Questions about legal problems which may arise during software development or questions about software law, patents and copyrights in general.

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8
votes
4answers
466 views

Where can I find a legal “permission to work on open source” document?

One of the things I really like about my current job is that we developers are encouraged to make open source contributions. However, this encouragement has always been verbal. I've read some horror ...
8
votes
4answers
391 views

On the frontier between work and home

I think we've all been there: You hear of someone say "hey, wouldn't it be nice if platform X had feature Y?" You look around (on SO!), the feature really doesn't exist, even though it probably would ...
7
votes
8answers
308 views

How would you want to see software intellectual property protected? [closed]

Reading answers to this question - and many other discussions of software patents - it seems that most of us as programmers feel that software patents are a bad idea. At the same time we are in the ...
7
votes
2answers
2k views

Am I allowed to create closed-source software with open-source code?

I was using a popular music package (Ableton Live) when I opened the legal section of the helpfile and saw that the program contained code licenses that appeared to be both free as in freedom and free ...
7
votes
4answers
505 views

Is there a difference between “self-plagiarizing” in programming vs doing so as a writer? [closed]

I read this Gawker article about how a writer reused some of his older material for new assignments for different magazines. Is there any similar ethical (societal?) dilemma when doing the same ...
7
votes
4answers
2k views

What constitutes a programming language and how does one copyright a programming language?

I've decided to create a programming language of my own, mostly just for fun. However, I got interested in the legal aspect of it all. You can, for example, licence specific programs under specific ...
7
votes
3answers
329 views

Submitting software to a competition, it becomes their property?

So I'm about to submit a game to a competition, but as I looked through the rules a chunk grabbed my attention: All Entries become the sole and exclusive property of Sponsor and will not be ...
7
votes
4answers
283 views

Legality of collaborative reverse-engineering

I have been disassembling a large software project on my own, as a hobby. It is an educational exercise and I have learned a lot in the process. That said, I feel that my progress would be ...
7
votes
2answers
2k views

GPL - what is distribution?

An interesting point came up on another thread about alleged misappropriation of a GPL project. In this case the enterprise software was used by some large companies who essentially took the code, ...
7
votes
3answers
443 views

For very short programming jobs, how should one approach the concept of a contract? [closed]

I am wondering what other contractors in the field of software development do when a potential client approaches them with a spec.. in terms of contracts. In my experience, clients will often be happy ...
6
votes
4answers
977 views

Does an Open Source license exist that allows me to retain rights to revoke usage of software/source at any time, for any reason, and without warning?

Does an Open Source license exist that allows me to retain rights to revoke usage of software/source at any time, for any reason, and without warning? I want to allow others to use my software and ...
6
votes
10answers
755 views

Legal proof of when a feature been implemented [closed]

For various reasons I need to supply "proof" my company's lawyer that I implemented a feature by a certain date. I have used source control since the late 90s and even the oldest databases are still ...
6
votes
5answers
219 views

Can I use the test suite from an open source project to verify that my own 'compatible library' is compatible?

The question Is it illegal to rewrite every line of an open source project in a slightly different way, and use it in a closed source project? makes me wonder what would be considered a clean-room ...
6
votes
3answers
310 views

How to get a legal advice for a open source project ? [closed]

I have a question about open source software. Questions: Where do you get legal advice from? Do you have to find a lawyer specialised in software issues right from the bat, or do you get legal ...
6
votes
2answers
1k views

Are you allowed to “copy” the GUI/Features of another application

I'm making a app which is based heavily on another application that serves a similar purpose. I'm not actually planning on selling it, but I'm wondering whether it would even be legal for me to sell ...
6
votes
5answers
294 views

How are software licenses applied?

I have created a small and helpful project that I'd like to upload to a public repository and share under the FreeBSD license. What are the common steps I should make to apply the license to my code? ...
6
votes
3answers
795 views

Does using GCC specific builtins qualify as incorporation within a project?

