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Re: License issue on tiny Javascript fragment

On Monday 09 February 2009 03:08:14 am Bernhard R. Link wrote:
> * Ken Arromdee <arromdee@rahul.net> [090209 05:39]:
> > On Sat, 7 Feb 2009, Bernhard R. Link wrote:
> > > 1) The safe way: See what it does, describe someone else not knowing the
> > > code to write code doing this for you and use that code.
> >
> > Does that actually work?  The description is a derivative work of the code;
> > the new code is a derivative work of the description and therefore the old
> > code.
> Again, I've no legal training, so all educated guesses, ask a lawyer if
> you want to be sure.
> I think the main point of that is to make the description in a form that
> is not a derivative work. The form is monopolizeable, the ideas and
> algorithm behind it are not. Thus a description that only describes
> parts that are not protectable should effectively cut all chains of
> copyright. (This of course requires that the description is only
> describes the ideas and algorithms and is nothing like "first there is
> an if, then a open parenthesis, then...").

Just to add a bit more weight here, the above is more or less correct. When we talk about functionality we are, by definition, talking about patents. When we are talking about expression we are, by definition, talking about copyright. While the same physical object can be protected by both copyright and patent simultaneously, the two legal theories protect different aspects of that physical object and there is no overlap. Which means that if you can describe the javascript fragment at a purely functional level, then you are only describing those parts that are subject to patent, in which case you are free to reimplement that code provided no patent has been granted to the original inventor. Debian's policies on patents have been fairly forgiving in the past (essentially only worrying about patents which are being actively enforced), so I think the clean-room development idea being proposed is likely the safest route to go.

But be certain to only describe functionality... once you start talking about implementation you enter into the world of creative expression, and now you are infringing on the copyright. But honestly, the function is trivially easy to describe in a pure functional sense and should take someone familiar with javascript all of five minutes to write once they understand what you are asking for.


Sean Kellogg
e: skellogg@gmail.com
w: http://blog.probonogeek.org/

Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. 
We are the ones we've been waiting for. 
We are the change that we seek. 

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