Saturday Sasquan Business Meeting

Here’s a post where you can pin your liveblogging comments.

JJ: I am on the front left near the EPH guys this morning.

171 thoughts on “Saturday Sasquan Business Meeting

  1. Surely the argument is not “The con organizers have to be so concerned about possible disaster management that they have time to worry about a couple of ribbons.”

  2. “A small portion of the Hugo voting source code was based on code originally written by Steve Stanton (sp?) for Lone Star Con 3. That code is GPL. But the remainder of the code including that that I use to cross-check the counts of the Hugo voting is [not GPL]”

    Whoa. Telling people a “small portion” of your software is based on GPL code would suggest to me that the entire software is supposed to be GPL. Stanton wrote his code under GPL expecting derivative versions to be licensed the same way. How is it kosher to create closed source code based on his work, absent a special license from him?

  3. I see how the standard rules apply to all:
    Scalzi’s “Cabal” button is cool. Puppy ribbons are taboo. And it’s perfectly fine for someone to swipe an entire’s table worth of freebies themselves if they don’t like it.

    -Silly But True

  4. -Silly But True is in fact wrong. (But if you put something out on a freebie table, you shouldn’t complain about what people do with it.)

  5. PJ,
    I didn’t put anything out and it’s not so much a complaint as an observation: It’s just being an asshole for one person to take it all, especially if one didn’t even appreciate the items to begin with.

    Silly But True

  6. @Silly But True:

    Report is not that one person took them. Report is several people turned one of these ribbons in to the con organizers, who decided to remove the whole stack.

  7. Surely the argument is not “The con organizers have to be so concerned about possible disaster management that they have time to worry about a couple of ribbons.”

    Good grief no; it’s that possible disaster management would have been one of many things on their plates and therefore whomever printed the ribbons was being part of the problem and making their lives less fun; and that their reaction to them was both understandable and restrained.

  8. Whoa. Telling people a “small portion” of your software is based on GPL code would suggest to me that the entire software is supposed to be GPL. Stanton wrote his code under GPL expecting derivative versions to be licensed the same way. How is it kosher to create closed source code based on his work, absent a special license from him?

    Just to be clear, I meant that that was one possible interpretation, not that that was an inevitable unescapable outcome. If the LS3 code was, for example, just reading one file and writing results to another and the other code Oakes was talking about read that result file and worked on that, then the GPL wouldn’t apply to his code. It just wasn’t clear from what he said and without seeing the code, you couldn’t tell.

    But the whole opposition to open source seemed very uninformed and luddite to me; it’s not like open source is difficult or adds more work; to the contrary, it’s effectively like hiring more people to QA your code or develop new bits, except that you don’t have to pay them. You don’t even have to worry about sending stuff out or having to provide a point of contact; just throw it up on Github. And to be clear : open sourcing your code does not impose any obligations on you to take people’s input.

  9. @Mark Dennehy:

    depending on how the code is structured and how it was extended or evolved from the Lone Star Con 3 code, it might not be legal for the code to be licenced to WSFS at all

    I think what you mean is that Steve Stanton (the coder mentioned from LSC3 days) might have a cause of action for the tort of copyright infringement against WSFS. Let’s assume for the sake of discussion that the additional developed code indeed qualifies as a derivative work of Steve Stanton’s work issued to WSFS under GPL licensing. (For simplicity, let’s assume the greatly more common GPLv2 rather than GPLv3.)

    In that hypothetical, Stanton is granting WSFS access to some of his rights reserved to him by copyright law provided that WSFS complies with his licence terms & conditions. Those terms & conditions, within (the GPL text, include the famous ‘copyleft’ clauses. WSFS would need to comply with clause 2 concerning making of derivative works, a reserved right, and clause 3 concerning distribution, another reserved right.

    There’s no problem with clause 3 compliance because WSFS isn’t redistributing Stanton’s work or anything derived from it. Instead (in this hypothetical), it’s continuing to use Stanton’s code and works derived from it internally.

