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Orionsbelter

The limitations of copying source code

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First let me start by saying I'm not looking to copy someone else's code but better understand where the line is drawn for people copying my own code. 

 

All developers at some point will have used others code in there own work. If you see something that inspires you, you may decided to use that code in your design. In some degree this maybe classed as fair use depending on the quantity of code you copy. 

 

Another developer may taken an entire php file, function, class, CSS sheet, HTML file and use this in there work / pass this off as there own work. This is blatant plagiarism. 

 

However what is stopping a developer from taking an entire piece of code and editing every aspect of the file to make it his own? 

 

For instance a designer my change the names of the styles and perhaps change the order of the properties and there values slightly; He may also move around parts of the html. In doing so causes the design to look different to your own but still the copying your work no the less. 

 

Another instance maybe that a PHP developer uses your entire code / software package and change the names of the variables, classes and methods; He may also change the order in which the methods appear and even change some similar functions to use alternatives such as loops. Again this causes the program to do exactly what your intends to do, however the source code will now look different to your own. 

 

How far can someone go back doing these actions? 

 

Is this legal? 

 

How best would you be able to prove it?

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All developers at some point will have used others code in there own work.

I have never used someone elses code unless was some sort of public/opensource.

I will agree that someone may have coded it similar in the past or will in the future, it's coding...only so many ways can write it.

 

It's actually best to talk to a lawyer that specializes in this stuff.

 

To be blunt, is not much can do and is a waste of time unless you actually get a patent on said code. Even then is not easy to prove it.

Most people are not willing to spend the thousands to do this.

 

Edit:

You may also discover that someone before you holds patents on what you have.

Edited by QuickOldCar
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Thank you for reply. 

 

To be blunt, is not much can do and is a waste of time unless you actually get a patent on said code. Even then is not easy to prove it.

Most people are not willing to spend the thousands to do this.

 

I imagine it is very hard to prove, luckily I haven't had this happen to me. Fingers crossed that I never do; Just something I have always wondered and never really been able to hard much information on it. Like you said it's hard to prove and even harder to states what's copied and what is clearly just code wrote similar. 

 

You may also discover that someone before you holds patents on what you have.

You mean you could spend months working on a project not copying anyone else's work and coming up with the ideas and design all by yourself only to discover you have wrote something similar to something someone has patented?   

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You mean you could spend months working on a project not copying anyone else's work and coming up with the ideas and design all by yourself only to discover you have wrote something similar to something someone has patented?

 

That's what I meant.

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I believe Apple patented the bounce at the end of a scroll, even though it was a basic falloff animation, but that's Apple for you, steal everyone else's tech then moan and claim for cash when they think they can, even though various games had used such events for years.

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/11/21/samsung_cries_racism_then_asks_for_further_review_in_apple_patent_case/

 

 

You find some tutorials online where people go to silly lengths to make their code look unique, but at the cost of speed.

 

Another way (not really with PHP) is to obfuscate compiled code in specific tell tale ways.

 

 

When I say I don't copy code... well, maybe through the use of tutorials a longtime before, which I've hacked apart and rebuilt numerous times and eventually writing into own classes. Also tutorials rarely have error checking and such so it is so far removed from the original that its not.

 

 

The thing you want to try to patent is the end product concept and also the brand.

 

All said,there are a few encryption algorithms that are copyrighted, e.g. RC4 encryption (ref: http://arstechnica.com/security/2012/11/patent-suits-target-google-intel-hundreds-more-for-encrypting-web-traffic/) but there are variations on it that are supposedly not covered simply because they have a different name, personally I'd have thought that the patent would have run out by now (or even just after it was published)! Anyway it appears its flawed, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RC4

Edited by 0x00

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I believe Apple patented the bounce at the end of a scroll, even though it was a basic falloff animation, but that's Apple for you, steal everyone else's tech then moan and claim for cash when they think they can, even though various games had used such events for years.

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/11/21/samsung_cries_racism_then_asks_for_further_review_in_apple_patent_case/

 

 

You find some tutorials online where people go to silly lengths to make their code look unique, but at the cost of speed.

 

Another way (not really with PHP) is to obfuscate compiled code in specific tell tale ways.

 

 

When I say I don't copy code... well, maybe through the use of tutorials a longtime before, which I've hacked apart and rebuilt numerous times and eventually writing into own classes. Also tutorials rarely have error checking and such so it is so far removed from the original that its not.

 

 

The thing you want to try to patent is the end product concept and also the brand.

 

All said,there are a few encryption algorithms that are copyrighted, e.g. RC4 encryption (ref: http://arstechnica.com/security/2012/11/patent-suits-target-google-intel-hundreds-more-for-encrypting-web-traffic/) but there are variations on it that are supposedly not covered simply because they have a different name, personally I'd have thought that the patent would have run out by now (or even just after it was published)! Anyway it appears its flawed, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RC4

 

 

Excellence reply, very informative!  I totally agree with comments regarding Apple, they seem to steal many people ideas even the ones protected; then they just pay them off in court with the big stack of cash they're sitting on. 

