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An introduction to copyright and licensing

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An introduction to copyright and licensing

Postby Thorsten » Sun Jun 05, 2016 7:23 am

As an OpenSource software project, Flightgear works under the GPL. That means we're protected by it in what we doing, but we also need to adhere to its terms and make sure the project stays in compliance with GPL. Part of this is to make sure we educate contributors about proper licensing - which is the purpose of this article.

Disclaimer: The following is not a replacement for proper legal advice from a copyright lawyer. It is based on working through licensing FAQ questions, copyright legislation case studies and many discussions and intended to give some background knowledge.

Disclaimer 2: The following does not mean I personally endorse all of copyright legislation or think of it as reasonable or desirable - however, as I am not a lawmaker, I have to accept it and try to present it as it is, not as I would like it to be.
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Re: An introduction to copyright and licensing

Postby Thorsten » Sun Jun 05, 2016 7:24 am

1. Copyright

Copyright is the right to decide who may copy, modify and distribute an immaterial piece of work, and under which conditions.

Copyright does not apply to material goods such as a house, because a house cannot be copied or distributed. However, copyright applies to the design plans of the house: those can be copied, modified and distributed.

Copyright applies to any intellectual work such as novels, poems, paintings, maps, music, images, movies and, most recently, computer programs and 3D models. In some countries, copyright expires 70 years after the death of the author; at that point, the copyrighted works enter the public domain. For example, Homer's Iliad and Odyssey are in the public domain but Tolkien's Lord of the Rings will remain copyrighted until 2043.

1.1 Gaining copyright

To gain copyright, you need to create something immaterial. The word 'create' is important in particular, to be able to claim copyright for something you do, it must meet some threshold of originality (the precise details need to determined in court).

Example:You can very likely not claim copyright for the sentence 'I woke up, had breakfast and drove to work.' - this is not substantial enough to meet a threshold or originality. You can very likely not claim copyright for reading up the algorithm of Perlin noise on Wikipedia and writing a 20-line bit of code implementing it numerically.

Some sources state that it strengthens your position in court if you add an explicit copyright notice (e.g. 'Copyright Thorsten Renk 2015-2016'), however this is not necessary to claim copyright - you can claim copyright for every of your original creations, they become your intellectual property automatically. Again - note that copyright specifically protects original creations - not any work you do. If you copy Homer's Odyssey, you're doing a lot of work but are unlikely to gain any copyright protection for it.

http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.en. ... tCopyright

1.2 Non-copyrightable content

Some things can not be copyrighted.

a) Public domain material cannot be claimed. You may use public domain material, but you may not claim it in a way to prevent anyone else from using it as well.

b) Facts can not be claimed as intellectual property. For instance, if a building has a certain location, you may use the coordinates freely, because the position of the building is a fact and the owner of the building may not claim rights for them.

Note: While facts may be freely used, the means to acquire them may be restricted. For instance, Google Earth may include in their terms of use that you may not use the tool to look coordinates for any commercial project - in which case you can not use Google Earth to get the coordinates for buildings in FG because GPL allows commercial use. The coordinates as such are free to use, you just can't get them from Google Earth.

c) Generic structures cannot be copyrighted. For instance, using English words as such does not constitute a creative act, it's the content of the text that is a creation (or not). In particular for coding, if JSBSim requires a certain format for an engine definition, you may not claim copyright for using that format, only for the data used in it.

Example: Downloading public domain 3d models of the ISS modules from NASA (public domain), using FG animatins (generic structures) with the published measures of the module assembly (facts) may be a lot of work, but is not likely to be recognized as a creative act warranting copyright protection.

http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.en. ... ainWithGPL

1.3 Copyright and licensing

By default, only the author has any rights on their own work. Other people have no rights whatsoever. This means that, by default, you have no right to copy, modify or distribute a piece of work that is not yours.

