The True Spirit Of Copyright

I wrote to C|Net, owner of TechRepublic and Builder.com, asking if I could quote their Ten Commandments of Egoless Programming in an issue of Library Technology Reports journal on open source software for libraries and got the following canned response:

Thank you for your interest in including CNET content on your website. [...] There would be licensing fee of $400.00 associated with use of the CNET logo or text excerpt on your website, or $1000.00 for rights to post the entire article on your own site. Please let me know if you wish to proceed and I’ll send you an invoice. Upon receipt of payment we will send you a document granting permission to use this material as requested.

The irony, of course, is that I wanted to introduce the commandments as an update to Gerald Weinberg’s concept of “egoless programming,” introduced in his 1971 The Psychology of Computer Programming. In reference to Builder/com’s derivative work based on Weinberg’s, the text I’d drafted began something like “in the true spirit of open source….” Well, so much for the true spirit of open source.

Even better, here’s their linking policy:

CNET News.com believes strongly in the utility of hyperlinks, which allow anyone to point directly to content, whether on the same site or an external site. CNET News.com uses hyperlinks to give the reader easy access to additional information or original source material.

So far, so good, but…

There is no charge to link to content on CNET’s sites. When linking you may not include any text or logos from the original article on your own site, with the exception of the article title or headline. You could offer your own introduction/verbiage and then direct readers to view the article by clicking the link provided.

What, no fair use quoting? Huh? Well, the following excerpt may violate their policy, it’s unknown if it violates fair use:

  1. Understand and accept that you will make mistakes. The point is to find them early, before they make it into production. Fortunately, except for the few of us developing rocket guidance software at JPL, mistakes are rarely fatal in our industry, so we can, and should, learn, laugh, and move on.
  2. You are not your code. Remember that the entire point of a review is to find problems, and problems will be found. Don’t take it personally when one is uncovered.
  3. No matter how much “karate” you know, someone else will always know more. Such an individual can teach you some new moves if you ask. Seek and accept input from others, especially when you think it’s not needed.
  4. Don’t rewrite code without consultation. There’s a fine line between “fixing code” and “rewriting code.” Know the difference, and pursue stylistic changes within the framework of a code review, not as a lone enforcer.
  5. Treat people who know less than you with respect, deference, and patience. Nontechnical people who deal with developers on a regular basis almost universally hold the opinion that we are prima donnas at best and crybabies at worst. Don’t reinforce this stereotype with anger and impatience.
  6. The only constant in the world is change. Be open to it and accept it with a smile. Look at each change to your requirements, platform, or tool as a new challenge, not as some serious inconvenience to be fought.
  7. The only true authority stems from knowledge, not from position. Knowledge engenders authority, and authority engenders respect—so if you want respect in an egoless environment, cultivate knowledge.
  8. Fight for what you believe, but gracefully accept defeat. Understand that sometimes your ideas will be overruled. Even if you do turn out to be right, don’t take revenge or say, “I told you so” more than a few times at most, and don’t make your dearly departed idea a martyr or rallying cry.
  9. Don’t be “the guy in the room.” Don’t be the guy coding in the dark office emerging only to buy cola. The guy in the room is out of touch, out of sight, and out of control and has no place in an open, collaborative environment.
  10. Critique code instead of people—be kind to the coder, not to the code.As much as possible, make all of your comments positive and oriented to improving the code. Relate comments to local standards, program specs, increased performance, etc.

Those 400 or so words would cost $400, which isn’t as bad as $400 for 87 words, but still…?

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