Legal question: Releasing software anonymously?


JDTAY

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Just wondering, is it legal to release software anonymously, and if not, what happens if you get caught?

Asking for a friend, of course. I would never actually complete a project. :p
 

levi

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It's simpler to do it pseudonymously, then you can get an email account under that name and email your program out, or apply for a git[lab|hub] account under a similar pseudonym. To do it without even that seems harder to me. You can apply for a website that doesn't leak your personal information I believe, but I'm not sure how to go about that, and then you'd just be a voice on a website, so even less likely to be discovered than something like a gitlab user.

Legally the only problem I can see is if your code does something naughty and those in charge of us want to trace it back to you, but provided you don't have nefarious intention I suspect that's unlikely to ever happen.
 

elw3

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Is it like Bernd and the Mystery of Unteralterbach?
Their website is down, but since it has porn in it, it basically copied itself around the hosters.
 
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JDTAY

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Meh, to be honest, this is more about me being upset at current FOSS culture. I read an article about how the creator of mGBA was upset that her free software was used in a commercial Switch release without credit, and it made me realize the software isn’t truly free. None of it is.

We only have two options right now, use your copyright to grant freedoms to people, or waive your copyright, but get them caught up in a bunch of other legal BS instead. I guess I would do the former over the latter in a pinch, but what I really want to do is just make free software without worrying about copyrights. I think going anonymous is the only solution to that.
 

JDTAY

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You know, I was looking at the Unlicense @Null likes too, and it still requires your contributors to sign a waiver. This is where anonymity beats the Unlicense. If I’m anonymous, I can just steal code from my contributors, the way free software ought to be. :p
 

sebt3

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Meh, to be honest, this is more about me being upset at current FOSS culture. I read an article about how the creator of mGBA was upset that her free software was used in a commercial Switch release without credit, and it made me realize the software isn’t truly free. None of it is.
mGBA crerator didnt use a license that requiere to be credited. Too bad for him... He should have used BSD 3-clauses instead of MPL :p
 

Letalis Sonus

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Just wondering, is it legal to release software anonymously
Depends on where you are. In the US, you could just make it public domain and then it's just free real estate, nobody cares. In Germany and (AFAIK) France, however, there is no such thing as public domain, because the creator is not able to drop or transmit the copyright, you can only grant the right of usage - which is why licenses like the WTFPL exist, they just acknowledge the copyright and grant everyone else the right to do what the fuck you want to with the code (using CC0 is probably the safer options in legalese terms, though).

I think the better question would be: Are others legally allowed to use such anonymously released software, especially code? In the end you are using someone else's creation without their explicit agreement, which leaves you vulnerable to being sued by the author - it doesn't matter that you were unable to ask them because it was released anonymously. There's, however, usually a simple exception: if the stuff is not worthy of being a creation, e.g. because it's just very simple example code, then there is no copyright and you're free to do with it whatever you want.

However, there's a popular German proverb: No plaintiff, no judge.
 

Djoga'Ro

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you can only grant the right of usage
When you're an employee, what you'd been tasked to create is your employer's to use by law. You're still the creator and you cannot get rid of that. Though it's still your choice to use your right to be credited explicitly.
 

Binky

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It seems to me very difficult to release software anonymously - in a practical sense. There are very few methods of hosting or publishing work online that do not attach some kind of user ID to the content. If your code does something illegal, then it is usually possible for the police to track you down if they think it's important enough.

As mentioned above, it is easy to release your work pseudonymously. There are plenty of free licenses you can refer to which grant the general public broad permission to use, modify and distribute your work.

What exactly are you worried about happening?
 

levi

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Why exactly does code come with a licence?
I never add any of this bullshit.
I wrote it, its mine, fuck you.
Well it not having a license means Debian won't ever use it, and neither will any commercial firm. It's not clear to me whether you want to permit ED to package up your code with Pyra OS for example.
 

elw3

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Say, what stops me from taking random code from the net, delete any licence **** in it, paste the copyleft note in and then claim it was always like it and use it in my commercial stuff?
I mean, i am the victim here, the source i downloaded from lied to me.
Oh you made this? It had a different licence before? I lied? Have fun proving that in court little ****.

The harsh reality that these FOSS **** fail to see is that a licence doesnt stop the misuse of your code but only ever causes problems in the rightful usage.
Free code IS unrightful used in commercial products, thats a fact. Throwing funny licence letters at companies dosnt change that.
Meanwhile the FOSS community wastes their time and energy deciding which letters to throw. Hostility against anyone not honoring their licence believes. Good job.

My time is too valuable to waste it by pasting copyright notices in code. Neither do i want to waste it by reading what you put under yours.
And i explicitly use a distro that has a package repo that gives no **** either.

Inb4: Ppl waste time commenting on my slurs, QED.
Edit: Your slurs are uncalled for, and I value civil discussion - Binky
 
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Binky

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Say, what stops me from taking random code from the net, delete any licence **** in it, paste the copyleft note in and then claim it was always like it and use it in my commercial stuff?
I mean, i am the victim here, the source i downloaded from lied to me.
Oh you made this? It had a different licence before? I lied? Have fun proving that in court little ****

...

The fact that you could be deliberately unethical and/or criminal - and probably get away it it - is not argument for doing so. You can get away with being antisocial on the internet, too.

That said, there is a valid point about the difficulty of enforcing copyright law. That isn't restricted to open licenses either, major commercial publishers frequently claim rights over their content that consumers ignore.

The EFF, among others, does sponsor legal representation for FOSS projects being used in ways outside the licence agreement. Perhaps we should worry more about how those teeth can be sharpened, and less about the exact choice of copyleft license?
 

HelenF

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We only have two options right now, use your copyright to grant freedoms to people, or waive your copyright, but get them caught up in a bunch of other legal BS instead. I guess I would do the former over the latter in a pinch, but what I really want to do is just make free software without worrying about copyrights. I think going anonymous is the only solution to that.
Even if you're anonymous, the copyright still exists (and unless otherwise specified, it means people aren't allowed to do anything with your work). Unless you use your copyright to grant permissions, nobody who's trying to do things legally will use your code.

Informal permission is quite common for personal use; but the risk is higher for people re-using code in their own projects, so in that case most people are looking for some kind of concrete license.
 
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HelenF

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Say, what stops me from taking random code from the net, delete any licence **** in it, paste the copyleft note in and then claim it was always like it and use it in my commercial stuff?
I mean, i am the victim here, the source i downloaded from lied to me.
Oh you made this? It had a different licence before? I lied? Have fun proving that in court little ****.
Even if you really were the victim, they can still make you stop using it in your products, breaking all the work you built up around it.
 

elw3

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This censorship hurts my feelings.

Even if you really were the victim, they can still make you stop using it in your products, breaking all the work you built up around it.
How? By court order? Can you explain why a company violates your rights? Yes?
And you really have the faith that a judge could follow this explanation? Prepare for a 10 year legal battle.
If its a big company their legal department will crush you.
If its a small startup, they wont be around in 10 years anyway, so whatever.
 

levi

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It's called copyright law. I think it's a civil offence so there's no danger of prison time, but I could ask for all of the money you've made from using your code off you.
 

elw3

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Then lets play this. You wrote a library that detects faces and changes a persons hairstyle, you have put the sources free on github.
I am an evil app dev that sells the great "change your hairstyle" app for 9.99$ in the appstore.
You think that i am misusing your code for it.

What will you do?
 
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