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  1. #1
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    Copywrite & Plagiarism

    My immediate problem is that I am asked to clone MS Word's Calendar Wizard for a client's client. I will charge for this service, but the client's client will receive source code that I've not written (viz MSoft's Calendar Wizard with a few tweaks).

    I'm interested in hearing from people who have experience in selling a service ("modify code") in what appears to be a re-sale of MSoft's copywritten source code. I have every intention of password-protecting the code so that my work remains under warranty ("bug" implies my problem, not the client's ....)

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    Re: Copywrite & Plagiarism

    Don't you think it would be a good idea to write to Microsoft about their copy<big>r</big>ight to make the way truly "official" before you begin the journey?

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    Re: Copywrite & Plagiarism

    I work for a software development company and we'd be very upset with someone cloning our code. You better be sure of the ground you walk upon before beginning this process. Check your EULA for Office/Word. If there is any doubt, follow BigAl's adivce and contact MS before you start.

    Joe
    Joe

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    Re: Copywrite & Plagiarism

    Chris, I'd suggest you start by talking to a copyright attorney. If you are enrolled in one of the Microsoft Partner programs, you might have or be able to get permission to do this. Otherwise, I think you're asking for trouble spelling with a capital MS. <img src=/S/flee.gif border=0 alt=flee width=25 height=25>
    Charlotte

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    Re: Copyright & Plagiarism

    Hi Chris,

    Sorry, I've no answers, but I'm quite interested in this issue so please keep us posted!

    In particular, I'm wondering what Microsoft's position would be if you created a very very similar wizard from scratch. My understanding is that unless MS have patented the idea of software that enables calendar creation in word processors (very unlikely, as similar things can be done in other word processors), plagiarism wouldn't be an issue. But where it gets interesting for me, is that you're probably using the same programming language that MS used. In which case, your code, even if it's written from scratch, will end up looking very similar to that in Microsoft's wizard. But you wouldn't be guilty of plagiarism (because MS don't own the idea of a calendar wizard) and, having created your tool from scratch, you haven't copied Microsoft's - even if the end result is very similar - so there's no copyright breach.

    But if you're allowed to create what is essentially a modified version of the wizard from scratch, what's the difference between that and modifying the existing source code? The end result is the same, and it's the product, not the process, that is subject to copyright. So by that logic, you're perfectly ok to start with Microsoft's source code. It's essentially no different from using example code from Microsoft's website in your products. The only inhibitor in my view is if Microsoft have protected the source code and you've obtained it by devious/illegal means. If, though, they've left it open and "modifiable", surely you can use it!

    I'm no lawyer and as I said, I don't have the definitive answer, but that's my take on what the answer should be! But as the Al and the others said, it's probably worth contacting MS and/or someone with legal expertise in this area.
    Waggers
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    Re: Copyright & Plagiarism

    Waggers, thanks for the response. I'm interested in people who have actually done this, because I too have wonderful theories about what might and might not be done. Like anyone else I can phone MSoft andor hire a lawyer.

    The body of your message hit my nail on its head: Why distribute the source code if you don't want it to be used. Thanks.

    FWIW I do have a phone and have used it. MSoft is particularly obtuse in this area; it's as if they too are confused.

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    Super Moderator jscher2000's Avatar
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    Re: Copyright & Plagiarism

    First, check your EULA (end user license agreement). I believe the developer edition of Office (at least prior to 2003) included directions on how to create your own wizards using a Microsoft-supplied template. The developer edition also has special redistribution licenses for things such as the Access runtime. Ordinary versions of Office probably do not provide any redistribution rights for Microsoft-supplied content, whether in original or modified form.

    Added: Perhaps the correct EULA is the client's EULA, if you are playing the role of "temporary in-house developer." In that case, arguably there is no redistribution, but for that you might want actual legal advice. <img src=/S/wink.gif border=0 alt=wink width=15 height=15>

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    Re: Copyright & Plagiarism

    Jefferson, thanks for the thoughts. I am a devious weasel, and can work my way around almost any legal technicality. I'd certainly entertain the idea of working at the client site for five minutes to change a "7" to a "6" for a 6-column calendar day, especially if it meant a cheque for $500 and all the free coffee I could drink. I also suspect that MicroSoft have bigger fish to fry than me and a small corporate enterprise on the shores of Lake O****** (name suppressed to ... etc.)

