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From Noah Slater <>
Subject Re: Uneasiness with use of github for experimentation
Date Thu, 06 Aug 2009 22:05:50 GMT
On Thu, Aug 06, 2009 at 02:45:44PM -0400, Paul Davis wrote:
> You mean that we need to go find every person that's ever put a patch
> on JIRA and get them to sign a legal document?

As Jan pointed out, JIRA has a checkbox for this. Heh.

> And how does this work if someone points out a one liner to me on IRC?

Similar to what Dirkjan pointed out, the FSF maintains that anything under 15
lines is probably insignificant for copyright purposes. This opinion is based on
legal advice, but has not been tested in court to the best of my knowledge.

> Or over my shoulder?

Same as above.

> Or what if someone describes an idea for a feature and I implement it?

This isn't how copyright works, thankfully.

Copyright covers the actual creative output, not the ideas behind that creative
output. I could take the idea behind Pulp Fiction, and shoot my own gritty
northern version, set in Newcastle. I doubt Tarantino would mind. Similarly, I
can re-implement someone else's idea without many problems. This happens all the
time, for example: GNU, Linux, Mono, GNU Classpath, GNU Gnash, OpenOffice, &c.
The thing you need to worry about is patents, but that's another kettle of fish.
And in fact, the Apache license addresses this directly.

> The more I ponder the legal ramifications of my interactions the more
> I feel as though I should never read dev@ for fear that I unknowingly
> introduce someone's intellectual property into SVN.

This is probably a side effect of calling it intellectual property:

  It has become fashionable to toss copyright, patents, and trademarks — three
  separate and different entities involving three separate and different sets of
  laws — into one pot and call it “intellectual property”. The distorting and
  confusing term did not arise by accident. Companies that gain from the
  confusion promoted it. The clearest way out of the confusion is to reject the
  term entirely.


I would prefer it if the ASF stopped using this term and instead talked about
copyright, patents, and trademarks. There is enough to get confused about as it
is, as is demonstrated by your email, without making that any worse.


Noah Slater,

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