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Copyright of code on Perlmonks

by RhetTbull (Curate)
on Sep 25, 2001 at 18:29 UTC ( #114539=monkdiscuss: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

Perhaps this has come up before. A quick search showed some discussion about copyright of Chatterbox musings but I didn't see a discussion on code. I posted a reply to this node since the author had included a copyright statement but no permissible use clause and it got me thinking. Is there a standard copyright clause for code and snippets on the Perlmonks site? I assume the author owns the copyright unless otherwise stated. I hadn't really thought about it before but the lack of a copyright statement does raise some concerns and I do know that some employers wouldn't allow code to be used if it didn't include a proper copyright (or "Public Domain" clause). Would it be a useful addition to Perlmonks to have a feature to include a default copyright statement (e.g. Same terms as perl itself) or maybe a user setting you could set to include a link to your own copyright statement? I love the sense of open sharing and community here and don't want to muddle the waters with legaleez but as the usefuleness of the Monastery grows so do the chances that such issues might come up.

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Re: Copyright of code on Perlmonks
by $code or die (Deacon) on Sep 25, 2001 at 19:03 UTC
    I think scain is right. However, it is too late to do a site-wide policy IMO, because it would be retroactive (i.e. would cover previously posted code without the authors' permission). So the best we can hope for is that monks optionally define the license with code posts or add something like this to their homenode:

    Unless otherwise noted, all code authored by "$code or die" on is free software which you can redistribute and/or modify under the same terms as Perl itself.

    Which /me is about to add to my homenode. You should be able to negate this license on individual code posts.

    Updates: removed superfluous "it" from license statement - btw what's the correct spelling of license?
    Added link to perl license.

    Simon Flack ($code or die)
    $,=reverse'"ro_';s,$,\$,;s,$,lc ref sub{},e;$,
    =~y'_"' ';eval"die";print $_,lc substr$@,0,3;
      That's a great idea. I just updated my homenode as well.
Re (tilly) 1: Copyright of code on Perlmonks
by tilly (Archbishop) on Sep 25, 2001 at 20:00 UTC
    IANAL but my understanding of the relevant laws says that the author owns anything they write unless that default is superceded somehow (eg your contract with your employer). This is true whether or not you have a statement of copyright in the code. It is not within the power of PerlMonks to give permission on any code that appears here unless it owns that code. Transferring ownership would either require a contract between would-be authors and PerlMonks (which doesn't exist) or would require a lot of paperwork. Neither of which is likely to happen.

    That is the bad news.

    There is worse news. The odds are high that your employer owns copyright to all of the code that you write for them. Think about this carefully before posting stuff here out of code written for your job.

    But it is not all bad. For instance did you know that violating someone else's copyright doesn't generally matter if they have no objections? All that a copyright license does is lays out conditions which are sufficient to get permission to do things otherwise prohibited by copyright law. However the copyright owner can choose to retroactively give you permission for anything they want. (Of course at that point they have you over a barrel and could try to extort whatever they want from you.) So if someone answers you with some code, while you may have no legal protection should you choose to use that, do you really think the author will object?

    You see lawyers do a lot of worrying over what-ifs and might-bes. Legal contracts try to nail down the various ways in which people will and won't be nasty to each other. However many geeks take an attitude towards lawyers that can be summed up with, "If I ignore you long enough, will you go away?" As long as all parties are inclined to be reasonable, this works fairly well. Most geeks are inclined towards being reasonable. Of course if someone is out to make you miserable, that is a recipe for disaster.

    So I would say that you should decide your own comfort level. I don't worry about 5 line snippets. If I want to use a longer piece of code, I will ask for permission. I have had people ask me for permission to use code. And I have been known to put a copyright statement on longer pieces of code.

    Of course that isn't legal advice. That is just where my comfort level is. After all if someone sends you a message in chatter saying, "It is OK to use that, else I wouldn't have posted it" - are you protected in court? If they sued you, can you prove it was them who gave you the message? Perhaps you would prefer an email? Perhaps you want it in writing? If you are concerned, then you should talk to a lawyer to determine what level of protection you want.

Re: Copyright of code on Perlmonks
by scain (Curate) on Sep 25, 2001 at 18:50 UTC
    It is my understanding that via the Berne convention on copyrights that the author always owns the copyright, unless he gives it away, so the employer you mention should rightfully be conserned with using copyrighted material, even if it is a vanishingly small probability that anything bad would happen. Anyway, it wouldn't hurt to put a copyright statement on the site, but it would have to be crafted so that individual monks could opt out, presumably with their own statement. I guess it's time to call the lawyers :-/


Re: Copyright of code on Perlmonks; and commercial code
by jeroenes (Priest) on Sep 25, 2001 at 20:24 UTC
    I don't think it matters if someone puts a copyright notice or not. Like in this older thread I still think one has to assume full copyright and no license, unless stated otherwise. That means, you'll have to ask permission to use/ distribute code.

    Don't plagiarize!

    With the growth of perlmonkscode the chance of some code getting commercial deployed becomes larger. So my $0.01 (e0.01 also fine) would be: "ask the author". If you really want to use code from someone else for code reproduction, you'll just have to ask nicely. And come to terms. Probably most ppl here would agree on a GPL/artistic license. (update: like tilly says, you can always apply licenses afterward)

    (disclaimer)....but I have been away for a while, maybe attitude has changed too much....


    "We are not alone"(FZ)

Re: Copyright of code on Perlmonks
by suaveant (Parson) on Sep 25, 2001 at 18:32 UTC
    I would assume Artistic License on code found on perlmonks, but I'm not sure what the going policy is... that would be fine with me...

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