I understand that linking to a program licensed under the GPL requires that you release the source of your program under the GPL as well, while the LGPL does not require this. The terminology of the ...
6
votes
3answers
175 views

What do I need to learn to decide on rename/recompile source package names because of company rebranding?

My company is currently at a rebranding process and the brand names have been used in the sources' package names but these names are only visible to developers who maintain this code so nobody from ...
6
votes
4answers
894 views

GPL vs plugin interfaces not designed with a specific application in mind

I am not seeking or in need of legal advice, but an interesting though experiment came to my mind. Imagine the following situtation (I cannot really think about a concrete example and I am unsure if ...
6
votes
1answer
163 views

Signing redistributed files

In order to submit a desktop application for the Windows 8 app store, you need to digitally sign any driver or .exe associated with the application. However, the application I was trying to submit ...
6
votes
2answers
226 views

Does any well-known license require to make modifications available when only derived *output* is published?

Is there a way to make sure that modifications to free software are released even when no binaries of modified code are conveyed? Though it may sound odd and from what I understand, e.g., GPL requires ...
6
votes
3answers
588 views

Cross border data obfuscation and how to deal with it?

I am currently facing a situation where I will need to obfuscate data for legal reasons (these are countrywide rules and not specific to me) I will still need to work with teams outside this area who ...
5
votes
4answers
788 views

Is it legal or ethical for me to use my previous employer's code in a new project?

I participated and wrote a large amount of code in a project which my current company outsourcing to my former company last year. After that I left my former company and recently join in my current ...
5
votes
3answers
452 views

Can I use corporate-licensed tool at home/for personal projects?

Normally, the company where a programmer works has corporate licensed tools which are useful for programmer (ex: proprietary IDEs, reflectors, diagramming tools, office tools and PDF makers, etc.) ...
5
votes
4answers
500 views

How to legally protect yourself from malicious and/or dumb users?

When building a public facing website that allows visitors to post comments, link to media and/or upload media (e.g. audio, video, images) ... what should I do to protect myself legally in the case ...
5
votes
7answers
961 views

Is it legal to reflector some .NET code and use it in a commercial application?

I'm working on a commercial application that requires .NET 4.0 Client Profile, but I need to make a call to HttpUtility.ParseQueryString, which is not included in the Client Profile but it is in the ...
5
votes
3answers
426 views

What is the preferred way to protect ownership of one's code (e.g. copyright, licenses, etc)

I posted some open source code on soureforge, and someone got in contact with me stating they intended to use my algorithms for a commercial product. I don't want this to happen, what should I do? ...
5
votes
3answers
219 views

Choosing a restrictive license to be in compliance, but not enforcing it

I'm very curious about this: Lets say that you have to use the GPL in your library because some dependency uses it or (if your library is fork) the upstream library uses GPL. Now GPL doesn't play well ...
5
votes
2answers
3k views

Simple & short license notice for proprietary code

I have written several Java utilities that I am now consolidating in a single, more organized code base. I have never distributed this code, so the only copies are currently in my possession. While I ...
5
votes
3answers
266 views

How does one minimize or prevent User lawsuits?

I work in a bunch of tools that do things to customer's computers. Some of these tools allow scripting, which allows someone to run a script to nuke files, registry keys, or the like. Of course, if ...
5
votes
3answers
324 views

Ethics, Clients, and legal repercussions

I'm asking this after reading a SO question where the OP asked for help decoding obfuscated code, which looks like it belongs to a closed-source company. The OP's client is saying "I don't know the ...
5
votes
1answer
387 views

What are the legal requirements for verifying a user's age? (United States)

I'm working on a website where we expect many of our users to be under 18. Our lawyer told us that anyone under 18 will need their parents to agree to the Terms of Service, since they aren't legally ...
5
votes
4answers
795 views

Am I personally liable for bugs in medical software I've developed as an employee? [closed]

Some background: I'm employed at a small, Australia-based web agency that is dipping it's toe into Mobile Application development (iOS). The project that I'm working on provides a way for users to ...
5
votes
1answer
848 views

AGPL-compatible license

I am using a java library licensed under AGPL3. However, I would like to license my own work as BSD, such that my code could then be integrated in proprietary projects if one strips the library. Will ...
5
votes
3answers
267 views

What level of threat does selling an app on an app store present to a non-US company?

