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

Langley, Stuart Stuart.Langley at disney.com
Fri Feb 28 17:58:34 UTC 2020

I'm exploring the psychological relationship between the author of a work, and the work. i.e. parsing the phrase "my open source code" and would like your thoughts.

Assume I need an algorithm, say the quadratic formula. Option A<https://nam04.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fgithub.com%2Fspilos%2FEquasion-Solver&data=02%7C01%7Cstuart.langley%40disney.com%7Cde5b5d43ac924abc89c908d7bc6a779f%7C56b731a8a2ac4c32bf6b616810e913c6%7C1%7C0%7C637185037781069480&sdata=Xq5RRzp8Na821KKNdz3F8twckkHdzeCgruiTJQ8wD54%3D&reserved=0> is promising and is licensed under GPLv3. Option B<https://nam04.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fgithub.com%2Fjasonwynn10%2FPast-Console-Projects%2Ftree%2Fmaster%2Fquadratic%2520equasion&data=02%7C01%7Cstuart.langley%40disney.com%7Cde5b5d43ac924abc89c908d7bc6a779f%7C56b731a8a2ac4c32bf6b616810e913c6%7C1%7C0%7C637185037781079481&sdata=2GmyvbZRFJRpds3HnbsCHoiiKlTPIq3jGVL7c31qgcw%3D&reserved=0> is also promising, and is released to the public domain under the Unlicense. Option C: I write my own code and publish it under a license of my choice.

Obvious differences (language, licenses, amount of work involved in incorporating it into my larger solution) are apparent. Less obvious to everyone but me is that Option C is "my" code, and I feel an attachment to it. When I license it, I'm declaring terms on how I want you to use 'my' code. Thus I'm exploring the idea of "my code" with this group, since it informs my license choice.

  1.  When I use open source code in my solution, I still feel that my solution is mine (even though others wrote some of it).
  2.  When my code is used by others, I don't feel less attached to my code. It still feels mine.
  3.  When an open source community modifies my code, when is it no longer my code (grandfather's ax problem)?
You see, I realize the quadratic formula is not mine. My coding is mine, but I'm just encoding someone else's solution, a solution discovered hundreds of years ago. I'm encoding it in a syntax someone else specified. My solution may be novel to me, but not to others. So what is it that attaches me to code such that I decide the terms under which you use it in your solution?

Gil Yehuda: I help with external technology engagement

From the Open Source Program Office<https://nam04.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fdeveloper.yahoo.com%2Fopensource%2Fdocs%2F&data=02%7C01%7Cstuart.langley%40disney.com%7Cde5b5d43ac924abc89c908d7bc6a779f%7C56b731a8a2ac4c32bf6b616810e913c6%7C1%7C0%7C637185037781079481&sdata=iYNFgL%2FXjcPpdEY5d51I6Zu8xf6B01fwT9%2BChBaPevo%3D&reserved=0> at Yahoo --> Oath - -> Verizon Media

Speaking only to the psychological relationship rather than the philosophical,  human possessiveness seems almost universal and rooted in a desire to control—be it things, people, environment, etc.  I think the desire to control, in turn, is a go-to response to fear.  If we convince ourselves we control something we don’t need to fear it or fear losing it.  To the point of some of your questions, as you become less afraid of what happens to “your code” it seems the desire to control goes away and we almost automatically stop thinking about it possessively.  I think your degree of possessiveness has very little to do with how much of that code is your handiwork, and very much to do with how much you fear losing control.

Think about water running through a creek on your farm.  You need a portion of that water to survive, so you support laws and agreements to claim some part as yours so you can feel in control of your future.  (which is an interesting aside…we probably use the term “my future” to support the illusion of control also.)  But the water that flows downstream is soon forgotten even though it was exactly the same water, and eventually all of “your water” evaporates from the field and you don’t even think of possessing it.
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