The author may grant other people a license to copy, a license to modify and a license to distribute their work. These licenses can be subject to conditions. For example, the author of a book may grant a certain publisher, and no one else, the license to make and distribute 100000 copies of the book if the publisher pays the author $2 per copy; but no license to modify the book. The author may even grant different licenses to different people at different times, and they may also revoke a license. For example, after the first 100000 copies are sold, our author may decide to give away new copies of his book to schools but require everyone else to pay $4 per copy. And he may also grant his spouse or children, but no one else, a license to modify the book and publish the modified book.

In short, copyright law allows the author to decide what others can do with their work. Thus an author can potentially grant as few rights and impose as many conditions as he wants (and this is the original intention of copyright legislation), but he may equally well use copyright law to publish under a permissive license.

The Free Software Foundation has devised a license that guarantees as many rights and as few conditions as possible to the recipients of the license, forever. This license is the GNU Public License (GPL). Because it works in a direction opposite to the intended use of copyright, the FSF jokingly calls the GPL a 'copyleft' license. But this joke has no legal meaning. In law, the GPL is a copyright license that has already been tested and upheld in court.


Note: If no copyright can be claimed for something, it can not be licensed in any way, and no GPL provisions are relevant for it.

1.4 Sharing and transfering copyright

If you can claim copyright for something, you can give others permission to add to it and modify it. Such a modification may qualify for shared copyright. However, it must be substantial: The man who fixed three spelling errors in the manuscript of 'The Lord of the Rings' is not Tolkien's co-author, neither co-copyright holder - even if Tolkien gave him permission to proof-read the text.

If copyright is shared, any licensing change needs to be approved by all copyright holders. However, if the parts of the work are separable, each author can do what he likes with his separate piece.

It is also possible to legally transfer copyright to someone else (for instances scientific publishers usually require this) - if you transfer copyright, usually you can no longer influence whatever the person to which the rights were transfered decides to do. Some software projects require that copyright of any contribution is signed over to the project - Flightgear has no such requirements.

http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.htm ... nCopyright

1.5 Fair use

In many countries, you may use parts of a copyright protected work for your needs without violating copyright. Typically this is for purposes like science, satire, discussion,..., more likely to be granted if the part you require is small and not reducing the commercial potential of the original work.

Example:For instance, fair use would likely allow you to extract a cloud texture from a still of the 'Lord of the Rings' movies, because while the work is copyright protected, the cloud is a vanishingly small part of the whole and does not in any significant way impact the copyright holder's ability to market the movie.

What is fair use and what not is ultimately decided by a court and hence a legal grey area. Since fair use is an exemption on the level of the copyright law, it automatically implies you can make fair use of any GPL licensed work though.

http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.en.html#GPLFairUse

Note: Fair use is not a concept recognized in every country (it is not in a number of European countries for instance). Thus, dependent on where you live and where your content is hosted, you may or may not be able to claim it.

2. The GNU General Public License

If someone holds the copyright for a work, he can decide to license it under the GPL. The license is a free software license (with 'free' as in 'accessible', not as in 'gratis') which means that it is designed to make sure subsequent development is and remains openly accessible.

2.1 The GPL from user perspective

If you are not the copyright holder, you may take a work under the GPL license and (in simple, non-legal terms):

* copy and redistribute it
* charge money for re-distribution
* modify it without any additional permission (this may or may not imply co-authorship)
* re-distribute the modified version and charge money for it

However, you must

* license any additions under GPL if you re-distribute
* make the sources of any changes available

In particular that means you may not re-distribute only a binary version of software, the source code needs to be made available as well, you may not 'hide' the nature of your changes to prevent others from making modifications. Whatever the GPL license provision means for non-code that don't necessarily have a 'source' and 'binary' appearance is a bit of a grey zone as the license specifies that 'The source code for a work means the preferred form of the work for making modifications to it.' However, for many FG related resources this is fairly clear: Blender or .ac files for 3d models, paintkits for liveries (if available) and for Nasal or xml files the files themselves.