    There’s also no problem with clause 2 compliance, either. Why? Because clause 2’s three requirements are (likely) being complied with. 2a says the derivative work must include a clear change history. 2b says that if the derivative work gets distributed, then it must be made available at no charge under the same licence terms, which is irrelevant in this case because it’s not being distributed. 2c says that if the derivative work runs interactively, the startup display must include an appropriate copyright notice and warranty disclaimer, which it presumably does.

    So, WSFS’s usage model does indeed comply, in this hypothetical, with Stanton’s licence conditions. So, no copyright violation. So, no tort cause of action.

    Please do go through that step by step, and check what I say against the GPLv2 licence text. I think you’ll see that this is true, and I’m certainly not expecting you to take my word for it.

    it might be legally required to be GPL’d

    {sigh} We’ve actually just been through a discussion of a similarly worded claim. It’s not entirely clear what you mean by the phrase ‘legally required’, but the frequently heard assertion that B’s derivative work based on code A made available under GPL can be somehow ‘forced’ to be issued under GPL is incorrect. Copyright law simply does not offer that kind of remedy in equity.

    If B’s reuse of A’s work is in violation of A’s conditions (e.g., GPL), then A can haul B into court alleging copyright violation. Copyright law doesn’t in general offer specific performance, something like ‘I, the judge, order you Mr. B. to release your derivative work under GPL terms in order to comply with your obligation to Mr. A’, because that is a remedy at equity, and copyright law provides only remedies at law, which is to say that the judge can order that violation cease (a limited special case of equitable remedy, IIRC), but otherwise the only thing A is going to get from the judge is a decree of damages against B — money.

    Read a bunch of copyright caselaw (which I have), and you will literally never even once find any judge ordering the infringer to reissue his/her work to others under specific licence terms. Always just damages (plus injunction against further infringement). I’ve read every court judgement and filing in every case of GPL copyright violation in the English language, plus German cases in translation, and what you imply happens, never has.

  10. @Mark

    Yep, a number of us agree with you.

    A lot depends on what Stanton’s software did. If it’s function was the IRV voting counts then personally I can’t see how the entire vote tabulation software isn’t a derivative program and similarly GPL. However it could also be something really minor like you say which would mean Oakes is OK in not licensing under the GPL.

    Without knowing what Stanton’s code does, and how Oakes’s code is structured we just don’t know. The main issue is no-one is going to bring this issue to a head. If Kate Secor’s committee to look at producing an open-source replacement for Worldcon software gets going that will be the way to go.

  11. @Silly But True:

    it’s not so much a complaint as an observation: It’s just being an asshole for one person to take it all, especially if one didn’t even appreciate the items to begin with.

    How kind of you to sum up so succinctly the objection that the overwhelming majority of Hugo voters have to the Puppy slates. The slate organizers’ goal was to take all the ballot options for themselves, which as you observe makes them assholes. Beale and his followers have said outright that they don’t care about the awards at all, which is why the Rabid faction attracted further ire as being bigger assholes.

    Perhaps I should offer you some token of appreciation for your well-crafted observation. How does a ribbon sound to you?

  12. I think what you mean is that Steve Stanton (the coder mentioned from LSC3 days) might have a cause of action for the tort of copyright infringement against WSFS.

    So first off, while yes, because of the mechanics of all this it’s technically correct to speak of him having grounds for that; I’d be really really sad and disappointed if he actually pursued them in that way. It’s not like we don’t have enough strife out there right now, and it’s really not like any volunteer is going to make problems for other volunteers for something that’s far more readily solved over a pint. This isn’t the IT industry, it’s science fiction fandom. Chats over beverages are infinitely better than courtrooms for this sort of stuff in this context.

