I did not know WHERE to ask this as there is no "General" section on the site this site that I know of.

Lets say I found code online but it's under the GPL 3 License.. I read it but it doesn't say that I cannot translate it from Pascal to C++ (I won't be doing it, but I'm just wonder)

Am I stealing if I translate it? What are the actual laws on copyrighting code because it really isn't clear to me :S

Examples of copyright infringement may include borrowing significant portions of another's work in the creation of a new work...

From here.

I am certainly not a laywer. For a definitive answer you need to read the GPL license and probably contact a legal authority.

I believe your C++ code does fall under GPL.

A "derivative work" is defined in the Copyright Act, 17 USC 101, as a:

""work based upon one or more preexisting works, such as a translation, [...] or other modifications which, as a whole, represent an original work of authorship, is a ‘derivative work’."" (see here.

What are the actual laws on copyrighting code

The real question is, does GPL hold water. The answer is, nobody knows (in US at least, and I think it's the same in Canada), because no judge ruled on it yet.

>> Am I stealing if I translate it?

Technically, yes. Kind of hard to prove though, if you do a reasonable job of changing names and syntax. Of course, assuming the algorithm's definition is public domain (appears in a text-book or scientific publication), it's OK to make your own implementation of the algorithm. It might be hard to distinguish your own original implementation from a translation of another (at least, hard to prove that its a translation and not an original work). But, if the algorithm is not public domain, then it's the complete opposite (hard to prove that you came up, on your own, with the same algorithm).

Overall, you have to consider the fact that implementations of well-known algorithms or methods are hard to defend against license violations, and probably, nobody would care to do so because there's no "idea" being "stolen".

>> What are the actual laws on copyrighting code

Basically, the same as most other things. First of all, there is a difference between a license and a copyright. GPL and others are licenses, which are pretty much a statement of a permission (with limits and rules that are agreed to by the parties, the "license agreement") that you give to others. When you are the author of original work, you automatically hold the copyright to it. So, if you don't attach any license to your code, it's implied that nobody has any right to copy or redistribute it, period.

If you give a license (like GPL) to your work, then its a matter of what permissions you give and if they somehow can be circumvented or not, but the copyright remains yours, always (well, unless you formally renounce it).

>> The real question is, does GPL hold water.

From doing a bit of googling, it seems that there are a significant amount of legal precedents involving GPL or very similar open-source licenses. Few cases make to a judge ruling on it, but it seems that it's mostly because the license violators settle it when it becomes obvious that they can't win.

People sometimes have the impression that legal cases are always won or lost on technicalities, and that if a license agreement doesn't have hundreds of pages describing every possible situation, it is sure to fail in court. That's a myth.

There are very convincing opinions that GPL is legally valid, that is it doesn't contradict the existing laws and precedents. There are equally convincing opinions that it is not. This legal limbo may be only resolved in the court. As far as I know, it didn't happen yet.

Few cases make to a judge ruling on it,

Could you please point me some which did produce a ruling? I am not aware of any (in US), but maybe I didn't search hard enough.

but it seems that it's mostly because the license violators settle it when it becomes obvious that they can't win.

That's exactly the point. Settlement does not prove anything about the validity of the license. Besides, it takes two to settle.

This article is a pretty good recap (note, the table extends to the right with the rulings). It seems both the NY district court and the Federal court ruled in favour of open-source license-givers. I think they were both settled out-of-court later during an appeal (that's a common strategy, to defend through the lower courts and then, when facing a losing battle, to settle out of court before the appeal to a higher court goes through).

>> Settlement does not prove anything about the validity of the license.

Yes, but the point of a license is not to win a court case, it's to get your copyright recognized, and thus, get reparation in case of infringement. If the license is strong enough to lead to settlements, then it is strong enough for most purposes.

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