How to pick a license (in under 5 minutes time!)

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Fixer
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Re: How to pick a license (in under 5 minutes time!)

by Fixer » Post

Thank you, this is very useful info.

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Re: How to pick a license (in under 5 minutes time!)

by ShallowDweller » Post

@sofar: Thanks for taking your time to answer my questions :)
sofar wrote:It is a public domain attribution, and this is generally not applicable in many countries. This makes it unwanted.
That's sad to hear :( Maybe it'll change in the very distant and utopic future?
sofar wrote:Ask a lawyer. Seriously though, this is one of the problems of MIT. As long as this is unclear, you need to rely on legal precedent, and that is unwanted. This is why I prefer ISC myself.
Thanks! I guess I'll start using ISC for code then. (I know my patience to browse trough specialized sites for something else won't last long)

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Re: How to pick a license (in under 5 minutes time!)

by stu » Post

Thank you for sharing this @sofar, it has certainly made me think a bit more about how I should license things. Up to now I have mostly just used LGPL for code and cc-by-sa (or similar) for media because that is what MT uses, however, I have been leaning toward MIT more recently.

Something I am still a little uncertain about are the laws regarding changing an existing license, especially if others have contributed. Would I need the approval of every contributor to say change from LGPL to ISC?

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Re: How to pick a license (in under 5 minutes time!)

by sofar » Post

stu wrote:Something I am still a little uncertain about are the laws regarding changing an existing license, especially if others have contributed. Would I need the approval of every contributor to say change from LGPL to ISC?
Yes, absolutely, since the LGPL does not permit relicensing to anything more permissive. You can relicense from LGPL to any GPL license, but not to MIT/ISC/BSD.

Relicensing is something to be really careful about, especially if you have external contributions. It's always best to ask permission, and explain your motivation of course.

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Re: How to pick a license (in under 5 minutes time!)

by stu » Post

sofar wrote:Relicensing is something to be really careful about, especially if you have external contributions. It's always best to ask permission, and explain your motivation of course.
Thanks for the reply, I had kinda guessed as much but this does highlight the importance of taking the time to choose the right licence before making a release :)

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Re: How to pick a license (in under 5 minutes time!)

by Byakuren » Post

Maybe soneone mentioned this, but cc-by-sa wpuld apppy to modifications on the server since it getsbsent to the cliiemt.
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Re: How to pick a license (in under 5 minutes time!)

by sofar » Post

Byakuren wrote:Maybe soneone mentioned this, but cc-by-sa wpuld apppy to modifications on the server since it getsbsent to the cliiemt.
No, this is likely incorrect and not a proper understanding of the difference between "distributing" and "showing".

All images on e.g. any website are copyrighted and you are not bound to specific licenses by just clicking on a website and loading the image in your browser. In the same way, logging into a minetest server doesn't necessarily give the user extra rights.

This is a very gray area and I do not know of any legal precedent or laws that would decide this one way or another, but many companies have successfully asserted their rights of material that web servers give freely to web browsers.

By extension, you can't assert that if I modify a CC-BY-SA work and put it on my server, that I am distributing it according to the same way as someone who uploads it to github. They are not the same thing.

So, I would strongly suggest to use AGPL on code. Artwork has no real way to prevent this, you'd have to -ND-NC it pretty much, and even then it's not a full cover.

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Re: How to pick a license (in under 5 minutes time!)

by TumeniNodes » Post

sofar wrote:Artwork has no real way to prevent this, you'd have to -ND-NC it pretty much, and even then it's not a full cover.
Slap a big ol' watermark on the tilesheet and be done with it... Ship the clean one to those who cough up a bit of green :P
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Re: How to pick a license (in under 5 minutes time!)

by Byakuren » Post

sofar wrote:
Byakuren wrote:Maybe soneone mentioned this, but cc-by-sa wpuld apppy to modifications on the server since it getsbsent to the cliiemt.
No, this is likely incorrect and not a proper understanding of the difference between "distributing" and "showing".

All images on e.g. any website are copyrighted and you are not bound to specific licenses by just clicking on a website and loading the image in your browser. In the same way, logging into a minetest server doesn't necessarily give the user extra rights.

