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[Freeciv] Re: software license violation

[Freeciv] Re: software license violation

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To: freeciv <freeciv@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Cc: Brandon Van Every <vanevery@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Subject: [Freeciv] Re: software license violation
From: Jules Bean <jules@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Thu, 20 Jul 2000 15:18:55 +0100


I didn't even used to be on this list, but I just noticed this bizarre
flamewar on the archives, and I had to respond to this post.

It won't have the proper headers to be a response, but I'm sure you
can locate the message I'm replying to:

Brandon said: (and here he is quoting from the Civ II TOT license):

"OTHER RESTRICTIONS: You may not cause or permit the disclosure,
copying, renting, licensing, sublicensing, leasing, disseminating or
otherwise distributing of the CD-ROM or the Documentation by any means
or in any form, without the prior written consent of Hasbro
Interactive.  You may not modify, enhance, supplement, create
derivative work from, adapt, translate, reverse engineer, decompile,
disassemble or otherwise reduce the CD-ROM to human readable form."

And he continued (here I mark his text with leading angle brackets)

> So, to the extent that these clauses are enforceable in the country
> of your choice, you guys are crooks. 

And if you're wrong that's libellous, of course ;-) So let's be nice
to each other while we discuss an important point, and keep the heat down.

> I think all you Free Software pundits know how to read a GNU General
> Public License,

That I do.

> so this kind of language should be pretty clear and unambigous as to
> the rights Hasbro Interactive intended to bestow upon you.

However, you appear to know something about law.  So you will note
that, for example, I'm not a party to that agreement, since I don't
own the software.  That applies to many (but not all, I'm sure) of the
freeciv developers.

Of course, some of the freeciv developers probably do own some
versions of Civilization. I, for example, own the original version
one. (I'm not actually a freeciv developer, although I'm a sometimes
active participant on the mailing list, and I am supposedly the Debian
packager for the software). In any case, I don't think that this is
the key point.  Rather, the next point is the key one:

> Clearly, Freeciv is a derivative work.

I think that's far from clear.

In software IP, which I'm most familiar with, the copyright is held on
the source code. The binary code is held to be an extension or product
of the source code, so copyright is held there by extension. This kind
of copyright can *only* be infringed by actual copying of source
code.  Furthermore, it has to be source code which consitutes a
considerable original work. (for example, a two-or-three line code
example in a book would not be protected). We are certainly not in
infringement of this kind of IP, because that would require us to have
copied some of the actual source or binary code.

Now "artistic" IP is somewhat more general in scope.  The protection
over a painting extends to photographs of it, and hand copies of
it. Certainly, the freeciv project would be in violation of IP law if
we'd copied graphics from any of the Civilization games, but I don't
believe that to be the case.

So, I'm pretty sure that Freeciv isn't a derivative work.

> You verbatim cloned the gameplay

My feeling is that 'gameplay' is too ethereal to be copyrightable.
Freeciv gameplay isn't the same as Civ II, although when operating in
compatible mode it is very similar.  But not all the rules are the
same, (since we don't /know/ what all the Civ II rules are, we guess
rules which seem to give qualitatively similar results). However, I
will ask an IP lawyer about this point.

Certainly you will note that there are an awful lot of commercial
games out there which are /very/ similar to each other 'rules-wise',
and there haven't been any lawsuits between them.

Suggesting that gameplay could be copyrightable would be saying that,
for example, playground games would be copyrightable.  So, if you
produced a book describing a few cool playground games, and some
children bought your book, and taught the games to their school-mates,
then the schoolmates would be in coyright violation by playing them?
This, I don't believe.

It would be saying that a couple of young kids who play 'magic: the
gathering' at a friends house and decide to make their own similar
game using similar rules (they just cut out their own cards and draw
their own renditions of the monsters they can remember) would be in
copyright violation.  I don't believe that either.

> and the tech trees, that's your sin.

The 'tech tree' I could just about see a genuine case for.  It's one
concrete object that we really have copied from Civ II.  However, my
gut feeling is that it is too insignificant to constitute an
independently copyrightable work.  I'll ask the IP lawyer about that
too, but since he hasn't played the game, he may not quite know what I
mean ;-)

> Your website makes it pretty darn clear that you're a derivative
> work,

No, it makes it clear that it's a game inspired by and attempting to
be compatible with.  That's a world apart.

When in each new version 'Freehand' had work-alikes to the greatest
features of 'Illustrator's previous version, was that a copyright
violation?  Of course not.

(Ditto Excel/Lotus-1-2-3, Word/MacWrite in the early days of the Mac,
etc, etc)

> that's why you should change the name
> of the game and take a swizzle stick to your Civ compatible rules.
> If the tables were turned and you were talking about someone abusing
> one of your Free Software products for profit, your understanding
> and response on the matter would be unambiguous.

Not at all.  If someone copied free software /code/, then we'd be
angry.  If they just copied ideas, we'd shrug our shoulders.

Ideas are not copyrightable.  Only implementations and expressions.

Incidentally, a note:

Brandon is not a troll.  A Troll is someone who knows himself to be
wrong, and is stirring up trouble.  Brandon believes himself to be
right, and would appear to be well-intentioned, although I believe him
to be wrong.

So let's keep it civil.


P.S. A few more rhetorical thoughts:  Did Xerox have copyright on the
'menu'? Does microsoft have copyright on the word-processor? Does
Photoshop have copyright on the idea of an image-editor with dodge and
burn tools? Does TSR have copyright on the concept of 'Hit Points' or
'Experience Levels'? Does <whoever it was, maybe mercedes> have
copyright on ABS? Does 'id' have copyright on the First-Person Shooter?

P.P.S One more thought: Does humanity benefit more if we share and
improve each others ideas, or if we have to pay for each idea we use?

Jules Bean                          |        Any sufficiently advanced 
jules@xxxxxxxxxx                    |  technology is indistinguishable
jules@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx               |               from a perl script

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