Rights talk

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tmaibaum
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Rights talk

#1 Post by tmaibaum » Tue Apr 05, 2011 6:16 am

Sorry, I just don't get all this "rights talk". I'm sure that all of John's legal points are technically correct. But while we're quibbling with the letter of the license, aren't we rather forgetting the spirit of what free software should be all about? There'd be no point releasing the source code for anyone to have fun with and then use trademark restrictions etc. to effectively stop anyone from using it, except perhaps a few partners handpicked according to unclear criteria, as the ones described by Webfork and John:
"business partner" (free/open-source isn't about business by definition)
"leader in open source" (what's the definition?)
"substantial reputation / coding skill" (again, judged on what criteria?)
"working with Mozilla Firefox ... since 2004" (Fine, but everyone has to start at some point, don't they?)
"We worked directly with them on the naming and the branding..." (as Danilo pointed out, he tried to do the same but Mozilla didn't respond; also, I feel that having to work directly with certain people is against the spirit of free software: If you can only use a piece of supposedly free software with the support of the trademark owners, then it doesn't really deserve the label "free".)
"...as well as the exact changes needed to make it portable" (Fine, but the only meaningful criterion for users is, does the portable version work or doesn't it? If it does, they won't care whether this was achieved with or without the direct collaboration of original authors).
"we have a larger worldwide userbase than all other portable software platforms combined" (Fine, but I don't see how this fact would de-legitimize any competing efforts).
• As for the source code not being distributed along with the binaries, while this may
@John: Let there be no mistake, I'm a huge fan of your work, which introduced me to the concept of portable software in the first place and certainly deserves to be so popular. But much of what you're saying in this thread, no matter how justified it may be on a technical level, looks like you're trying to cast aspersions on a competitor. :(

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Re: Rights talk

#2 Post by -.- » Tue Apr 05, 2011 7:33 am

From what I can see, John doesn't have a problem with open source... but just because it is open, doesn't mean you can take it and do what you want with it, you still need permission to use it if you are changing it. Example, public parks. No one will deny that they are open to everyone, but does that mean they can go changing the scenery to their liking without permission? No, that's vandalism and graffiti if you do it without permission. If you ask them and they let you, its called paintings and landscaping.

Plus software that are open to people to use doesn't by definition mean you can use it as you want.
Intellectual property might be "free" since once it's published it is open for everyone to use, but that doesn't entitle you to using it however you want.

It's like plagiarism in school, you have to ask permission if you are using someone's work. If you are using an "open source" you have to give reference/credit to source. However there is a limit to how much you can "take" with just giving credit. Lets see someone publish a paper with entire paragraphs taken from someone else and have a footnote saying "credit author ___" without asking that author first. You think that little footnote will hold up and show that the paper isn't plagiarism/theft?

edit: since when did free mean it becomes your's?
I feel that having to work directly with certain people is against the spirit of free software: If you can only use a piece of supposedly free software with the support of the trademark owners, then it doesn't really deserve the label "free".

It's free because you don't pay for it, that doesnt mean it is "your" product.

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webfork
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Re: Rights talk

#3 Post by webfork » Tue Apr 05, 2011 8:34 am

tmaibaum wrote:But while we're quibbling with the letter of the license, aren't we rather forgetting the spirit of what free software should be all about?
Absolutely. We are totally sucking all the fun out of it. And yes its supposed to be fun and I'm sorry I'm not emphasizing that. The overall feeling is people pointing fingers, which is the antithesis of cooperation. I don't know if its related, but with the exception perhaps of Drop-It, there's not much community software actively developed here on PortableFreeware.com and that's unfortunate.

Despite this, open software's share-and-share alike license has been hugely successful. Linux and Firefox are just two and even those that don't use them use Apache daily via the web.

The problem is that license stuff was generated as a result of people abusing their place in a community. The spirit of the GPL and other similar licenses is to avoid taking someone elses' freedom to look at and change the code. As open software has increasingly attracted business into the arena, they've been hesitant to license ALL their software openly. They use copyright and trademark law to protect some parts of their software from both competition and use by malware developers. You're still free to take the code, rebrand the software, and do whatever you like with it. You don't have to give anyone else the code unless you start to distribute the binary.

In other words, a good open license is supposed to enable you to do more, not tie your hands.
Last edited by webfork on Tue Apr 05, 2011 10:07 am, edited 1 time in total.

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usdcs
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Re: Rights talk

#4 Post by usdcs » Wed Apr 06, 2011 4:34 am

Rights Talk. For me, there's been too much "I'm right. You're wrong." emphasis.

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Re: Rights talk

#5 Post by webfork » Wed Apr 06, 2011 6:09 am

usdcs wrote:Rights Talk. For me, there's been too much "I'm right. You're wrong." emphasis.
I agree. It takes a certain skill-set to be good at software: logic, process, and analytical abilities. Those same skills encourage a personality that likes to be right and usually isn't comfortable with ill-defined gray areas. People skills meanwhile almost require negotiation and flexibility. I'm not saying programmers can't have people skills but they are two different hats. Developers who make software with a community must try to wear both.

