[License-discuss] exploring the attachment between the author and the code

Nicholas Matthew Neft Weinstock nweinsto at qti.qualcomm.com
Fri Feb 28 22:07:24 UTC 2020

As an analogy, think about an artist during the Renaissance.

Let's say he paints a work of art simply because he was inspired.  Nobody tells him what to paint.  He owns the painting, and he can do whatever he wants with it.  He has freedom and control over the work.  But he also takes the risk.  He buys the materials and spends his time creating the painting, with no guarantee that he'll get any money from it.  He could be Van Gogh, making moving works of art, but living a miserable life and never selling anything.

On the other hand, let's say the artist is hired by a wealthy family to make a painting of the oldest son in his Lieutenant’s uniform.  They might tell him what size canvas to use, or if they want him to "fix" the boy's eyes, but he's using his own artistic talent to create the work.  They agree upon the price beforehand, presumably based on expectations that the portrait will be so "good" based on work the artist has already done.  When the painting is done the family has to pay, even if they hate the work.   Now the family has the risk, they agreed to pay for something before it was created.  The artist doesn't have the risk, he's getting money no matter what.  He has become Mr. Frazee, with painting work that is steady but not very artistically stimulating.  It’s certainly understandable that the artist might feel a personal connection to the painting, but it’s also understandable that the family paid the artist to create the painting, so they own it.

And I could certainly see an artist doing a bit of both.  Create portraits for wealthy families during the day, use the compensation to finance supplies to paint what interests him at night and on weekends.

That’s essentially what's going on here, but a different type of creativity.  Some people prefer to code solely for themselves, working on projects that interest them, without anybody telling them what to do.  Other people are happy to code whatever someone else tells them to, they just enjoy software programming; maybe they don't have the drive or direction to work on their own, or maybe they need the money enough that they're willing to give up that freedom.  And others develop for a company during the day, then work on open source projects at night.

To continue the analogy, the family might say "If you're painting for yourself at nights and on weekends, we don't want you to create the same thing we're paying you to create."  I think this is where there are differences of opinion and expectations.  If the artist purchases the materials, can he paint whatever he wants?  Or does the family have the right to tell him that he can't paint a second version of "Our Son the Lieutenant"?  Can the family say "...we don't want you to recreate any of the artwork you see in our house, even things we commissioned another artist to paint for us"?

One interesting development in the law is the idea of moral rights.  This is only recognized in a minority of countries.  It allows the artist to reserve the right to block their art from being used in a way that they would find morally repugnant, even if someone else otherwise owns the copyright.  I think this is a legal reflection of the emotional connection to the work that persists even after the legal ownership is transferred to a new owner.

Nicholas Weinstock

From: License-discuss <license-discuss-bounces at lists.opensource.org> On Behalf Of Gil Yehuda via License-discuss
Sent: Friday, February 28, 2020 12:03 PM
To: license-discuss at lists.opensource.org
Cc: Gil Yehuda <gyehuda at verizonmedia.com>
Subject: Re: [License-discuss] exploring the attachment between the author and the code

A mid-conversation thank you to those who have contributed so far. Nicholas, you are bringing excellent clarifications, especially around the parameters of copyright. Others shared really nice ideas about they see sharing. But I also run into people who relate to code differently, and that's the curiosity. e.g. code assigned to an employer vs. how employees feel about their work product (and assert how they'd want it used). In those cases the legality of rights (assigned to a company) may be at odds with the feeling of the code author.

Sure, one could dismiss this and say "then don't work for a company" but I'm not looking to solve a particular problem, but to explore the range in which people feel attached to their code and to where their code goes. I'm purposely framing this to be about feelings and away from rights since I think it may help understanding the different ways in which people feel ownership of their work and how it relates to their views on licenses. Sean, your "kids" analogy is very helpful as it can explain quite the range of relationships people have with their code.

I hope to hear, thanks.

Gil Yehuda: I help with external technology engagement
From the https://developer.yahoo.com/opensource/docs/ at Yahoo --> Oath - -> Verizon Media

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