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Using someone else's code


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#1 parallaxview

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Posted 05 September 2006 - 04:22 PM

I am currently working on a site for a client who wants an online quote generator and he pointed me to a site to show what he meant by that. Using Firefox I had a quick check of the code and found that the generator was all there in Javascript. In the header of the page was this paragraph;

<!--SECURITY NOTICE: The contents of this page are the property of XXXXXXXX. Unauthorised copying is strictly prohibited and offenders will be prosecuted. The code in this page carries hidden and unique markers that allow an outside security firm to track and identifty code theft. Offenders will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.-->


I've only recently discovered this forum, but been very impressed by the advice that I've read. So please could anybody give me some advice on the following;

1. What are the ethics of using someone elses's Javascript?

2. Can relatively straightforward code be copyrighted like this?

3. Could I find some open-source Javascript that would do a similar job?

4. How would one hide unique markers in one's code?

Thanking you in advance for your time.

#2 JohnMu

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Posted 05 September 2006 - 04:40 PM

1. The author says you can't copy it, so don't :unsure:. I think that's pretty straightforward.

2. I am not a lawyer nor do I have any clue on the subject, but I would guess that if it's more than a single statement or two then it's probably copyrightable.

3. If it's simple code, re-write it yourself. You've seen how it could be done - you can probably do something similar with the same algorithms behind it, without having to copy his code line by line.

4. Markers ... hmm. You can't "hide" anything in javascript - it's all there in plain text. Some things you could do, if you assumed that you could compare versions:
- mix spaces / tabs for indentation: you can use it to binary encode "something"
- variable names (simple enough)
- comments (also)
- specific (perhaps unlogical) ordering of the individual "commands" (lines) within the script
Other than the comments and variable names, they are items which could identify a copy as a real copy and not just a re-write. In my opinion, if you re-write the code then you won't run into that problem. Just don't re-write line by line: re-write the code to do the same things (but perhaps not in the same specific way).

John

PS Welcome to cre8asiteforums!!

#3 kensplace

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Posted 05 September 2006 - 04:42 PM

1. What are the ethics of using someone elses's Javascript?

If the code is copyrighted, or they say dont copy it, then dont. Its wrong, and breach of copyright.

How would you feel if a local competitor ripped off your work, and sold it for profit to your customers, meaning you lost out?

2. Can relatively straightforward code be copyrighted like this?

If you have to copy it from elsewhere, then its not that straightforward really is it?
Someone spent time making this code (we assume, unless they stole it themselves....) and does not
want their time and effort used for someone elses benefit for free.


3. Could I find some open-source Javascript that would do a similar job?

Probably, or write your own/modify an existing open source one.

4. How would one hide unique markers in one's code?.

Impossible to hide markers completely against someone with decent skill who wants to remove them, but in general all they need to do is include something in the code that is unique, and search for it being used elsewhere. There are many ways, to do it, and unless you know what to look for, chances are you may miss some.

#4 bobbb

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Posted 05 September 2006 - 05:02 PM

Lots of stuff here. All free I believe.
http://www.dynamicdrive.com/

Edited by bobbb, 05 September 2006 - 05:03 PM.


#5 Ruud

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Posted 05 September 2006 - 05:09 PM

A script is basically like any other created work. This means that copyright exists upon creation. No need even to display a © -- although it might help.

So the ethics of using someone else's script which was written in JavaScript is also just like the case of using any other work: it depends on the terms and conditions. If no copyright is displayed and there are no terms and conditions than you may not use the work without acquiring legal permission from the author first.

On the other hand, if there are terms and conditions such as "you are free to use this as long as you leave this attribution in place" and you follow those terms and conditions ... Completely ethical.

Code snippets may be very different. For the copyright to exist and be valid the code has to be either substantial (and thus unique), execute a unique solution (such as a proprietary algorithm) or execute a solution in a unique way. Code snippets usually don't meet any of these conditions. That said, most code you find online does not exist in the public space....

The words black, man, dessert (and many others) cannot be copyrighted. Yet the combination of those words into "The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed..." and its entailing story can be copyrighted. In other words, foreach, echo and dir cannot be copyrighted as they are functions belonging to PHP ... but my unique combination of them into my solution of making a PHP script which does a directory listing can.

And yes, the less you know or understand of a certain script, the easier it is to hide anything in it. One can make it to echo the name of the author when queried a certain way... One can use a series of dummy variables. Finally, when called upon, it might be very hard to explain why you can't explain how the script you supposedly wrote works...

#6 parallaxview

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Posted 05 September 2006 - 05:32 PM

Thanks very much for your time and sound advice. I think I knew the answer to the first question anyway. As a bit of a newcomer to web design, I suppose I was hoping that someone was going to say something like all Javascript had become public domain :unsure:

I won't be copying any of the code; whilst what it does IS relatively straightforward, the code itself is not. And as Ruud pointed out -

Finally, when called upon, it might be very hard to explain why you can't explain how the script you supposedly wrote works...


So, thanks to all of you for putting me right, and special thanks to bobbb for the link.

Cheers

#7 bragadocchio

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Posted 06 September 2006 - 01:12 AM

The words black, man, dessert (and many others) cannot be copyrighted. Yet the combination of those words into "The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed..." and its entailing story can be copyrighted. In other words, foreach, echo and dir cannot be copyrighted as they are functions belonging to PHP ... but my unique combination of them into my solution of making a PHP script which does a directory listing can.


Excellent post, Ruud.

It would be kind of creepy to have Stephen King come after us for copyright infringement. Especially after watching Secret Window.

Ok, that Stephen King quote is probably too small to be copyright infringement, it's not being used in a commercial setting, and it's use is likely covered under fair use.

When something is under copyright, there are only a few ways you can use it. One is in a very limited usage, under fair use. Another is with permission. A third is to license it.

Can computer code have copyright attached to it? That's a very good question, and you might find some arguments over the answers. This is a good short guide to copyrights involving software:

Copyright for Computer Authors

It's hard to tell if a snippet of java script would be covered under copyright, and it's possible that you can find a script on the site that bobbb points to. If not, it doesn't take much time to send a friendly email to the author of the site, and ask for permission, and a detailed description of what you would want to use. I'm assuming that you aren't intending to copy the whole page, or even a majority of the code on the page. The worst that could happen is that the programmer could say no.

#8 Jem

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Posted 06 September 2006 - 03:21 AM

Not an answer to your questions per se, but quote rotators, generators, etc are incredibly common. A quick search in google for "free quote script" brought up thousands of results. :P



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