    And really, the point wasn’t “Oh, let’s go to court and make lawyers rich” — it was “Er, hate to be rude, but that decision might be completely ultra vires”. And figuring out if it is or not isn’t something we can do with the available information, we’d need to know more details (and yes, what you’re saying with regard to distribution and so forth could well be correct, but it depends on how Oakes wrote and released the software involved – his comments on the software being licenced to WSFS seem to ping off section 4 of GPLv2 rather awkwardly).

    Also I think we need to say this again, and loudly – absolutely nobody is saying anything negative about Oakes here (or even trying to obliquely hint at it – the man volunteered time and effort to help out, he doesn’t deserve that kind of treatment). We don’t have enough information at all to even think negative things. All we have is a question arising from an off-the-cuff statement made while facing a mike in front of a large audience which is a rather stressful place to stand. The questions implications might not be trivial, but that doesn’t mean it’s this huge and obvious violation of common sense, copyright law and the prime directive either 🙂 It just lit the little red light in the back of my head labelled “Oh crap, we need to reread the company rules on open source software work again”.

    Far better and more productive than all this would be a simple email to an appropriate someone in WSFS to point out the question and let them go look at it and figure it out. Honestly, if I knew the appropriate person to ping, I’d have pinged them already and forgotten this.

  13. Rev. Bob on August 23, 2015 at 4:18 am said:

    @Silly But True:

    it’s not so much a complaint as an observation: It’s just being an asshole for one person to take it all, especially if one didn’t even appreciate the items to begin with.

    How kind of you to sum up so succinctly the objection that the overwhelming majority of Hugo voters have to the Puppy slates. The slate organizers’ goal was to take all the ballot options for themselves, which as you observe makes them assholes. Beale and his followers have said outright that they don’t care about the awards at all, which is why the Rabid faction attracted further ire as being bigger assholes.

    Perhaps I should offer you some token of appreciation for your well-crafted observation. How does a ribbon sound to you?

    Oh, snap. Well observed, that.

  14. @Mark Dennehy: I’d be really really sad and disappointed if he actually pursued them in that way.

    I think my point might have gotten lost. So, I’ll restate:

    1. You might have noticed that at no point since LSC has Steve Stanton shown any sign of showing up and objecting to anything at all. Since in your hypothetical he’s the only person who you imagine would have standing for a tort action, maybe that ought to tell you something?

    2. But if you look at the details of your own hypothetical, further internal development with no distribution, there’s no possibility of copyright infringement anyway, because copyleft obligations trigger only upon distribution. So, Stanton’s conditions would be being complied with in your own hypothetical, and no tort would exist, and everything would already be proper.

    What I’m saying is that there is no ‘question’ to point out to anyone at WSFS.

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  16. Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee,’ is a kind of literary death threat

    What! No, it isn’t. Get thee back to… thine(?)… high school English class. It is a statement that we are all part of a whole, and no man (person) is an island unto themselves.

    Love that poem.

  17. @Laertes – Thanks for the video link. Based solely on what I saw, I’d guess that it was an opportunistic motion once Standlee mentioned sine die, and not a prepared tactic.

    I loved Standlee’s solution- ‘The Chair slaps himself on the wrist, the motion is out of order.’ 🙂

  18. @JJ – Did you turn that sentence blue and underline it *without* making it a hyperlink? Or is this just because I am a phone-browser second-class citizen?

  19. You might have noticed that at no point since LSC has Steve Stanton shown any sign of showing up and objecting to anything at all. Since in your hypothetical he’s the only person who you imagine would have standing for a tort action, maybe that ought to tell you something?

    You’ve used this argument before, and it’s weak. We’re not in a position to know whether Stanton has objected or not. The information just came to light Saturday (to us), and perhaps Stanton doesn’t even know about it.

    Even if he knows and has not taken action, that might not imply support either. I see copyright violations of my work all the time and have yet to sue anybody over one. Does my inaction mean they aren’t violations? No. They’ve been not worth my time to pursue. Legal battles are an enormous time suck.

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