How about the fact that a piece of software is publicly available on the Web? Well, there’s no legal barrier to the creation of one. Even so, people try to avoid such problems by choosing to mark their software as free. A simple web browser can easily do so without any trouble; it even shows you a pop-up saying “You can download this as freeware.” If you want to keep some legal rights, however, it’s good to make sure you’re properly identified. What about a website? That would work, too. As far as we know, all the sites used to distribute code are properly identified and free. However, we are not experts, and don’t know how to guarantee that. We will point you in the right direction when we get something. What about a piece of software that’s not a software program at all? Is there any problem with a piece of code that’s never actually used? The short answer is yes. Although the rules of copyright on that type of work are not well defined, it seems likely that if your work involves a non-programmatical piece of code (a computer word processor, for example, or a calculator app) you are not allowed to prevent others from using it as long as you provide proper attribution along with the text to include in a publication about the work. It’s no different from the way you’re allowed to use the copyrighted work, after all; simply make sure the person who posted the work has properly done so.
What about a piece of software you don’t give away? Well, that’s still not okay, because someone still has legally owned the code. If that person then provides that code to others, then the rights of the owner are violated. If someone else then uses the work in a way that’s not authorized by the author to begin with, then that author may have breached a copyright in that work, and is liable for any infringement that may result. That said, this doesn’t apply if all the people you give away use exactly the same code. In that instance, you may be able to offer up some more specific instructions to those people, so long as they follow your general instructions and don’t make any changes to the code. In a lot of cases, the only thing that is required is that the code be available. Some pieces of software require that users give you permission to use their work. You can usually ask them if you’d ever ask them for permission before distributing it, as long as you’re also careful to say
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