This is a very gray area and I do not know of any legal precedent or laws that would decide this one way or another, but many companies have successfully asserted their rights of material that web servers give freely to web browsers.

By extension, you can't assert that if I modify a CC-BY-SA work and put it on my server, that I am distributing it according to the same way as someone who uploads it to github. They are not the same thing.

So, I would strongly suggest to use AGPL on code. Artwork has no real way to prevent this, you'd have to -ND-NC it pretty much, and even then it's not a full cover.
For copyright (in the US) if you receive the image you are bound by the default Berne-convention-specified rights unless a license is specified. However, this isn't about the restrictions or rights given to the viewer of the image, but the restrictions on the sender (the server). CC-BY-SA requires anyone redistributing the material to do so under the same license.

If restrictions on redistribution could not be enforced on images distributed just for display, then artists wouldn't be successfully having their artwork removed from websites for redistributing them without permission (something that would be restricted under default copyright terms or other licenses meant to support commercial sale of licenses). I'm not a lawyer and I don't know any specific precedent / law that governs this, but if redistribution can be disallowed entirely in this situation, then it would make sense to me that redistribution not under a specified license could also be disallowed.
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Re: How to pick a license (in under 5 minutes time!)

by sofar » Post

One of the Ars Technica writers did an excellent writeup which comes out really close to my recommendations I believe. Worth the read:
https://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2020/02 ... e-license/

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Re: How to pick a license (in under 5 minutes time!)

by Mantar » Post

The Ars Technica article does perpetuate the notion that "Technically, you don't ever "buy" software, even when it's boxed up in a physical store. What you're actually purchasing is a license to use the software" -- which is a misconception that proprietary software vendors have been pushing for ages now.
Copyright doesn't restrict you from using anything, only distributing it. Those "license to use" notices with restrictions on what you can do are legally dubious.

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Re: How to pick a license (in under 5 minutes time!)

by sofar » Post

Mantar wrote:The Ars Technica article does perpetuate the notion that "Technically, you don't ever "buy" software, even when it's boxed up in a physical store.
I didn't see that, what part of the article did you read that you think it does that?

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Re: How to pick a license (in under 5 minutes time!)

by sorcerykid » Post

Mantar wrote: Copyright doesn't restrict you from using anything, only distributing it.
Not true. Copyright in the United States is an exclusive right of reproduction, adaptation, synchronization, public performance (or display). Distribution is just one many different bundled rights afforded to authors, musicians, producers, etc. that restrict the use of artistic works

For example, if you are a DJ then it is technically illegal for you to create a remix of any music that you've purchased, even in a live set because that would infringe the adaptation right. Even the mere act of crossfading between songs is invoking the adaptation right in both the sound recording and the musical work. But thankfully, the RIAA and music publishers have never invested much focus on cracking down on these infringing uses.

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Re: How to pick a license (in under 5 minutes time!)

by Mantar » Post

sofar: That was a direct quote from the article, see the end of "Default licensing---proprietary, all rights reserved"

sorcerykid: You're right in general, but when it comes to software specifically, distribution is the key. "Adaptations" (stuffing someone else's code into your own work) won't get you in trouble until you make it available to someone else; I'm not sure what "synchronization" would even be for software; and "public performance/display" has never been applied by the courts, AFAIK, which is why the AGPL was created.
If you could use display to prove copyright infringement on software, the FSF would have happily done so.

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Re: How to pick a license (in under 5 minutes time!)

by sofar » Post

Mantar wrote:sofar: That was a direct quote from the article, see the end of "Default licensing---proprietary, all rights reserved"
Which is correct. So it's not a misunderstanding. Open Source software is licensed, not owned. Without "ownership", or, more correctly "authorship" as a concept, copyright would not exist.

You don't own glibc. Even if you download the sources of glibc, you don't own it. If you compile it, you don't own the compiled result. If you give it to someone else, you are not giving ownership to someone else.

Of course, with Open Source software, you are granted the right to modify it, redistribute it, and even add your own parts to it (which you then own!).

