[clug] Re: A most interesting read, most interesting

Jacinta Richardson jarich at perltraining.com.au
Sun Dec 31 04:09:46 GMT 2006

Simon Fowler wrote:
> On Sun, Dec 31, 2006 at 10:30:01AM +1100, Peter Anderson wrote:
>> Martijn van Oosterhout said:
>> "...I have certainly never assigned ownership rights to anybody. And 
>> please don't say that people who develop open source have done so. They 
>> have simply published under a fairly liberal licence, but it's certainly 
>> not public domain. At the very least they retain the right of 
>> attribution..."
>> Martijn, I not sure a lawyer would agree with your interpretation. 
>> Equally, I think that if you put Simply put, once you have published 
>> your 'ideas' as open source you have given 'the world' unfettered access 
>> to them to do with them what ever they want. Usually all you ask in 
>> return is that they acknowledge your original ideas. So although you 
>> might think that you have not given up ownership of your ideas, 
>> effectively you have.
> Not at all - most of the 'open source' or 'free software' licenses
> that people actually use impose quite specific limitations on what
> people can do with the copyrighted work that they own and release
> under that license. They're most definitely /not/ giving the world
> unfettered access to do whatever they want with it, and certainly
> not giving up their ownership rights over copyrighted works.


> You're missing the forest by focussing on the trees here.

I think the issue here is one of language.  Peter is concerned about _ideas_ 
while you and Martijn are focussing on the expression of those ideas in _code_. 
  Let's just say that I have an amazing new idea.  Perhaps it's a method in 
which internet shopping can be made easier because I've come up with an 
algorithm which uses some fantastic algorithm to predict all the stuff that the 
consumer was thinking of buying plus a few things that they could be persuaded 
to buy.

If I implement this idea into an open source product under a license like the 
GPL then I'm giving up that idea, giving it away to society and losing control 
of it.  Sure, I maintain ownership of my code; I own copyright of my code, but 
the _idea_ and algorithm are available to anyone who wants to study, copy or use 
it in their own product, closed source or not, without reference to me (although 
with luck I'd at least have the algorithm named after me.  The GPL and copyright 
protect only my actual code, not the ideas expressed therein.  Further, I don't 
have the opportunity to gain any royalities from my idea regardless of whether I 
spent years perfecting the algorithm or whether I just woke up with it one morning.

On the other hand, if I go to Amazon (for example), I can _sell_ them my idea 
and they'll probably give me lots of money for it.  They'll then patent it and 
hope to make lots of money for it themselves.  And if it was as cool a one as 
I've just suggested; they probably would.

Peter believes that those who come up with new ideas own them.  Whether the idea 
is software related, or mechanical or something else, he believes that novel 
ideas are in a sense property which is owned.  The patent system allows for this 
but allows society to improve through these ideas by limiting the time they may 
be monopolised.

All the best,


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