 

I imagine algorithms are very hard to copy and pass off as your own work due to the nature of the mathematics; It would be like someone trying to say they came up with e =mc2 :tease-03: 

 

Going to give them links a read now, thanks for replying 0x00! :)

 

 

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I imagine algorithms are very hard to copy and pass off as your own work due to the nature of the mathematics; It would be like someone trying to say they came up with e =mc2 :tease-03:

Ah, not so... What if you'd never heard of Einstein but worked through the maths involved and proved the same theory, would you have come up with it yourself, should you still be proud, nevertheless you wouldn't be the one recorded in history as the first.

 

I can't remember what or who but I know of such a case, think it was in one of Simon Singhs crypto books, a young boy in India doing public key crypto with primes, even though it had already been established by RSA (Rivest, Shamir and Adleman), even though declassified British files later proved that the British had been using such a system many years before, similar to the story about who invented the first computer. Same with Marconi, the reputed developer of radio communications, whereas again, developed fist in Britain, but not patented! Some do it for the love, others for money, but that is the nature of Cathedrals and Bizarres (a book about opensource development).

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What about getting help in forums? Should you give credit and royalties?

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Actually a priest in scranton pennsylvania invented wireless radio.

Two towers to do his sermons both locations.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jozef_Murga%C5%A1

 

Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz independently invented calculus in the mid-17th century.

BTW, Leibniz invented binary, had one of the first mechanical computers using it.

 

I researched a pile of patents long ago, would be amazed what is patented concerning coding and math, I would think can only patent very specific things by now and not the entire code except for as a complete package as is.

 

Since the internet is everywhere, we are talking international patents, even then some countries do not abide by them.

Edited by QuickOldCar
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What about getting help in forums? Should you give credit and royalties?

Exactly is someone provide you with some source code that they wrote to solve your problem, then I would consider this as a valid reason to credit that person somewhere in the program / software. 

 

 

BTW, Leibniz invented binary, had one of the first mechanical computers using it.

 

This is a whole other subject in it's self haha, Awhile back I was researching who actually invented the computer and there isn't a simple answer as you will already know.

 

I always believed Konrad Zuse invented the computer by using Leibniz's binary with telephone relays, however I soon learnt that there was a history of computers long before that! 

 

The lawyers who take these such cases on must be pretty well paid!

 

 

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Why exactly are you worried about somebody “stealing” your code?

 

I'm all for proper attributation, and I despise plagiarism. But I don't see the concrete problem here. If you want to put limits on what people can legitimately do with your code, choose one of the many open-source licences. If you don't want anybody to see your code, then don't publish it. That's the standard approach, and it seems to work pretty well.

 

Personally, I'm a big fan of exchanging code without any particular restrictions. I'd rather see my own work being plagiarized than live in a society where everybody locks their stuff away. I don't want to go back to the days of right-click blockers and “Thou shalt not look at my HTML markup” warnings.

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However what is stopping a developer from taking an entire piece of code and editing every aspect of the file to make it his own?

Nothing is stopping anyone from doing that. If you can show that code is sufficiently different to the original works, then you legally didn't copy it. Who's to say you didn't both come up with the same idea and just implement it slightly differently? That's why you can't patent code.

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First, let me make a comment of people supposedly stealing "HTML" markup that say they are stealing their code by just changing the design/style around and moving this there and that there. It would be stealing if all they did was change the color theme and the font then called it their own, but if the actually changed the design I don't see how you can call it stealing? There is even a website to help people learn CSS http://www.csszengarden.com/

 

As for php, it would be stealing if  someone simply grab the php from a person website by hacking by various hacking means. However, I have been stumped in the past and used a script or two in order to get that particular page working the way I want it to, but people post tutorials all over the web (some good or some bad) just for that purpose. You still 99 percent of the time have to modify the code to fit your needs for that particular website. 

 

Just my .02 cents. 

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You don't need to worry about someone copying your code. We all suffer from Not Invented Here syndrome, so rest assured. And I am the guy who constanly keep telling everyone they SHOULD use other people's code (if available, well-tested, and adheres to some standard).

 

Like minded people created an entire tool for plagiarists to do plagiarism and then sell it off as their own:

$ composer require your/code
Edited by ignace

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If you don't want anybody to see your code, then don't publish it.

This isn't always the possible though, imagine if you were a publisher of an extension on a open-source project such as Joomla, Opencart, Presta Shop etc.

 

Then you would have to publish your code for people to pay,  download and install on their website; Then someone could do the same and make changes to your extension's code and make it look different and upload to the marketplace to compete against your own product in which it was originally your own. 

 

And I am the guy who constanly keep telling everyone they SHOULD use other people's code (if available, well-tested, and adheres to some standard).

 

I'm a big believer in this also, as long as it not going to be used against the original developer as mentioned above. 

 

There has been some extremely interesting points made in the forum and I would like to thank everyone who has posted.  

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Then you would have to publish your code for people to pay,  download and install on their website; Then someone could do the same and make changes to your extension's code and make it look different and upload to the marketplace to compete against your own product in which it was originally your own.

Then use proper licensing. If that is too much risk for you then you might as well not bother writing any extensions.

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There's also this thing called social pressure. Most marketplaces and customers (at least the serious ones) actually have in interest in keeping their code clean, so if one programmer starts to plagiarize everybody else and violate all kinds of licenses, he will get into trouble, regardless of what the law says.

 

So again: I fail to see the real problem here. Yes, theoretically, we could all go out right now and “steal” any open-source project. There's no technical barrier to prevent this. But that doesn't mean we would get away with it.

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