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JohnTHaller
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Re: Rights talk

#6 Post by JohnTHaller » Wed Apr 06, 2011 7:46 am

The specific comments you are quoting lose a lot of their meaning out of context, so that should be kept in mind.

Like it or not, software is a business. And even when a non-profit is involved, you're still dealing with a business mentality with other corporations. Mozilla brought in $100 million last year, so they are protective of their trademark, as they should be. It took us a very long time and a lot of close cooperation to arrive at the naming, branding, packaging and technical functionality of Mozilla Firefox, Portable Edition. And we don't make any money off of the app, either. We followed the rules because we wanted to have the app available, to have it work properly for everyone and to be able to legally use the naming. If we didn't want to do that, we'd still have been free to release it as IceCat or similar the way the FSF did a non-trademarked version of Firefox.

The laws of copyright, trademark and licensing still apply to open source. Open source doesn't mean free-for-all and it doesn't operate in a vacuum. It's a specific set of rules designed to ensure that software stays Free and operates on the right side of the law. In order to stay free, everyone has to follow those rules. They're really not hard to follow at all (include copyright, include the license, make the source available, don't 'link' to code under an incompatible license, etc). Open source licenses also specifically leave out trademarks so that businesses aren't abused and forced to have another entity putting out a similar/competing product with the name and destroying the confidence that users have in that name.

In the end, open source is great. And competition is great. But operating legally is very important if you want your software to stay available. And when you take the time to operate legally and follow all the rules laid out by the license, copyright law, trademark law, etc and see someone else taking shortcuts (taking your binaries and stripping your name off, not taking the time to host source code, packaging software illegally without publisher/trademark-holder permission... all of which were done by various entities in the last couple months) it gets frustrating. You're taking the time to do things legally/ethically/morally and somebody else is getting ahead (or trying to) by taking shortcuts.

We're not some huge corporation either. We're a collection of about 100 volunteers. I've put a lot of time and money into PortableApps.com in an effort to keep it legal, functional, useful for everybody and hopefully be my fulltime job (at the moment, it still costs me money to run). I think it's important for it to be self-sustaining to ensure that it'll be around for a good long while and to ensure that it can keep bringing in new publishers who otherwise wouldn't make their software portable. Having a stable, legal entity with a well-trafficked site is important in those situations.

In the end, all I can say is what I feel and why I do what I do. I create software. I repackage software for portable use. I try to make it useful for as many people as possible and make computing more accessible for people who otherwise may not be able to afford it. I love what I do. I'm not perfect. I'll make mistakes along the way. I've made some public ones before. I may make some again. And I apologize if those have involved you before or will in the future when I'm having an off day. Even if I'm But I'm going to keep creating and doing it in a way that ensures that the work will be around and useful to people for a very long time.
Last edited by JohnTHaller on Wed Apr 06, 2011 11:14 am, edited 1 time in total.
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ChemZ
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Re: Rights talk

#7 Post by ChemZ » Wed Apr 06, 2011 9:57 am

Pardon my ignorance, but just wondering... has any real legal action actually taken place? Like the circling vultures (lawyers) versed in the technical arts of fine-print-mumbo-jumbo?

I would imagine this would be the case if somehow winPenPack was hurting Mozilla/Oracle financially or damaging their reputation in any way. That I can understand.

But isn't winPenPack just providing a different avenue for people to use Mozilla/Oracle's software? That's free advertisement not to mention a bigger market share, considering the dominants of all powerful Microsoft with I.E and MS Office.

But I dunno, it's all in how you want to look at it really. I don't see anyone doing anything wrong, just one doing it more right than the other. I really hope common-sense prevails with this one... :D

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Re: Rights talk

#8 Post by webfork » Wed Apr 06, 2011 11:32 am

ChemZ wrote:Pardon my ignorance, but just wondering... has any real legal action actually taken place?
I think you're essentially asking: "who got hurt?" After all, where is the injustice and where's the legal action to right the wrong? More than that, isn't this legal nonsense just somebody elses' problem (borrowing from your Douglass Adams reference)?

I think trademark law is about protecting brands. Brands like Pepsi, Microsoft, General Motors, etc. These brands have a company behind them and when the company does something wrong, all its products become something to be avoided (think the bad public relations behind SCO, Exxon, or Monsanto). You might not think its a big deal but I promise you the employees of those companies care very much about that and, when you're in a fast changing field like software, attitude counts for quite a bit.

Again, they probably wont' take action because these are small projects and you don't create community by suing people. However, that doesn't mean they won't. Part of that suggestion is that if you want to put your time/effort/energy behind a software, you should go with the more legally viable one as its more likely to make it in the long haul.

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Re: Rights talk

#9 Post by webfork » Wed Apr 06, 2011 11:35 am

JohnTHaller wrote:In the end, all I can say is what I feel and why I do what I do. I create software. I repackage software for portable use. I try to make it useful for as many people as possible and make computing more accessible for people who otherwise may not be able to afford it. I love what I do. I'm not perfect. I'll make mistakes along the way. I've made some public ones before. I may make some again. And I apologize if those have involved you before or will in the future when I'm having an off day. Even if I'm But I'm going to keep creating and doing it in a way that ensures that the work will be around and useful to people for a very long time.
Thanks for that. Its helpful to know where you are coming from.

