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Do I need license to release the Python version of old BASIC games?

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Do I need license to release the Python version of old BASIC games?

C.D. Reimer
Greetings,

I'm in the process of converting 101 old BASIC games into Python (see
link below).

http://www.atariarchives.org/basicgames/

The short term goal is to learn the finer aspects of the Python language
and reliving my misbegotten past on the Commodore 64. The long term goal
is to use the completed project as part of a programming portfolio, as
many of my past I.T. jobs have required no programming and my current
job requires some PowerShell scripting (meh).

Many of these BASIC games floated around the university computer labs
and DEC for years before being published in Creative Computing magazine
and into book form in 1978. My Python scripts are faithful to the video
output as listed in the book, but underlying code is vastly different
than the BASIC code.

Do I need to release my scripts under a license? If so, which one?

Thanks,

Chris R.
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Do I need license to release the Python version of old BASIC games?

Laura Creighton-2
In a message of Sun, 21 Jun 2015 12:32:46 -0700, "C.D. Reimer" writes:

>Do I need to release my scripts under a license? If so, which one?

You should, because if you don't you could pop up some day and
assert copyright and sue the hell out of people who use your code,
which means that many people won't touch it until you license it.

http://blog.codinghorror.com/pick-a-license-any-license/

is a pretty good introduction to the quagmire, and talks about
some popular choices.

Laura

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Do I need license to release the Python version of old BASIC games?

C.D. Reimer
On 6/21/2015 1:00 PM, Laura Creighton wrote:
> In a message of Sun, 21 Jun 2015 12:32:46 -0700, "C.D. Reimer" writes:
>
>> Do I need to release my scripts under a license? If so, which one?
> You should, because if you don't you could pop up some day and
> assert copyright and sue the hell out of people who use your code,
> which means that many people won't touch it until you license it.

I want to strike a right balance between respecting the 1987 copyright
of the book, which much of the code was either in the public domain or
submitted to Creative Computing magazine, and protecting my own code
that uses the video output from the book. I'm leaning towards the MIT
license as many of games were developed in university computer labs and
freely shared among computer users.

For a copyright blast from the past, consider Bill Gate's open letter to
hobbyists stealing Microsoft Basic in 1976.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_Letter_to_Hobbyists

Thanks,

Chris R.

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Do I need license to release the Python version of old BASIC games?

Marko Rauhamaa
In reply to this post by C.D. Reimer
Laura Creighton <lac at openend.se>:

> In a message of Sun, 21 Jun 2015 12:32:46 -0700, "C.D. Reimer" writes:
>
>>Do I need to release my scripts under a license? If so, which one?
>
> You should, because if you don't you could pop up some day and assert
> copyright and sue the hell out of people who use your code, which
> means that many people won't touch it until you license it.

Converting BASIC games to Python results in derived works, which are
under the original copyright of the BASIC games.

>From the given link:

   BASIC Computer Games is copyright ? 1978 by David H. Ahl, and is
   posted on www.atariarchives.org with permission. Do not redistribute,
   mirror, or copy this online book.

So a license from David H. Ahl is required before publishing Python
translations.

As for licensing one's own code, you can grant a license (or several),
or you could place your code in the public domain.


Marko

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Do I need license to release the Python version of old BASIC games?

Michael Torrie
On 06/21/2015 02:58 PM, Marko Rauhamaa wrote:

> Laura Creighton <lac at openend.se>:
>
>> In a message of Sun, 21 Jun 2015 12:32:46 -0700, "C.D. Reimer" writes:
>>
>>> Do I need to release my scripts under a license? If so, which one?
>>
>> You should, because if you don't you could pop up some day and assert
>> copyright and sue the hell out of people who use your code, which
>> means that many people won't touch it until you license it.
>
> Converting BASIC games to Python results in derived works, which are
> under the original copyright of the BASIC games.
>
> From the given link:
>
>    BASIC Computer Games is copyright ? 1978 by David H. Ahl, and is
>    posted on www.atariarchives.org with permission. Do not redistribute,
>    mirror, or copy this online book.
>
> So a license from David H. Ahl is required before publishing Python
> translations.
>
> As for licensing one's own code, you can grant a license (or several),
> or you could place your code in the public domain.

I disagree.  Especially where the resulting python program is not a
transliteration (which it certainly won't be) of the original BASIC
programs.  As well, these programs implement well-known algorithms and
games.  There are only so many ways to implement certain algorithms, and
each implementation is going to be closely similar.  The games and
algorithms in his BASIC programs are by no means original or not
well-known and well-discussed.

Also the quoted copyright notice is for the entire work, which is to say
the book.  Chris is in no way reproducing the guy's text in whole or in
part--I note that the notice says nothing about fair use.

That's not to say the original book author couldn't pursue a copyright
claim, even if it's without merit.

As to the question of assigning a copyright license to code, in this
case I suggest just releasing the code marked as public domain.  The
programs are small and trivial.  If you do not release it explicitly as
public domain than you must release it under *some* license, because to
not do so prohibits anyone from doing *anything* with your code by
default, something a lot of githubbers seem to forget.  Also as long as
the code is entirely your work (and it is, despite Marko's assertions
about derivative works), you can change the license at any time.

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Do I need license to release the Python version of old BASIC games?