It's hopefully easy to see how the two 'must' provisions always make sure that subsequent programmers can make good use of your work and can not be locked out by keeping the source code secret or licensing in a restrictive way.

If you do not satisfy the requirements, you do not have permission to copy and re-distribute the code you used in the first place, which means that you are in violation of the copyright law, which means you can be prosecuted. This is how copyright protects GPL licensing.

2.2 The GPL license from copyright holder perspective

If you are the copyright holder and license a work GPL, you effectively create two distinct instances of that work. One remains yours, and you can decide to make it available also under a different license ('dual licensing'), modify it, whatever you like.

The other is effectively outside your control and if you want to use it (especially after it has been modified), you have to use it as a normal GPL user. Specifically, even if you are the original copyright holder, you no longer have the sole copyright once the version gets changed by others and if you want to make use of these changes, you need to adhere to GPL or get permission from all co-copyright holders.

http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.html#Consider

However - as far as his own work is concerned, an author who releases GPL is not bound by GPL. He still holds property rights and may use them to create a version under a commercial license. Or under a CC license. He may even release one simple version of his work under GPL, then develop it further and release a more complete version under a commercial license.

http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.en. ... erGPLAndNF

Example: A landlord may require certain things from a tenant - for instance no pets, no smoking in the house, otherwise the rental agreement is void. Once the landlord as property owner decides to move in himself, he is of course not bound by the 'no pets, no smoking' rule - because he made it in the first place, so he can change it. In the same way is an intellectual property owner not bound by the fact that he released something under GPL - he can continue to develop his version and not release these developments under GPL.

On the other hand, as far as the GPL licensed version goes, the author has no special rights. The license may not be taken back, and anyone may copy the work, change it and re-distribute it without asking for further permission or in fact against the explicit objection of the copyright holder - as long as he adheres to the terms of GPL.

http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.en.html#NoMilitary
http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.en. ... RequireFee
http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.en. ... reCitation

2.3 What the GPL does not do

Let's take the time to discuss a few trickier issues. The fact that someone works with a piece of software that is based on GPL code does not mean you have any right to use that software or see the modified source code. The GPL license does not include a requirement to release, it just states that IF someone releases the changes, THEN they must be released under GPL. It's however perfectly fine to modify a GPL program and use it internal in an organization without ever releasing it.

Thus, you may NOT simply take code you found somewhere (in a forum, from an email accidentially sent to you,...) which is based on GPL material and release it under GPL yourself - the decision to release or not is made by the copyright holder of the modifications, no one else - anyone else releasing is guilty of violating copyright.


http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.en. ... stedPublic
http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.en. ... emandACopy




2.4 The Viral Nature of the GPL

If an author A licenses a copy of their work under the GPL to a second person B, then (as discussed above) B receives a license to make and distribute 'derivative works', along with the obligation to license the 'derivative works' under the GPL.

If the 'derivative work' is a modification of the original work (e.g. the same aircraft with additional refinements), it is quite obvious that the modified aircraft must be distributed under the GPL, or not distributed at all.

However, this clause also applies when the 'derivative work' is something entirely different. Suppose author B creates an entirely different and unrelated aircraft but copies, modifies and reuses the autopilot, checklists and a few cockpit instruments from the first aircraft, into the second aircraft. This makes the second aircraft a 'derivative work' of the first aircraft and forces author B to distribute the second aircraft under the GPL. It is said that the GPL of the autopilot, checklists and instruments of the first aircraft has 'infected' the second aircraft and made the entire second aircraft GPL'd. This is seen as a Good Thing by the Free Software Foundation, which would like for everything to be GPL'd, and as a Bad Thing by people who would like to use any license other than the GPL.

