Re: License for Help Files and startup screen

From: Henrik Stuart (hstuart@geocities.com)
Date: 08/30/01


Hey,

> IANAL, but: A simple software license can't successfully impose
> restrictions on the legal use of software.

> That is, licensing is required only to copy and distribute software.

> You don't have to be licensed to actually 'use' a program as long as
> you don't copy it.

> Hence it would be impossible for the GPL to require users of
> software to do something with it or prevent them from doing
> something to it outside what specifically must be licensed.

> Specifically, a license can only restrict copying/distribution.
> And unless you are bound by some contract prior to receiving a
> copy of the software, the user has the rights to make 'fair use
> of a product'.

> The implication would be that the 'login sequence' and 'credit screen'
> restrictions are only meaningful if you are copying or distributing the
> software.

   Since DIKUMud has been created at DIKU (Datalogisk Institut ved
   KÝbenhavns Universitet) or Faculty of Computer Science at the
   University of Copenhagen for English-native persons it is subject
   to Danish copyright laws, not American, which differ in several
   instances - as to my knowledge.

   So according to the Danish law of authoring and copyrights chapter
   1 paragraph 3 part 1 (translated): The author is entitled to
   be credited, according to good custom, on examplars of the work
   as well as when made public.

   Here the work includes: literary or artistic works whether written,
   or spoken, in book form, a piece of music, a theatre play, a movie
   or photograph, a work of stonesculpting or the like, architectural
   works, or other works made in other forms. (Law chapter 1 paragraph
   1 part 1).

   (Sorry about the poor grammar at places - legislative Danish isn't
   the easiest thing to translate on the fly) :o)

   This basically tells us that it entails everything that people can
   imagine creating. :o)

   So, alone with these two parts you will be violating the Danish law
   if you do not credit the authors as they require of you.

> IMO, The Diku license is overreaching and overly vague.
> -

   The license was, as stated, created to comply with Danish laws and
   as they to my scrutiny does exactly that, I doubt that you can make
   any claims against their solidity.

> Some items in the Diku license itself are downright confusing:

> 1. It doesn't specify licensing of deriviative works, it just says
> "DikuMUD" throughout.  Usually a license says if/not it's ok to modify
> a package and release another package based under the modifications,
> and in that case the licensing of that package...

   To quote:
   "You are allowed to alter DikuMud, source and documentation as long as
   you do not violate any of the above stated rules."

   Next time you try to sable a license through read it. If you think you
   understand it, read it again because chances are you do not. The
   legislative departments of Universities have a tendency to be very
   thorough with their jobs - happens when most of the staff has a
   doctor degree. :o)

> That means if I wanted I could potentially release a modified Diku
> package and use the GPL on just my individual custom modifications,
> have two licensing options for various bits and pieces within
> the same package package and confuse the h*** out of people <G>

   If one license limits parts of the other license which aren't to be
   compromised as to the written requirements in the license you
   cannot combine the two. This is a violating of the copyright law no
   matter what country it hails from.

   If that made any sense, heh.

> 2. It lists restrictions 'login sequence' or 'help credits' that
>    perhaps make sense for a traditional mud system but -- what if I
>    wanted to use Diku code in a non-interactive program?  For example,
>    suppose for some reason I liked DikuMud's get_from_q or whatever and
>    wanted to use it in something else...

   Theoretically you are copying code and as such are subject to
   copyright laws - HOWEVER there are limits as to what can be
   copyrighted. Refer to the square function sample given earlier.
   This is the field of legislative interpretations know in layman
   terms as "walking on thin ice".

>    Or suppose I were making a non-traditional game system where the
>    interaction would not be the same as a mud (ie: all text shown
>    is handled by the client which is GPL-licensed and only the
>    server uses DikuMUD code -- I could potentially suppress the
>    output in the client, the requirement would be useless)

   As the DIKUMud license is pretty vague on what 'login sequence'
   entails you might be able to edge your way around it, but the key
   word here is in the CircleMUD license: seen.
   To quote:
   "The login sequence must contain the names of the DikuMUD and
   CircleMUD creators. The 'login sequence' is defined as the text
   seen by players between the time they connect to the MUD and when
   they start to play the game itself."
   So by suppressing the notification you are violating the use of the
   server and inflicting a violating of the copyright laws as you are
   knowingly keeping your client user from seeing the material since
   you must be suppressing specific names and or text phrases. Another
   "walking on thin ice" matter.

>    (Actually, maybe not.. the license specifically says
>     'DikuMud', which refers to an entire and specific package)

>    According to the Diku license i'd have to have to copy their
>    huge credits file into my system for some 10 lines of code
>    and make some sort of 'help credits' command and a
>    'login sequence' of some sort.  Oh yeah, and i'd have to forget
>    about using the GPL or something like that on the package too.

   Basically? Yes.

>    It just so happens it works backwards too, since the GPL
>    is designed to protect GPL'ed code from using in software
>    that isn't free as Diku clearly isn't.

   To quote:
   "You may under no circumstances make profit on *ANY* part of the
   DikuMud in any possible way. You may under no circumstance charge
   money for distributing any part of dikumud - this includes the
   usual $5 charge for 'sending the disk' or 'just for the disk', etc.
   By breaking these rules you violate the agreement between us and
   the University, and hence will be sued."

   So no, your software has to be free, it has to contain the
   copyright notices of not only the DikuMud license, authors,
   addresses and whatnot (as according to the license, obviously), but
   also the names, etc. of the CircleMUD authors and what they more
   require of you in their part of the CircleMUD license. (Unless, of
   course, this is a DikuMud question and not a CircleMud license
   question).

> The Diku and other people who had a part in creating a MUD system
> deserve credit for their work, but having a license attempt to
> set operating restrictions is ridiculous.

   Actually it is not. It's completely compliant to the laws of
   Denmark, and without having scrutinised the American laws on
   copyrights and the rights you have as an author of a work that law
   most likely entails something the like.

> -Mysid

   Standard disclaimer: I do not speak for the Faculty of Computer
   Science at the University of Copenhagen nor for the University of
   Copenhagen in itself. And albeit I have taken a few courses on law
   I do not have a degree in it so these are all my own speculations
   of reading and interpreting the licenses and laws.

   If you are interested in the Danish law of copyrights and
   authorship you can preview it in Danish at:
   http://www.ophavsret.dk/lov.htm
   There is no English version as to my knowledge.

   -

   Hope that this was remotely educational - if not ask a lawyer that
   is what they are for, that is what they receive their payment for.
   Even though most of us prefer to ridicule them. :o)

--
Yours truly,
 Henrik Stuart (hstuart@diku.dk or hstuart@geocities.com)

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