    I'm especially interested in reactions from anyone who has actually done this, and the reactions from their clients or legal authorties.

    So far I've learned that no-one in authority really wants to discuss it. It's as if no-one wants to say it's OK in small doses, in case, down the road, they want to change their mind. Waggers hit the nail with the hint that If you didn't want us to make use of the source code, why did you publish it?". I find the source code in the VBA help files even more appealing, and we won't, I hope, go into the legal copyright ramifications of my borrowing a nice piece of VBA code from Woody's Lounge and adapting it to my own use.

    All of this is clouded by my own legacy, from years back, when programmers shared source code amost as a professional requirement. It was considered unprofessional to devise new code for an algorithm that was already coded in your host language (usually FORTRAN II).

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    Re: Copyright & Plagiarism

    You have 'plane tickets to a country with no extradition treaty? <img src=/S/innocent.gif border=0 alt=innocent width=20 height=20>
    -John ... I float in liquid gardens
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    Re: Copyright & Plagiarism

    Well, I *used* to work for the Casleys, who are now Hutt River Province ......

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    Super Moderator jscher2000's Avatar
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    Re: Copyright & Plagiarism

    > Waggers hit the nail with the hint that If you didn't want us to make use of the source code, why did you publish it?"

    It's ancient history, but that is how IBM made cloning the original PC BIOS difficult: publish the code so it would be hard to prove you didn't use it in making a compatible version.

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    Re: Copyright & Plagiarism

    <img src=/S/clever.gif border=0 alt=clever width=15 height=15>
    Waggers
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    Re: Copywrite & Plagiarism

    Interestingly enough, the text below is part of my latest Byte On-line magazine.

    --------------------------------- Text From Byte -----------------------------------------------------
    Software Program Pinpoints IP Violations
    by W. David Gardner

    With software developers all over the world creating untold millions of lines of
    code daily, a knowledge base that sorts out intellectual property (IP) aspects
    of that software has been created by a Massachusetts firm.

    "We've created a comprehensive knowledge base of open source software code
    prints and third-party binary code prints," said Douglas A. Levin, CEO of Black
    Duck Software. "It's a huge problem the Internet has created, because of this
    huge collaboration." Levin noted that software is being created in many
    different international locations, often for a single project.

    Black Duck's new Enhanced Due Diligence program is aimed primarily at helping
    lawyers, IT execs, and investors carry out due diligence to determine and
    document "the pedigree of software assets." Levin noted that the problem of
    determining IP origin for software has grown as new software is increasingly
    being created in countries such as China, India, and Pakistan.

    "Many developers throughout the world don't respect IP," said Levin. "At the
    same time, many developers don't realize they may be violating IP." Black Duck's
    "automated code review" can pick up violations and through remediation efforts,
    help bring the code into compliance.
    -------------------------- End of Text From Byte --------------------------------------------------------

    Two things strike me about this.

    1. Is this going to be a method by which people start patenting 'ideas'?
    2. Have I inadvertently impinged on copyright by pointing this out?

    Actually, while I'm at it. What about OOP? One of the fundamentals is Inheritance. So, does this mean that if I create a control inherited from a Microsoft control I have to recompense Microsoft if I make it commercially available?

    Regards,
    Kevin Bell

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    Re: Copywrite & Plagiarism

    The whole thing is totally confusing, and the more you think about it the worse it gets. It could be taken to the point where you say that VB is a Microsoft creation, therefore royalties should be paid to Microsoft for any sale of a product created in VB. There must be a balance somewhere, but exactly where the line is drawn seems to be undecided.
    <img src=/S/shrug.gif border=0 alt=shrug width=39 height=15>
    Waggers
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  15. #15
    Super Moderator jscher2000's Avatar
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    Re: Copywrite & Plagiarism

    I've used an earlier version of the Black Duck tool. It searches a big mass of source code for open source components using a proprietary fingerprinting technology that, in theory, doesn't require that the original library is intact or that you kept all of it, or that it is unmodified. It then attempts to point out whether the license of the open source component might be incompatible with your own desired licensing terms. The latter part is a bit weak, but that's okay: lawyers still need a job.

    Black Duck has a large library of components, but of course it can't know every preexisting piece of code out there. They probably aren't combing the Lounge, for example, looking for valuable snippets. But it's a useful thing, particularly for companies that don't want to take the risk of releasing code that contains GPL-licensed modules.

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