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Quod Libet Copyright Infringement Posted 2006.02.08 20:39 PST (#)

I came home from work today to find I'd missed quite an afternoon. The summary is best shown as a single message from Joe with whom I develop Quod Libet: We got ripped off.

He was tipped off early this afternoon after reading Ross's post about Listen, looking at the screenshot and recognizing the appearance of the OSD. When he looked, he found in some places our copyright was still in place, untouched; in others cut and paste jobs had completely obliterated it. Apparently it's an established project that uses our code, but one without any public links or references to Quod Libet. I got back too late to see the code or the website in question, so I'm not sure what I think of this mess. Hence I'll talk about this in a general fashion, considering this case only as an example.

A lot of people are calling Joe the bad guy for cutting this off with his brusque open letter. There seems to be a belief shared by several anonymous commenters that pointing out in public that someone else did something wrong is a bad thing. I disagree: how else will anyone outside the infringer learn? Especially with a mistake as core to the Free Software community as copyright infringement, everyone needs to be aware of mistakes. More importantly they need to know how to avoid missteps and follow licensing terms correctly. I do find Joe's choice of language regrettable, but his core message is spot on.

We need to take more care of observing copyright and licensing requirements in the community. Anyone writing software and licensing it under any version of the GNU General Public License (GPL) is likely to be trying to contribute to the community so the damage from this scenario (stripping copyrights off GPLv2 and representing them as GPLv2 or later, and as your own work) is small. Assuming the infringer cleans up his mistakes, we will allow him to partake of the code as we would any new licensee.

What if this was darker? What if amongst the code being put into a GPL project there was code that didn't offer open terms at all, much less Free terms like the GPL? What if the aggregated work was being offered as closed source pay-only? Either scenario is anathema to the Free Software community: the first because it weakens us; the second because it takes advantage of us. Should our reactions to these scenarios be so different from the reactions to Joe's letter? I say they shouldn't, but you know everyone would be rooting for the little guy for sticking it to the evil empire.

License intentions are important—it's what ties us together as a community—but carrying through and actually following the licenses is crucial for the survival of our community. I look forward to a validly attributed and licensed Listen appearing soon; let's keep that sharing part of this community working!

Categories: copyright quodlibet


Michael Urman @ 2006.02.09 07:36:

Eddie Gonzalez, author of the lyrics plugin for Quod Libet (whose copyright was also infringed), shares his thoughts.