Perhaps more important to your initial comment: you are correct. it perpetuates the notion that "you don't ever buy software", because "buying software and then owning it" would invalidate copyright and thus all the protections it gives to open source software.

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Re: How to pick a license (in under 5 minutes time!)

by scrapyardrobot » Post

sofar wrote:So you just made this mod, and now, you're thinking: How do you pick an appropriate Open Source License?

If you have 10 seconds of time at most, pick LGPL-2.1 for code, and CC-BY-SA-4.0 for all artwork (textures, sounds, models and other text). Put the contents of this link in all your code files, and put a statement somewhere with your artwork files stating the CC-BY-SA-4.0 license applies to them. You're done!
Can you help me a little more please?
So from what I understood from this, I should post the text you linked into my license file.
what about the textures? Should I mention the license in a file on the textures folder or what?
@_@

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Re: How to pick a license (in under 5 minutes time!)

by Mantar » Post

sofar: I think we're talking past each other. You don't own the copyright to software just because you paid for it, but your average software license isn't worth the bytes they're stored in. They don't grant you permissions to do anything that you aren't already allowed to do under the law, and usually try to add a bunch of extra restrictions that aren't backed by anything except "you clicked here so now you're bound to it, gotcha!"

The courts have long held that once you've paid for it, you can do just about anything you like with it as long as you're not redistributing it to someone else, because you bought and now own a copy of the software.
This has come up in battles over reverse engineering, where software licenses added extralegal restrictions that essentially said "you can't reverse engineer this even in a clean room environment."

This misunderstanding is why a lot of GPL software on windows asks you to agree to the GPL before installing it, which is downright silly -- you don't need the GPL unless you're going to redistribute, in which case it grants you permission to do so, where it would normally violate copyright.

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Re: How to pick a license (in under 5 minutes time!)

by sofar » Post

scrapyardrobot wrote: what about the textures? Should I mention the license in a file on the textures folder or what?
Yes. Add a file that is clearly labelled "License" or "Copying" and write down the license for the texture files in them - not just the name of the license, but something like "All textures in this mod are covered under the XXXXX license, created by <your name + email>" just like you would do for code licenses.

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Re: How to pick a license (in under 5 minutes time!)

by sofar » Post

Mantar wrote:sofar: I think we're talking past each other. You don't own the copyright to software just because you paid for it, but your average software license isn't worth the bytes they're stored in. They don't grant you permissions to do anything that you aren't already allowed to do under the law, and usually try to add a bunch of extra restrictions that aren't backed by anything except "you clicked here so now you're bound to it, gotcha!"

The courts have long held that once you've paid for it, you can do just about anything you like with it as long as you're not redistributing it to someone else, because you bought and now own a copy of the software.
This has come up in battles over reverse engineering, where software licenses added extralegal restrictions that essentially said "you can't reverse engineer this even in a clean room environment."
That's totally incorrect.

What happens when you purchase a license is a contract. You enter in a contract between the licensor and licensee. The terms of the contract are that the licensee shall honor the license granted, and paying the fee constitutes an acceptance of those licenses.

So you can't reverse engineer proprietary software that you purchased a license for if the license doesn't grant that use. (*)

If you think that is incorrect, then please tell me how GPL software is protected from people who take off the copyright statements, put their own names on it, and then try to sell it as proprietary? Because your statement is that when you pay for it, you should be able to do anything with it even if the license says you can't. The whole part about it being OK to reverse engineer being different than distributing is nonsense - who decides this is "different"?

Another way of looking at it is "Company X buys 1 license for program Z and puts it on 3 million computers, despite the license stating that it is only valid for 1 computer".

If you think that's nonsense: https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/201 ... consented/

The only reason that BS lost this is because... their license agreement was effectively defunct at limiting the amount of installations (not concurrent license users), allowing the defendant to get away with it. BS sued and would have won if their license terms had this covered properly.

The whole point is that when you violate the license, and you have violated the contract. And any contract can be enforced.
Mantar wrote:This misunderstanding is why a lot of GPL software on windows asks you to agree to the GPL before installing it, which is downright silly -- you don't need the GPL unless you're going to redistribute, in which case it grants you permission to do so, where it would normally violate copyright.
See above why this is done - in Linux land people know that GPL software has a license, but in Windows land people still need the education. I agree it's silly for us Linux users, but you know we're not common users and far better understand licensing than most people :).