In contrast, the mere act of using a GPL'd tool to create a work does not make it a derivative work. If you use a GPL text editor to create a work (write a piece of code), then this work does not fall under the GPL, instead you own copyright for it and can release it as you like, because from the point of view of the tool, what you do is data processing. The same is true for e.g. compiling your code with a GPL licensed compiler.

http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.en. ... ToolsForNF

Of course, it is always allowed to bundle unrelated pieces of work, each with their own license. The keyword is 'unrelated'. If it can be proven that one work is a 'derivative work' of a GPL'd work then the derivative must be GPL'd.

According to the GPL FAQ the defining criterion is the degree of dependency. If two works can be argued to not be dependent (are meaningful without each other, do not have a strong back and forward exchange of information,...) then they can be considered bundled and the GPL license is not triggered, if there is such dependence then they're considered a derived work and everything needs to be GPL licensed if released.

http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.htm ... tarySystem

Example: A Nasal script that calls the Canvas rendering framework is a derivative work of the Canvas rendering framework, which is GPL'd, so the Nasal script must be GPL'd too. However, a Nasal script as such (i.e. one that does not call GPL licensed Nasal code) is considered data for the Nasal interpreter and does not trigger the license.

https://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licens ... reterIsGPL
https://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licens ... AndPlugins

Counter-example: the 3D model and the FDM of an aircraft can work independently; one can view the 3D model in Blender without the FDM, and the FDM can work in batch mode without any 3D rendering at all. Therefore, they are 'unrelated', so the licenses of the 3D model and the FDM can be different.

Other counter-example: liveries are not 'derivative works' of the 3D model or the FDM and the 3D model is not a 'derivative work' of any liveries, therefore they can have different licenses. However it is possible that one livery is a 'derivative' of another, GPL'd, livery: in that case both liveries must be GPL'd.

Note: Some FG developers take the view that the various elements of an aircraft combined always represent a 'whole', making the replacement of any component of the aircraft a derived work. This interpretation is also reported to be taken by some companies which have the policy to avoid bundling with any GPL content to be legally safe. It might hence be that the idea of bundling various components of an aircraft under different license is not court-proof in practice. The GPL FAQ points out that The difference between this [distributing GPL software alongside proprietary software] and “incorporating” the GPL-covered software is partly a matter of substance and partly form (...)how you describe what you are doing. . This would suggest that it is not the same to package a GPL FDM together with a non-GPL 3d model into the same aircraft for download than to offer two separate download links which the user can combine if he so desires.

http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.htm ... tarySystem

2.5 So, is it necessary that all aircraft for FlightGear are GPL'd?

No. You can make a new aircraft and license it however you want, provided that you make sure that no part of your aircraft is GPL'd. The fact that FlightGear can read your files and render them on screen does not make your aircraft a 'derivative work' of FlightGear, so the GPL of FlightGear does not 'infect' your aircraft, they are considered 'data' from FG's perspective.

Some aircraft authors have already released aircraft under various licenses like Creative Commons or even non-free licenses that prohibit modification of any kind, or that prohibit redistribution (e.g. you must contact the author to obtain a copy). This is perfectly legal.

The policy of FGAddon, the official hangar of FlightGear, is to accept only GPL or GPL-compatible works. If the license of your aircraft is incompatible with the GPL, you must host it on your own hangar.

3. GPL and copyright violations

As discussed above, there are no separate GPL violations, violations of the terms of use specified under the license are in essence copyright violations. That means licenses need to be enforced by the copyright holder.

http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.html#WhoHasThePower

In particular, if you believe some code (e.g. offered in a bundle between GPL and non-GPL) is not correctly licensed, you MAY NOT copy the whole and license everything GPL (that's a copyright violation because under no circumstances can a non-copyright holder decide upon a license), you need to contact the original copyright holder and let him pursue the matter. And the outcome doesn't have to be that the non-GPL bit needs to be free, it can simply be that the bundle can not be distributed in its current form.

As with any copyright violation, there's the question of damage claims to consider. The history of filesharing sites has shown that copyright violations can be enforced and may turn out to be expensive for the copyright violator. If you wrongly 're-license' a proprietary navigation database under GPL and the copyright holder finds out and claims damages, a court case could bankrupt you.

