Re: comment wrt. ESR's talk in Vienna

Autor: Eric S. Raymond (
Datum: Sam Jul 13 2002 - 18:25:49 CEST

Karin Kosina <>:
> In his talk, Eric said that one of the indications that the Open Source
> community can be compared to a "gift culture" is the fact that
> reputation is so important, and that nobody would ever try to pass on
> somebody else's work as his/her own. Some of us doubted Eric's theory,
> but I think nobody answered Eric's question why people preserve the
> information about the original author, if not in order to not steal that
> person's reputation.
> The answer just hit me. Eric: Copyright law. It would be illegal to do
> so, and especially with access to the source code, it's trivial to show
> if some work is original or not. :)
> This is so obvious that I feel stupid writing this. But Eric, you
> challenged me to give you an explanation. Here it is.

It's a logical explanation for not changing the name directly attached
to a piece of code. It doesn't explain the taboo against messing with
credit lists in README, NEWS, and HISTORY files, however.

Nor, I think, would a hacker be likely to cite copyright law as a
reason for not changing attributions. Hackers behave as though their
concern about giving proper credit is moral (based on a conception of
right behavior), not legalistic (based on a reluctance to violate the
law). It took you over a week to think of a legalistic explanation;
that is significant, I think.

I think that in this instance awareness of copyright law may reinforce
the taboo, but is not sufficient to explain it.

		Eric S. Raymond

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