C.D. Reimer
In reply to this post by Marko Rauhamaa


On 6/21/2015 1:58 PM, Marko Rauhamaa wrote:

> Converting BASIC games to Python results in derived works, which are
> under the original copyright of the BASIC games.
>
>  From the given link:
>
>     BASIC Computer Games is copyright ? 1978 by David H. Ahl, and is
>     posted on www.atariarchives.org with permission. Do not redistribute,
>     mirror, or copy this online book.
>
> So a license from David H. Ahl is required before publishing Python
> translations.

The copyright applies to the book ("Do not redistribute, mirror, or copy
this *online book*.") and any derivative work is based on the book.
Using the video output from the BASIC games in the book could fall
underneath the fair use provision, which allows me to use a small
portion of the book without infringing on the copyright. I'm not
publishing a book. I just want to put my code on a website as an
educational example of what I did to convert a spaghetti language into a
modern scripting language.

Thanks,

Chris R.


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Do I need license to release the Python version of old BASIC games?

Michael Torrie
On 06/21/2015 03:52 PM, C.D. Reimer wrote:
> The copyright applies to the book ("Do not redistribute, mirror, or copy
> this *online book*.") and any derivative work is based on the book.
> Using the video output from the BASIC games in the book could fall
> underneath the fair use provision, which allows me to use a small
> portion of the book without infringing on the copyright. I'm not
> publishing a book. I just want to put my code on a website as an
> educational example of what I did to convert a spaghetti language into a
> modern scripting language.

Completely agree. Either post code with your own copyright and pick any
license (you can change it later), such as BSD, or just release it as
public domain.  I think your work could really be a good thing for
teaching purposes.


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Do I need license to release the Python version of old BASIC games?

Marko Rauhamaa
In reply to this post by Marko Rauhamaa
"C.D. Reimer" <chris at cdreimer.com>:

> Using the video output from the BASIC games in the book could fall
> underneath the fair use provision, which allows me to use a small
> portion of the book without infringing on the copyright. I'm not
> publishing a book. I just want to put my code on a website as an
> educational example of what I did to convert a spaghetti language into
> a modern scripting language.

As they say, tell that to the judge.


Marko

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Do I need license to release the Python version of old BASIC games?

Marko Rauhamaa
In reply to this post by Marko Rauhamaa
Michael Torrie <torriem at gmail.com>:

> On 06/21/2015 02:58 PM, Marko Rauhamaa wrote:
>> Converting BASIC games to Python results in derived works, which are
>> under the original copyright of the BASIC games.
>>
>> [...]
>
> I disagree. Especially where the resulting python program is not a
> transliteration (which it certainly won't be) of the original BASIC
> programs. As well, these programs implement well-known algorithms and
> games. There are only so many ways to implement certain algorithms,
> and each implementation is going to be closely similar. The games and
> algorithms in his BASIC programs are by no means original or not
> well-known and well-discussed.

The court will have to decide if the Python version is a
reimplementation or a more or less direct translation of the original.

> Also the quoted copyright notice is for the entire work, which is to say
> the book.  Chris is in no way reproducing the guy's text in whole or in
> part--I note that the notice says nothing about fair use.

Fair use is not granted.

   In United States copyright law, fair use is a doctrine that permits
   limited use of copyrighted material without acquiring permission from
   the rights holders.

   <URL: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fair_use>

Again, whether a fair use defense applies in this case is for the courts
to decide. My guess is it wouldn't apply here.


Marko

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Do I need license to release the Python version of old BASIC games?

Mark Lawrence
In reply to this post by C.D. Reimer
On 21/06/2015 22:52, C.D. Reimer wrote:

>
>
> On 6/21/2015 1:58 PM, Marko Rauhamaa wrote:
>> Converting BASIC games to Python results in derived works, which are
>> under the original copyright of the BASIC games.
>>
>>  From the given link:
>>
>>     BASIC Computer Games is copyright ? 1978 by David H. Ahl, and is
>>     posted onwww.atariarchives.org  with permission. Do not redistribute,
>>     mirror, or copy this online book.
>>
>> So a license from David H. Ahl is required before publishing Python
>> translations.
>
> The copyright applies to the book ("Do not redistribute, mirror, or copy
> this *online book*.") and any derivative work is based on the book.
> Using the video output from the BASIC games in the book could fall
> underneath the fair use provision, which allows me to use a small
> portion of the book without infringing on the copyright. I'm not
> publishing a book. I just want to put my code on a website as an
> educational example of what I did to convert a spaghetti language into a
> modern scripting language.
>
> Thanks,
>
> Chris R.
>

Regarding fair use I suppose it depends on which country you're (plural)
in.  From
http://www.copyrightservice.co.uk/copyright/p22_derivative_works.en.htm

<quote>
Can I claim that my copy is fair use/fair dealing, or de minimis?
Unless your activities are explicitly allowed under law, there is no
solid legal footing for such a claim.
</quote>

Having said that I agree with Michael Torrie's earlier comments so I
suggest you get on with it, noting at the same time that my legal skills
are nowhere near as good as my computing skills, which is really saying
something :)

--
My fellow Pythonistas, ask not what our language can do for you, ask
what you can do for our language.

Mark Lawrence


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Do I need license to release the Python version of old BASIC games?

C.D. Reimer
In reply to this post by Marko Rauhamaa
On 6/21/2015 3:02 PM, Marko Rauhamaa wrote:
> As they say, tell that to the judge.

More than likely, the original copyright owner can issue an DMCA take
down notice and that will be end of that.

Thanks,

Chris R.



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