Thus, you need to take care to stay on the good side of the law.

3.1 Who needs to take care?

Whenever you run a repository that is accessible for the public, you have to be careful (that includes 'your' clone of any FG-related repository on GitHub, SourceForge,...). Whatever you do on your own harddisk or in a closed environment may still be illegal, but is unlikely to be prosecuted.


3.2 How to take care?

The keyword is 'proactive'. You need to make sure that copyrighted or wrongly-licensed material never reaches your repository. If it does, it is too late. As plenty of experience with filesharing sites has demonstrated, it is not enough to wait till someone points out a copyright violation to you and then delete it, you can be prosecuted the moment the wrong material arrives on the repository.


Example: If you've stolen a car, you have committed a criminal act already. That doesn't change if you're entirely willing to return the car the moment the owner knocks on your door. It also doesn't change if you bring it back yourself two weeks later.

Due to the nature of a repository, even deleting a file doesn't actually erase it from the history (so in a sense it's still distributed if you commit a deletion), and due to the nature of the re-distribution under GPL, once you 'declared' some material GPL, others may have copied it trusting your license and may re-distributed it - and the consequences will fall to you since you guaranteed GPL compatibility. You cannot 'undo' having had copyrighted material on your repository for half a year.

However, what will matter in a potential court case is whether your violation is seen as a mistake or as a deliberate act. If you have procedures in place to check content and are usually successful in catching copyrighted material, and if a violation is caught immediately and removed within a few hours with a clear notice, a court is likely to regard the violation as a mistake. Conversely, if you remove the text of a license and replace it by the GPL, then no court will see this as an accident.

3.3 Stay safe!

The internet is full of useful pictures - gifs, photographs, aerial pictures,... It takes easily ten times longer to find GPL-compatible material than just the material you need. Don't fall into the trap of just using what fits your needs. You're not only endangering yourself, you're also endangering everyone who tries to build upon your work.

If something is not licensed the way you need it, take the time to contact the license holder, ask for permission. Document if you got permission to use something (keep a reference of the email telling you so). Don't use things because you believe they should be GPL or free - if the other party says no, it's not your decision to make, and it's usually easier to just look elsewhere than to go to court. But if you just take, YOU commit the copyright violation for sure.

Make proper licensing a habit, then after a while you won't even feel it as a burden.
Last edited by Thorsten on Sun Jun 05, 2016 1:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: An introduction to copyright and licensing

Postby D-ECHO » Sun Jun 05, 2016 7:29 am

Wow Thorsten, thanks for that lot of text work!
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Re: An introduction to copyright and licensing

Postby rominet » Sun Jun 05, 2016 11:58 am

Yes, but as I said on the list, "GNU Public License" doesn't mean anything. You probably mean "GNU General Public License"...
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Re: An introduction to copyright and licensing

Postby bugman » Sun Jun 05, 2016 1:20 pm

GPL used to stand for GNU Public Licence, but they changed it a long time ago to GNU General Public Licence.

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Re: An introduction to copyright and licensing

Postby rominet » Sun Jun 05, 2016 1:28 pm

License in English :wink:
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Re: An introduction to copyright and licensing

Postby bugman » Sun Jun 05, 2016 2:26 pm

GPLv3 expanded the scope from US to the whole world, so now 'licence' is the noun, and 'license' is the verb ;)

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Re: An introduction to copyright and licensing

Postby rominet » Sun Jun 05, 2016 2:50 pm

I see you are joking, but for the benefit of other readers:
  • the text of the GPLv3 uses "license" even for the noun:
    GNU GENERAL PUBLIC LICENSE
    Version 3, 29 June 2007

    Copyright (C) 2007 Free Software Foundation, Inc. <http://fsf.org/>
    Everyone is permitted to copy and distribute verbatim copies
    of this license document, but changing it is not allowed.

