Hypothetical question...

Rod Dixon, J.D., LL.M. rod at cyberspaces.org
Sat Feb 19 13:57:46 UTC 2000

Interesting question David! That is exactly the point of my article arguing
that source code should not be subject to copyright protection in the first
place. If you did not modify the source code subject to the GPL, then it
does not seem that the GPL is applicable. HOWEVER, your hypo sounds like a
strong argument for copyright infringement could be made. Under the right
circumstances, copyright law permits a copyright holder to argue:

your access to their source code == copying;

In other words, the irony of open source is that it is easier to prove
copyright infringement than it would be if the software were proprietary or
Rod Dixon, J.D., LL.M.

see When Efforts to Conceal May Actually Reveal:
Whether First Amendment Protection of Encryption Source Code and the OPEN
SOURCE MOVEMENT Support Re-drawing the Constitutional Line Between the First
Amendment and Copyright for Authors of Computer Software, if interested.
rod at cyberspaces.org

> -----Original Message-----
> From: David Johnson [mailto:arandir at meer.net]
> Sent: Saturday, February 19, 2000 2:40 AM
> To: license-discuss at opensource.org
> Subject: Hypothetical question...
> I've suddenly found myself in a curious situation. I don't want
> to get into
> specifics, so I'll present a hypothetical situation.
> Let's say I'm writing a new collection class for an STL like library. This
> class is meant to be used with the library and would be useless
> on its own. Now
> to create this class, I had to make it follow the library
> interface. Not being
> a programming whiz, I took a peek at the libraries source code to
> figure out
> some basic concepts on what was going on in the library.
> Now that I am done, I am going to use the new class in one of my
> applications.
> However, looking over what I have created, it looks rather like
> the code in the
> library (especially since it's polymorphic). If this hypothetical
> library were
> under the GPL would I now have to release my class under the GPL
> as well? Or if
> it were a QPL library could I only distribute my class as a patch?
> In other words, have I copied or plagarized from the library? I
> understand that
> one can't copyright an algorithm. However, any decent Array class
> in C++ is
> going to look very similar to most of the other decent Array classes.
> --
> David Johnson...
> _____________________________
> http://www.meer.net/~arandir/

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