Can anyone point me to an article or an informed discussion about US software patents affecting a non-US company who is selling their products on an American app store/marketplace? My company has ...
5
votes
1answer
357 views

Who is responsible for doing a patent search?

If a client requests that a particular feature is added into their website software, who is responsible for searching and recognising that a patent royalty has to paid? client web developer This ...
5
votes
1answer
2k views

Terminating a freelance contract before completion [closed]

I've been building a large web application for a company. Initially the project owner appointed a Graphic/Web designer to complete all design/front end works. Me and who ever I bring in to complete ...
5
votes
2answers
1k views

Does one line of GPLed code make program a “derived work”? [closed]

I've recently run into some argument with a person that claims to be a lawyer (I have my suspicions about this not being completely true, though). As far as I know, copying even one line of code from ...
4
votes
6answers
546 views

Is it legal/ethical to collect and release some types of anonymous usage data without consent?

The type of data I'm hoping to collect is a little specific, and unfortunately I'm under NDA and the data is a core part of the business plan so I'm not at liberty to post it online. I've come up with ...
4
votes
2answers
139 views

Getting your user agreement right

I'm planning to provide a little service with which you can control your computer from anywere. It exists out of a server (which I will be providing), and two clients (a controlled one and a ...
4
votes
4answers
371 views

What's the canonical retort to “You can't submit a patch to this open source project because you're not a committer”?

Some projects only allow committers to submit patches because they wish to keep their IP "clean." not only can non-committers not submit patches, but committers are forbidden from looking at your code ...
4
votes
3answers
1k views

Is donationware non-commercial?

I use quite some "non-commercial" applications when working on software projects. For clarification, I mean developing applications here, for example smartgit, not libraries or anything that gets ...
4
votes
3answers
264 views

Do I need to notify a user if I am using statistics software in an iPhone app?

I am currently creating a (very simple) Objective-C client to send basic statistical data to my server for an iPhone app - just things like the state of the app (first-launch or launch, error, etc), ...
4
votes
5answers
496 views

Am I competing with a client? is it fair?

I've been working as part of my service company for a client (ClientA) for a year now on building a platform. A few weeks ago another client (clientB) asked me for a quote for building a similar ...
4
votes
3answers
443 views

Who owns the code, who owns the algorithm, who owns the idea?

This question got me thinking what products of the programming effort belong to the employer, and what don't. The two extremes are (0) the code - it apparently belongs to the employer and (1) the ...
4
votes
4answers
3k views

Should I sign an NDA and IP contract without an expiry date?

I work in a small software development company. I just received a NDA and IP contract to sign, but it doesn't have an expiry date. Does this mean that it's a lifetime agreement with the corporation? ...
4
votes
4answers
509 views

How much code does one have to derive from another source before the license rules are applicable?

In an attempt to not re-invent the wheel, I've been working on a CMS's text-sanitization layer. I found that SimplePie had a really good one in use with it's RSS feed, but it had a lot of features ...
4
votes
2answers
143 views

Are there Any Concerns with Importing Document Files From a Competing Product?

I have a new product that serves the same purpose as my competitor's long-standing product. One thing I have considered doing is allowing my program to import document files created by their product ...
4
votes
2answers
327 views

Is it OK to include another person's open-source module in a project that you are uploading to GitHub?

This seems like it would be an obvious "yes". However, I just want to be sure and I've tried googling around to no avail. I am learning Python/Django and uploading all of the projects I'm creating to ...
4
votes
3answers
1k views

When porting code, must I follow the original license?

I'm an iOS developer and I've found myself porting code from several other languages recently for various projects and it got me thinking about code licensing. When porting code, is that considered ...