    Preamble

    The GNU General Public License is a free, copyleft license for
    software and other kinds of works.

    The licenses for most software and other practical works are designed
    to take away your freedom to share and change the works. [...]
  • This is not very surprising, as according to Wikipedia:
    The verb license or grant license means to give permission. The noun licence (British,[1] Indian,[2] Canadian,[3] Australian,[4] New Zealand,[5] Irish,[6] or South African English[7]) or license (American English) refers to that permission as well as to the document recording that permission.
But it is true that, to be really correct, my previous message should have said American English. :wink:
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Re: An introduction to copyright and licensing

Postby jaxsin » Sun Jun 05, 2016 3:24 pm

Well written, especially the examples. They tend to give a definite layman's approach to explaining the above legal statements.

I think we should lock it and link to a discussion thread before this gets blown out of the water
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Re: An introduction to copyright and licensing

Postby Johan G » Tue Jun 07, 2016 12:20 am

Thorsten wrote in Sun Jun 05, 2016 7:24 am:2.4 The Viral Nature of the GPL

This portion has the only few parts that I do not understand and/or can not fully agree with.

It is about the circumstances where a Nasal script should be licensed as GPL or could have another license.

The way I interpret the GPLv2 license and the two FAQ sections you linked to, a Nasal script does not necessarily have to be GPL, even though it would be rather useless without the interpreter and its extensions (compare for example to Python code using the various libraries supplied with the Python distribution or third party libraries). The exception probably being when the module makes use of nasal scripts with bindings to object code/executable libraries.

Admittedly both that part and "an aircraft is a whole and parts can not have different licenses" are a bit fuzzy when reading the license on its own. :roll:


If you've stolen a car, you have committed a criminal act already. That doesn't change if you're entirely willing to return the car the moment the owner knocks on your door. It also doesn't change if you bring it back yourself two weeks later.

I must say that I really liked this analogy. It could not be made much more clear.


A few things worth noting in regard to supplying the source code:
* It only has to be available to the recipients. In essence you do not have to publish it publicly, you could for example make it available to your three customers.
* It does not necessarily have to be transferred together with the program, and if it is not it only have to be available for three years.
* Getting a copy of the source code, if not transferred with the program may involve a fee. But the fee may only cover the cost of transferring the source code.
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Re: An introduction to copyright and licensing

Postby Necolatis » Tue Jun 07, 2016 3:53 am

Okay, thank you, this clarifies finally something that some seems to practice, which is illegal then:

They take a GPL aircraft and puts in some parts of it that they license as non-gpl, and distribute the whole aircraft as one zip file. That would then be illegal then. Good to know.

But I guess the workaround would be to distribute the aircraft in 2 zip files with diff. licenses, which you would then have to merge to fly the plane. That would b legal right?
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Re: An introduction to copyright and licensing

Postby Richard » Tue Jun 07, 2016 4:37 am

Thorsten wrote in Sun Jun 05, 2016 7:24 am:
3.2 How to take care?
....
Example: If you've stolen a car, you have committed a criminal act already. That doesn't change if you're entirely willing to return the car the moment the owner knocks on your door. It also doesn't change if you bring it back yourself two weeks later.



The example is possibly wrong (in the UK) where theft is specifically defined as

1 Basic definition of theft.

(1)A person is guilty of theft if he dishonestly appropriates property belonging to another with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it; and “thief” and “steal” shall be construed accordingly.


There has to be intent to permanently deprive; if it can be shown this itent is missing then the offence has not been committed. So if I take a car, leave the owner a note to say where he can get it back from it's not theft (although may well be another different offence).
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Re: An introduction to copyright and licensing

Postby Thorsten » Tue Jun 07, 2016 5:00 am

The way I interpret the GPLv2 license and the two FAQ sections you linked to, a Nasal script does not necessarily have to be GPL, even though it would be rather useless without the interpreter and its extensions (compare for example to Python code using the various libraries supplied with the Python distribution or third party libraries). The exception probably being when the module makes use of nasal scripts with bindings to object code/executable libraries.


