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I recently came across a series of articles walking through how to make a scheme interpreter. I was browsing through the code when I realized that it was AGPL.

For the most part, the code itself is the teaching tool. Basically, the code as-is is what I need, however, I did want to understand how it all fits together as well.

I realized though that if I copy and paste a single line of code, my project would become AGPL. Possibly by even more trivial actions?

Anyway, is this a standard practice at all? Am I just being over-paranoid? Also, what benefits are there to this licensing scheme?

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please note that the author may already use agpl'ed libraries and he/she had to release that source code under agpl. –  JCasso Sep 29 '12 at 11:02
Nope, no previous copyright notice and no libraries @JCasso –  Earlz Sep 29 '12 at 15:02
you can always contact the author and ask for a less restrictive license. since it is his/her work, he can license it to you under apache or mit licence. –  JCasso Sep 29 '12 at 16:47
@JCasso - that is true, but if I was the author I would be asking why Earlz is not willing to abide by the license and release his code under AGPL / GPL, or alternatively why he can't just avoid copying the copyrighted code. –  Stephen C Sep 30 '12 at 3:10
@StephenC Eartz may have his own reasons such as "License Compatibilities" so he may ask the author for a less restrictive license. And there is nothing wrong with using someone else's source. It is tested and it works. Written by someone who is capable of writing a book about that topic. –  JCasso Oct 1 '12 at 5:30

1 Answer 1

Does it ever make sense to license source code as a learning resource under GPL?

Of course it does. Developing a learning resource takes time / effort / money, and someone doing it is perfectly justified in placing conditions on how it is used. Using GPL is effectively making the resource available for free ... with certain limitations that are designed to further the aims of building "the commons".

Anyway, is this a standard practice at all?

It is not standard practice to use AGPL. But it is common practice to use GPL and/or one of the Creative Commons licenses.

I realized though that if I copy and paste a single line of code, my project would become AGPL. Possibly by even more trivial actions? Am I just being over-paranoid?

I don't think you could be "dinged" for copying and pasting a single line of code. If it came to a court case, you could argue that copying a single line was either fair use or de minimis; i.e. too trivial to justify any damages. No sensible judge would allow a lawsuit based on one line of code to proceed.

However, it is clear that fair use or de minimis do not allow wholesale copying.

Also, what benefits are there to this licensing scheme?

AGPL is essentially GPL taken a bit further. The idea of GPL is that you should be prepared to "give back" to the open source community any software that you develop based on the GPL'ed code. The benefits (to the community) are manifestly obvious.

AGPL takes this a bit further by including material (e.g. your content) that is delivered to end users via a web server as being affected by the license. I don't know the circumstances, but it sounds like using AGPL might be a reasonable thing for them to do.

Either way, it is not your place to implicitly criticise them for how they choose to license the results of their efforts. If you don't like their conditions, don't use their IP.

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What if he copies "9" lines of code :) Oracle sued Google over 9 lines of code after all. But a great answer (+1) –  JCasso Sep 29 '12 at 16:52
@JCasso - it is one thing to sue, but completely a different thing to win. How much is Oracle likely to get for the infringement of those 9 lines? Is it plausible that a someone would try that against an individual, or that a judge would let the case proceed? IMO, the answers are "Zero" and "No". (Remember that the 9 lines of copied code were all that was left after Oracle did their homework ... and that they also sued over other things too.) –  Stephen C Sep 30 '12 at 3:02
you are right. Oracle cannot win. But i am sure that Google would rather not to use that same 9 lines of code in the first place after all these legal issues. –  JCasso Oct 1 '12 at 5:33
@JCasso - it would not have made any material difference. Oracle was going to sue them anyway. This is all about Oracle trying to compete in the law courts rather than in the marketplace. –  Stephen C Oct 5 '12 at 9:56

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