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Subject: Re: [boost] Legal problem with Stackoverflow contribution under the "Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 3.0" license
From: Niall Douglas (s_sourceforge_at_[hidden])
Date: 2018-02-21 09:28:33

> I confirm what Karen said: the scanning software automatically flagged your
> contribution.

These guys are the most common vendor of
scanning software by IP firms. I've been at clients where we used them
in the past.

As they say at,
correlations flagged by the software do not imply infringement. One of
the very specific points they make is that unauthorised copying is
plagiarism, but authorising copying is not. Hence the importance of
attribution so authorisation can be easily traced if needed by some end

> I do not agree with your approach to check the IP of a function piece by
> piece and saying as each piece is not covered by IP, the assembly of all
> pieces is also not covered by IP. If you compare to a patented hardware for
> example, it is probable that each individual piece is not covered by any IP
> or patent, but the assembly of all pieces make something original and
> provide a new feature which can be patented.

Patents protect ideas and processes.

Copyright protects the *expression* of facts and ideas. Not the ideas
nor facts themselves. Not the processes.

You are conflating the two. The AFC test I mentioned is very widely used
around the world by legal systems when dealing with copyright of
software in particular. The only major jurisdiction which doesn't use it
is the United Kingdom as far as I know.

Small code snippets are very often the *only* way of doing something
*efficiently* (the efficiency point is very important and unique to
software copyright consideration). Hence two skilled engineers would be
highly likely to write the same piece of code in the same circumstances.
In this situation no copyright infringement can occur.

(Most interestingly, if the original source stuck in a pointless
inefficient piece of code in the middle, now copyright infringement
*would* apply because now there is unique expression that would not be
reasonably introduced by a different skilled programmer working
independently. On this point many a copyright infringing startup has fallen)

> What lawyers explained me is that there is a risk, when there is a risk the
> decision could be lawyers against lawyers, and companies do not like such
> risks.

All open source code is full of such risks, and a company is absolutely
right to perform a scan for IP problems before using it. I've been at
multinationals before where we were given a list of legally flagged
problem sections in an open source library which had to be rewritten
before we could use that library.

Ideally, the company should really send those rewrites back to the open
source library as a PR. But they never seem to do so :(. They ought to
do so in thanks for the software.


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