I think the GPL FAQ is pretty clear on that one:

* a Nasal script you've written yourself from scratch is data from the point of view of the interpreter and does not have to be GPL

* a Nasal script that uses GPL Nasal libraries (math.nas, geo.nas. props.nas, canvas.nas,...) depends on GPL content and is hence considered a derived work and has to be GPL - this is not because of the GPL Nasal interpreter, but because of using GPL Nasal libs.

They take a GPL aircraft and puts in some parts of it that they license as non-gpl, and distribute the whole aircraft as one zip file. That would then be illegal then.


I don't want to make strong unconditional statements like 'illegal' in these cases - I am not a lawyer - it would seem to depend on circumstances. But my interpretation is that this is a dangerous practice which may not hold up in court.

But I guess the workaround would be to distribute the aircraft in 2 zip files with diff. licenses, which you would then have to merge to fly the plane.


If the two parts are cleanly separable (like FDM and 3d model) then yes, that looks clearly legal. If your additions are a derived work (aka, you add Nasal files which heavily reference existing Nasal files in the GPL part of the package), then this doesn't work for re-distribution no matter how you package it.

According to the FAQ, both substance and form matter, if two files are in substance part of the same program, then separating them formally doesn't help you.

There has to be intent to permanently deprive; if it can be shown this itent is missing then the offence has not been committed.


Interesting... so what is taking a bicycle that doesn't belong to you, ride home and just drop it then? It's still gone from the POV of the owner, though you have no intention to keep it, just to use it once. I think that's still theft in Germany, though I'm not 100% certain. Also, 'permanently' seems a fishy criterion - we can't conceptually deprive people forever of something because they eventually die, and so do we - so this must map into some time duration in practice.
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Re: An introduction to copyright and licensing

Postby Richard » Tue Jun 07, 2016 5:21 am

Thorsten wrote in Tue Jun 07, 2016 5:00 am:Interesting... so what is taking a bicycle that doesn't belong to you, ride home and just drop it then? It's still gone from the POV of the owner, though you have no intention to keep it, just to use it once. I think that's still theft in Germany, though I'm not 100% certain. Also, 'permanently' seems a fishy criterion - we can't conceptually deprive people forever of something because they eventually die, and so do we - so this must map into some time duration in practice.


In the example, it doesn't matter whether you have the bicycle or not, if you have taken it and the owner no longer has it then you have deprived the owner of it. It is the intent, not the result, that is the test. So by taking the bicycle and leaving it near your house with no intent to return it then that is probably good enough to prove "permanently deprive". Whereas if you take the bicycle, ride it home and fedex it back to the original owner that is a valid defence for a theft charge. At this point the owner could well sue you for damages incurred as a result of your actions, so if the owner had to take a taxi to work you'd have to pay for that as well.
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Re: An introduction to copyright and licensing

Postby Thorsten » Tue Jun 07, 2016 5:39 am

In the example, it doesn't matter whether you have the bicycle or not, if you have taken it and the owner no longer has it then you have deprived the owner of it. It is the intent, not the result, that is the test.


This gets off-road quickly, but if you take it for a short ride, your intent actually is clearly not to deprive the owner of it but to... well, take the ride. You just risk depriving the owner of it - but you may actually think 'If he goes looking for it, he's sure going to find it again.' (a fair share of bicycles turn up this way after a few weeks in reality).

I think the difference this is after in practice is intent to borrow and return vs. lack of intent to return (?) - if I fedex it back I have shown clear intent to return, if I just drop it an hope for him to find it, then I have not.

So in that sense, if I take a car and leave it parked on my door, relying on the owner to ring find it and ring my doorbell and then argue - 'Well, I was quite willing to return it once he contacted me.' - I think that would be theft. Only if I leave a message 'I have had to take your car - sorry - please pick it up at this address' then I have a defense.
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