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'What in "credit section" of the software' policy

Hi, JOS' readers.

I'm creating a small freeware application and I am not sure about what to put inside the CREDIT section. I mean, I am the author and I am not using third pary libraries, but I confess to reading some really useful technichal articles and tips on internet.

Some of the websites had a copyright text and so, even when they were just showing the Windows API functions. So, now I feel confused.

Let's say I add those people to credit section. My thoughts/doubts are:

1) If the program was not freeware but shareware/commercial, would they ask me for money because I was helped by their knowledge?

2) Question 1) even if this is a freeware app.

3) Does it mean that in future applications I must add them again and again until I a) rewrite the code in some enough different way? b) until I find a website with the same info. for free? c) until I kick my head with a tree and forget all the stuff I learnt fro m there?

4) Then, why not adding too some funny thing like "this software was not possible without this book: 'The C Programming Language' by Brian W. Kernighan and Dennis M. Ritchie. Prentice Hall, Inc."

So where is the limit? What is fair?

Or the right thing to do is sending an e-mail to everyone asking for permission about using their code/tip/article examples?

PS. This question smacks me because it is my software. If I was developing this app. for the company I am working, sure in the credit section will appear just the company name, without further ado.

Sunday, November 16, 2003


To clarify -- are you saying you typed in code from a magazine and that the article said it was copyrighted code?

Dennis Atkins
Sunday, November 16, 2003

And what Ross said about the crudit section of software done for some company is an interesting discussion I'd lke to have. When working as a consultant, I insist on published credit if they are using libraries I have prior developed, but not if they don't. The reason for this is to protect my copyright. When I've worked as an employee on the other hand, I have always insisted my name is in the credit boxes, but for different reasons since copyright is not an issue. It's just from personal experience I found that when you have an employer who has a problem with your name in a marquee list in the about box, it is certain that you are going to run into serious problems with that employer at some point. It's a warning sign and thus I've made it a litmus test.

Dennis Atkins
Sunday, November 16, 2003

"are you saying you typed in code from a magazine and that the article said it was copyrighted code?" -- Dennis Atkins

Not magazines, just tips and code snippets from technichal websites, like the one with this copyright text
(see Example Code License , point #2)

Sunday, November 16, 2003

Well the first one is pretty clear - the user has to be able to see the notice. Sounds like its ok as long as you do that. If you later ran into trouble with him (doubtful), you could rewrite the code at that time.

In general, if they ask you to give them credit, go ahead and do so. If they want some fee or whatever and you're distributing freeware, then probably better to rewrite the code, or try asking them for an exception.

I would not -not- credit them if you are using their code and they want credit. Even if wouldn't be detected, it's not the right thing to do.

Dennis Atkins
Sunday, November 16, 2003

Also, if it was a shareware/commercial app, even if they are not asking for money, it would be a polite thing to donate to their paypal account, or send them a copy of your app, or a nice letter thanking them.


Dennis Atkins
Sunday, November 16, 2003

There seem to be two different issues here -- what you have to do legally (to avoid infringing any copyrights) and what you ought to do as a matter of courtesy.

Copyright law only protects specific expressions, not general ideas.  For example, you might violate someone's copyright if you copy sections of code from his web site.  However, the general idea of how to use something, like the proper definition for a SetWindowLong API call, isn't itself copyrightable. 

It can often be a grey area with programming -- if there's only one way to implement a general idea (like the code to make a particularl API call, or perhaps the code to implement the QuickSort algorithm) it isn't copyrightable  A rule of thumb is if you're copying one or two lines of code, you're fine; if you're copying an entire class, or if the code is fairly unique, you aren't.

If the code is copyrightable, you shouldn't use it in your app without permission.  It doesn't matter whether it's "just" for a freeware app, or whether you give credit the person.

However, the simplest thing to do is just ask the author -- "hey I really liked how you implemented the XYZ function, is it OK if I use it in my freeware app?"  Almost anyone would say "Yes,"  especially if the code's already been published.  If you then give "special thanks" in your credits to the author, you're made a friend.

Robert Jacobson
Sunday, November 16, 2003

I find 'Mother / Father / Producer / Boss / God / Bill Gates' usually works.

Amend as required.

Monday, November 17, 2003

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