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
517 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
393 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 ...
8
votes
4answers
303 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 ...
8
votes
2answers
3k 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, ...
8
votes
2answers
247 views

How to manage copyright notices from contributors to a BSD licensed project

We have the following BSD license in the LICENSE file: Copyright (c) 2006-2016 SymPy Development Team All rights reserved. Redistribution and use in source and binary forms, with or without ...
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
333 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
3answers
1k 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 (...
7
votes
1answer
212 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 ...
7
votes
3answers
636 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 ...
7
votes
3answers
487 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
1k 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
760 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
225 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
354 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
2k 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
3answers
221 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 ...
6
votes
3answers
178 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
1k 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
1k 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 ...
6
votes
3answers
2k 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 ...
6
votes
2answers
230 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 ...
5
votes
4answers
864 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
4answers
501 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
1k 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
477 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
2answers
4k 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
268 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
349 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
2answers
826 views

Is there a license for selling a software with the sources so buyer can make modifications without claiming ownership of the code or distributing it?

I would like to sell a software that has some open source competitors. Therefore I would like to include the source code with the binaries so that the company buying it can modify it as it wishes. The ...
5
votes
4answers
934 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
389 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
2answers
699 views

Can the GitHub pull request process constitute an electronic signature of a CLA?

I appreciate the need for a Contributor License Agreement (CLA) in open source software projects and even understand that some tools are starting to make this process easier (like the low-friction ...
5
votes
1answer
3k 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
4answers
627 views

Code Plagiarism: How hard or how easy to detect this?

Suppose you want to develop an application, in midst of development you find out that one similar application already exists, highly recognized and used. It's a cross platform application but it's ...
4
votes
3answers
603 views

How can I close my Open Source project and what is required from me in order to make it closed source?

Let's say I wanted to close my "GPL v 2.0 (or similar)" licensed project, to which I'm the only contributor, and make it closed source. Do I still need to make the existing "GPL v 2.0 (or similar)" ...
4
votes
6answers
605 views

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

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
142 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
380 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
5answers
501 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
285 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
2answers
628 views

GPLed Library (EXT JS) Licensing Issue

Good Day Everyone, I am realy out of option for interpreting the GPL for EXTJS for my work/idea/personal project. I can see that this is an active forum I realy hope, I have a closure on this. First ...
4
votes
3answers
490 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
3answers
282 views

Developing software for a company outside a company [closed]

I work for an IT company as a developer. We are currently working on a large software project, a multi-vendor automatic database clustering solution. We've upheld good coding standards and as a result ...
4
votes
1answer
382 views

How to comply with the Java ASM License?

I am designing an open source Java library that I will likely release with an MIT license, and its sole dependency is the ASM dynamic bytecode injection library. According to their license: ...
4
votes
4answers
624 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
150 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 ...