(*) It's possible local laws permit "reasonable use". Because this term is largely vague and difficult to describe, it often results in dramatic unexpected legal outcomes. Best is not to rely on this unless there is good legal precedent. But in reality, reverse engineering + distributing a competing artwork is hugely problematic. Now, this isn't saying anything about copying API's, which is not the same thing as reverse engineering, but, I'm going off on a tangent here.

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Re: How to pick a license (in under 5 minutes time!)

by Mantar » Post

sofar wrote:who decides this is "different"?
The law? Courts have upheld the right to reverse engineer for decades.

The main difference between the GPL and those "contracts" you have to click through on proprietary software is that the GPL is actually a license -- it grants you a permission that the law does not. If it's not valid, or you don't comply with it, then you have NOTHING to cover your ass when you violate the copyright.

By contrast, the "licenses" that come with proprietary software are all about trying to foist extra restrictions on you above and beyond what the law requires, and the fact that you paid money for a copy of software only to have it show you a wall of legalese and demand you agree to it before you can use your purchase puts them on very shaky ground. Contracts are supposed to be entered into by agreement by both parties, but these guys getting someone to pay first and then basically hold them hostage via their time to return it if they don't agree to the license that was shown after the fact.
Also, those contracts don't give you any rights you didn't already legally have when you paid for the software, and in exchange take away a lot of legally granted rights. That's an unequal trade, and that makes them even weaker under contract law.

Courts have ruled before that it's perfectly reasonable to ignore them.

The GPL's strength is that its enforcement mechanism is copyright law. The "software licensing" industry's weakness is that their enforcement mechanism is contract law, (which is much hairier) and the very shaky notion that you somehow entered into a fair contract to hand away your legal rights when you clicked the "okay" box under the wall of text that nobody reads.

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Re: How to pick a license (in under 5 minutes time!)

by sofar » Post

Mantar wrote:Courts have upheld the right to reverse engineer for decades.
This is a misconception. You're skipping over a huge amount of legal reasoning here and drawing a conclusion that is not correct.

Courts have upheld "Fair Use". For instance, courts have upheld that it is legal to, for educational purposes, study software code and binaries that you have obtained legally. But it doesn't cover "non fair-use" for Reverse Engineering.

But don't take my word for it, please read the wikipedia article on this:
Wikipedia wrote:Reverse engineering of computer software in the US often falls under both contract law as a breach of contract as well as any other relevant laws. This is because most end user license agreements specifically prohibit it, and U.S. courts have ruled that if such terms are present, they override the copyright law which expressly permits it (see Bowers v. Baystate Technologies[35][36]). Sec. 103(f) of the DMCA (17 U.S.C. § 1201 (f)) says that a person who is in legal possession of a program, is permitted to reverse-engineer and circumvent its protection if this is necessary in order to achieve "interoperability" — a term broadly covering other devices and programs being able to interact with it, make use of it, and to use and transfer data to and from it, in useful ways. A limited exemption exists that allows the knowledge thus gained to be shared and used for interoperability purposes.[37]
In other words, Reverse Engineering is not 100% permitted in all cases. So your statement is incomplete at best, and thus BAD LEGAL ADVICE. The wikipedia text here is a bit complex, it says "you may RE, but licenses may prohibit you from RE, but not for interoperability" - clearly however that means that licenses may ban you from RE in case you are not REing for interoperability purposes, in other words, licenses may ban reverse engineering, and courts will find you guilty of violating those licenses if you do it in certain cases.

-- step back --

This topic thread is about giving people decent and correct and nuanced information that will help them stay out of trouble. This discussion is going hopelessly on a tangent for no reason (You agree with most of the license recommendations, I assume) and going off on a technicality that is largely irrelevant and into ideology, and I wish you had not.

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Re: How to pick a license (in under 5 minutes time!)

by Mantar » Post

This discussion is going hopelessly on a tangent for no reason
I can agree to that. I see no benefit in continuing to hash it out.

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