[linux-elitists] We've seen SCO's evidence

Don Marti dmarti@zgp.org
Fri Sep 5 10:08:01 PDT 2003

begin Jonathan Corbet quotation of Fri, Aug 22, 2003 at 03:16:45PM -0600:

> I think we're going to
> have to face up to that.  I also think it's not that big of a deal - if we
> deal with it in a straightforward way.

To totally ignore the law for a couple minutes, it comes down to
being consistent about Code is Speech.  Quote of the day:

First, we want to establish the idea that a computer language
is not just a way of getting a computer to perform operations but
rather that it is a novel formal medium for expressing ideas about
methodology. Thus, programs must be written for people to read,
and only incidentally for machines to execute.

        -- Hal Abelson and Gerald Jay Sussman with Julie Sussman,
           Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs

If source code is technical speech, and we all seem to agree that it
is, then the customs for attribution that apply to other publications
must apply to source code as well.

Free software contributors are generally good about citing sources
-- everything from full academic citations in comments down to
changelogs, credits, and HISTORY sections in man pages.  This has
nothing to do with contracts or copyright law.  It's just what you
learned to do in the fourth grade when you did a report on steam
engines and had to write a Bibliography of all the books you used.

Whether or not software you borrow or refer to is free to use,
a citation is customary and expected.  Making people guess about
your sources because you didn't provide them is a good reason
to be sent back to the fourth grade.  I would certainly run a
correction and apology, and "fire" any Linux Journal contributor
who misrepresented the origin of code, no matter what its copyright
or contractual status.

(The attribution issue is also why I don't like the use of "steal"
to mean "infringe" -- "steal" has traditionally been used to mean
"copy and claim authorship", not just "copy".)

Don Marti                Reform copyright law -- return abandoned works
http://zgp.org/~dmarti   to the public domain after 50 years:
dmarti@zgp.org           http://www.PetitionOnline.com/eldred/petition.html

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