[erlang-questions] A PropEr announcement

Ulf Wiger <>
Fri Jun 17 12:43:01 CEST 2011


It has been brought to my attention that some have interpreted my posts in this thread as gunning for Kostis. I am not. I sincerely hope that no one has been on the wrong side of the law here (and even more that there will be no attempt at legal action). Knowing Kostis, I am pretty certain that he had very carefully considered what he was doing.

I think it is extremely important to have a discussion about not just what is strictly legal, but also how we as a community act to show respect for other people's right to innovate and make money on their innovation.

OTOH, Kostis definitely could have written a quickcheck-like tool with a different interface, staying absolutely clear of even the slightest risk of being accused of infringement. Safer for Kostis, but actually worse for the community. I believe it is better, ultimately for all parties involved, that the APIs are almost fully compatible. I hope that Quviq will find a way to profit from this too, not least since they have done a tremendous amount of good for the Erlang community.

Uncritically applauding acts of essentially cloning other people's IPR may have unwanted consequences.

Let's consider for a while that one of the main driving forces behind the current patent system is the Pharmaceutical industry. Why? Much because it is extremely expensive to develop and approve a new drug, but very cheap to copy it. 

It's clear that OSS is pushing the point at which one can charge for a software component higher and higher. Today, it seems, if you don't have several man-years of effort invested in your software, you might as well not even bother, since as soon as you launch, chances are that someone in the OSS community might decide to build a free version just as a fun exercise.

I can't help thinking that this sort of activity is mostly self-gratifying, and doesn't take into account the fact that the Open Source community has yet to figure out how to be self-sustaining. Much of the money that funds Open Source (or at least pays the rent for those who contribute to it) comes from largely proprietary companies.

What OSS has so far demonstrated is that giving things away for free can be extremely beneficial for innovation and quality. On the topic of ensuring steady revenue and managing to pay people's salaries at the end of each month, it has some way to go still.

BR,
Ulf W

On 16 Jun 2011, at 09:28, Ulf Wiger wrote:

> 
> On 16 Jun 2011, at 09:01, Joel Reymont wrote:
> 
>> 
>> On Jun 16, 2011, at 10:43 AM, Ulf Wiger wrote:
>> 
>>> As far as I can tell, PropEr is an unauthorised reverse-engineering effort of the later commercial versions (the early version did not have shrinking or statem support, for example);
>> 
>> How do you tell it's a reverse-engineering effort as opposed to a clean-room re-implementation?
> 
> First of all, my intent was not to pass judgement (IANAL), only to point out that there are other legal subtleties regarding PropEr. But since the point of expressing an opinion is mainly to stimulate discussion, I dug into the legal text in order to try to answer your question.
> 
> The relevant EU legal text [1] says, under Article 4 - restricted acts:
> 
> "(a) the permanent or temporary reproduction of a computer program by any means and in any form, in part or in whole. Insofar as loading, displaying, running, transmision or storage of the computer program necessitate such reproduction, such acts shall be subject to authorization by the rightholder"
> 
> This seems to imply that if it happened as Kostis said - that they wrote PropEr based on available tutorials, articles and documentation, never having been in possession of a copy of the software, this will not constitute a violation of said directive.
> 
>> Is QuviQ QuickCheck rocket science that requires decompiling bytecode?
> 
> It doesn't have to be. It only has to fall under the laws regarding copyright protection.
> 
> "3. A computer program shall be protected if it is original in the sense that it is the author's own intellectual creation. No other criteria shall be applied to determine its eligibility for protection."
> (Article 1)
> 
> But the more difficult part is perhaps what parts are protected in the first place:
> 
> "2. Protection in accordance with this Directive shall apply to the expression in any form of a computer program. Ideas and principles which underlie any element of a computer program, including those which underlie its interfaces, are not protected by copyright under this Directive."
> 
> A possible interpretation of this is that releasing any implementation that almost perfectly emulates the API of a protected program *does* violate the directive, much as a reproduction of a painting would. What is hard to reconcile is whether it is still infringement if the copy was made without ever having been in possession of the original. :)
> 
> Presumably, this would also mean that the PropEr authors never used QuickCheck Mini - also a protected program.
> 
> BR,
> Ulf
> 
> [1] "Council Directive 91/250/EEC of 14 May 1991 on the legal protection of computer programs"
> http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=CELEX:31991L0250:EN:HTML
> 
> Ulf Wiger, CTO, Erlang Solutions, Ltd.
> http://erlang-solutions.com
> 
> 
> 
> _______________________________________________
> erlang-questions mailing list
> 
> http://erlang.org/mailman/listinfo/erlang-questions

Ulf Wiger, CTO, Erlang Solutions, Ltd.
http://erlang-solutions.com



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