After reading David Murphy's article, I came away with the same feeling over Lawrence Lessig's description of the copyright mess. In his book Free Culture
, he describes how the existing copyright law constrains how content producer can use content from other sources due to the burden on the content producer to seek permission from all the copyright holders. This is extremely expensive and time-consuming. A lot of producers end up not doing it, or reduce their scope of work. Our culture becomes poorer as a result.
In LiberKey's case, I feel "If a software developer has an issue with LiberKey's inclusion of a program, they need only contact the LiberKey developers to have the application quickly removed" seems quite a reasonable compromise to the layperson. That's how DMCA works for content as well.
The same goes for licensing and trademarks. I just can't wrap myself around the fact that if you recompile Firefox with x686 optimization and redistribute it, you can't call it "Firefox". What kind of a world do we live it? I know this is legally wrong, but from a "reasonableness" point-of-view?
Same goes for GPL source code. I can't help but feel we are nitpicking here. We know where the source code is. We know these guys didn't modify it. Why insist that they host it themselves to make things "legal"? AFAIK, entities have only ever been taken to task for modifying GPL code and not publishing it (thus contributing back to the community, which is the "spirit" of the GPL in the first place). Has anyone ever been sued for compiling GPL code and distributing the binary without hosting the code?
If the license is embedded within the installer, that could be a potential problem. The author wants you to read them, but if installing the portable version bypasses that process, the author might be mad. But there are ways around it eg. the portable version can pop up the license when the app is run for the first time. As before, this should be implemented in the form of a DMCA-style take down i.e. if the author doesn't like it, contact the offender to take it down (or better, find a compromise). Insisting that no one messes with your installer... well, isn't that what the DMCA guys were trying to do too? You know, you bought our stuff with your own cash, but damn you if you try to take it apart!
As with copyright, the main question is: "Is it fair use?" in this case. And I would argue it is, because the objective is to make apps that are normally non-portable portable, and these guys have obviously spent a lot of work creating the launcher, update mechanism, portable shortcuts, portable associations etc. To argue that using the unaltered application binaries under this framework is "crime" seems unreasonable to me.
These are just my feelings about this case. I am of course strongly against code theft of any form, so if LiberKey has truly stolen or misappropriated code from PA or anyone else, then this should be condemned! But the current substantial differences in functionality and appearance between the LiberKey launcher and ASuite clearly shows it is not a straightcut ripoff, so even if they are using some existing code from ASuite, the bulk of it must have been rewritten. I don't have enough background to comment on John's allegation that they stole intellectual property from PA (strip out logo, remove license etc.) though.