licensing and Rape-Proofing your ideals.)
by Sprad (Hermit) on Apr 24, 2001 at 18:24 UTC
    A prof I had back in college does a bit of contract work on the side. She learned a trick early on that she employs in every job she does -- self-destruct code. Unbeknownst to the client, she puts a backdoor in every program she ships that enables her to pull the plug. She used it to ensure that they didn't stiff her on the bill, but a similar strategy could be used in your case. If you don't like the way they're using it, activate the self-destruct code.

    I'm not sure of the legality of that technique, though. It seems that as long as you own the code and they're just licensing it from you, then you can make the code work however you want, including making it not work at all. But I'm not a lawyer, and don't even play one on TV.

    Still, it's something to consider. If they're willing to rip you off like that, they're probably just as willing to walk all over any license you make them sign. Adding a self-destruct would put enough power in your hands to resolve difficulties like this.

    But it sure would suck if they *were* a nice company, and the self-destruct got found out by someone else...

    Update: Upvote! Downvote! Upvote! Downvote! Ah, sweet controversy.

    Like I said, I don't know if this is legal. Probably there's different ways to implement both the code and the accompanying license, some ways will be legal, some ways won't. The idea is not without precedent, though. Take a look at this bastion of legality and moral uprightness.

    Ethically, it's a grey area. It's somewhat akin to carrying a concealed weapon. Some will pack heat for protection, others will use it to rob banks. Implementing self-destruct code gives the programmer a considerable measure of power over the client, and that power could certainly be abused.

    But is it morally right to exercise such power in a case like this? (not "legal" -- "right") I'll leave that question open. :)

    As for implementation, it needn't be a complete erasure of the code. Simply making it not work, or even slowing it down considerably, would suffice. Perhaps make it check for a file tucked away somewhere. No findie, no workie. An implementation like that might even be passed off as a simple bug, if done cleverly enough.

    Hey, you could even start a consulting business just writing code like that. "I want Amazon down, see? But make it look like an accident."

    I'm too sexy for my .sig.

      This does not sounds like a good solution to me at all. Not only is it ethically questionable at best, but technically unfeasible as well. Don't companies keep a backup copy of the code somewhere? The only way to truly ensure total "destruction" of the code is to create some sort of self-propagating worm that would hunt down and destroy all copies. I think anyone who tried something like that would get the pants sued off them quicker than you can say "dumb idea."
      A prof I had back in college does a bit of contract work on the side. She learned a trick early on that she employs in every job she does -- self-destruct code.

      Be very careful (read: have a good lawyer) with this one. In states that have passed the dread UCITA (the Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act), self-destruct code is legal. Your mileage in other states may vary, but could include costly litigation.

      If you're not aware of what UCITA is, or how badly it sucks for consumers, see

Re: Licensing and Rape-Proofing your ideals.
by Anonymous Monk on Apr 29, 2001 at 07:41 UTC
    Let me get this straight. You are unhappy that your code was used in a way you don't agree with.

    Yet the very purpose of the aforementioned code is to share music and other files in a way that probably 95% of those files' creators would not agree with.

    Isn't this hypocritical? How have you not violated other's ideals and rights to a greater extent than yours were violated?

    And that's being kind, it goes even farther than that. MusicCity apparently discontinued its use of your software when they switched networks. So the fact that you helped them with software they no longer use is supposed to allow you to dictate to them forever what they should do and how they should be required to spend their money on servers and bandwidth?


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