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Danix
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Re: Rights talk

#10 Post by Danix » Thu Apr 07, 2011 2:40 am

JohnTHaller wrote:We're not some huge corporation either. We're a collection of about 100 volunteers. I've put a lot of time and money into PortableApps.com in an effort to keep it legal, functional, useful for everybody and hopefully be my fulltime job (at the moment, it still costs me money to run). I think it's important for it to be self-sustaining to ensure that it'll be around for a good long while and to ensure that it can keep bringing in new publishers who otherwise wouldn't make their software portable. Having a stable, legal entity with a well-trafficked site is important in those situations.

In the end, all I can say is what I feel and why I do what I do. I create software. I repackage software for portable use. I try to make it useful for as many people as possible and make computing more accessible for people who otherwise may not be able to afford it. I love what I do. I'm not perfect. I'll make mistakes along the way. I've made some public ones before. I may make some again. And I apologize if those have involved you before or will in the future when I'm having an off day. Even if I'm But I'm going to keep creating and doing it in a way that ensures that the work will be around and useful to people for a very long time.
Hi John,
regarding this part of your post, we want let You know:
  • - our volunteers Team is 10 times smaller than yours;
  • - we are NOT all programmers, we are doing our best only because we are only very passionate people;
  • - we won't have this activity as our full time job. We all already have it, and, implementing this project we steal work time to our activities;
  • - we won't make money with this project (to be honest, actually we are losing money, in time spent and hosting expenses);
  • - ANYWAY, also by our side, we are going to keep creating our portables in a way that ensures our work will be around and useful to people for a very long time.
So, at the end, I wanna say this: both our projects started with a diffident TARGET, but both of us are working in same direction, with passion, and in legality!
Making satisfied all lovers of portable software.

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m^(2)
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Re: Rights talk

#11 Post by m^(2) » Thu Apr 07, 2011 5:42 am

JohnTHaller wrote:The specific comments you are quoting lose a lot of their meaning out of context, so that should be kept in mind.

Like it or not, software is a business. And even when a non-profit is involved, you're still dealing with a business mentality with other corporations. Mozilla brought in $100 million last year, so they are protective of their trademark, as they should be. It took us a very long time and a lot of close cooperation to arrive at the naming, branding, packaging and technical functionality of Mozilla Firefox, Portable Edition. And we don't make any money off of the app, either. We followed the rules because we wanted to have the app available, to have it work properly for everyone and to be able to legally use the naming. If we didn't want to do that, we'd still have been free to release it as IceCat or similar the way the FSF did a non-trademarked version of Firefox.

The laws of copyright, trademark and licensing still apply to open source. Open source doesn't mean free-for-all and it doesn't operate in a vacuum. It's a specific set of rules designed to ensure that software stays Free and operates on the right side of the law. In order to stay free, everyone has to follow those rules. They're really not hard to follow at all (include copyright, include the license, make the source available, don't 'link' to code under an incompatible license, etc). Open source licenses also specifically leave out trademarks so that businesses aren't abused and forced to have another entity putting out a similar/competing product with the name and destroying the confidence that users have in that name.

In the end, open source is great. And competition is great. But operating legally is very important if you want your software to stay available. And when you take the time to operate legally and follow all the rules laid out by the license, copyright law, trademark law, etc and see someone else taking shortcuts (taking your binaries and stripping your name off, not taking the time to host source code, packaging software illegally without publisher/trademark-holder permission... all of which were done by various entities in the last couple months) it gets frustrating. You're taking the time to do things legally/ethically/morally and somebody else is getting ahead (or trying to) by taking shortcuts.

We're not some huge corporation either. We're a collection of about 100 volunteers. I've put a lot of time and money into PortableApps.com in an effort to keep it legal, functional, useful for everybody and hopefully be my fulltime job (at the moment, it still costs me money to run). I think it's important for it to be self-sustaining to ensure that it'll be around for a good long while and to ensure that it can keep bringing in new publishers who otherwise wouldn't make their software portable. Having a stable, legal entity with a well-trafficked site is important in those situations.

In the end, all I can say is what I feel and why I do what I do. I create software. I repackage software for portable use. I try to make it useful for as many people as possible and make computing more accessible for people who otherwise may not be able to afford it. I love what I do. I'm not perfect. I'll make mistakes along the way. I've made some public ones before. I may make some again. And I apologize if those have involved you before or will in the future when I'm having an off day. Even if I'm But I'm going to keep creating and doing it in a way that ensures that the work will be around and useful to people for a very long time.
I liked this post, but I disagree with the bold part.

Those who violate open sources licenses are not a threat. There are many who play by the rules and they are the ones that build the community. I feel it's better to concentrate on contributors than to point fingers at wrongdoers. They are more numerous and more important.

And laws are for people, not the other way. This includes licensing. I've seen many violations made by good guys - and I never considered them to be a problem, they were minor ones and well overweighted by their contributions. That applies to winPenPack too. I don't know if they violate GPL or trademark licenses. But even if they do - the violations are practically harmless and the volume of their good work is far important.

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