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I recently found a website (LINK) which explains various ways of performing curve fitting using Math.Net. This is one of the only websites I have found that explains the methods and also provides example code. As a result I downloaded the source code to examine and alter for my own purposes. At the top of each class is a comment

// -----------------------------------------------------------------------
// <copyright file="Dataset.cs" company="ComponentOwl.com">
//     Copyright © 2010-2012 ComponentOwl.com. All rights reserved.
// </copyright>
// <author>Libor Tinka</author>
// -----------------------------------------------------------------------
// This project uses freeware
// Better ListView and Better SplitButton components.
// Check out http://www.componentowl.com
// -----------------------------------------------------------------------

So this software is copyrighted but the source is also offered (at the very bottom of the website). (Vaguely) What does this mean?

Am I allowed to modify the software for my purposes? In what ways can I use the modified software? There is very specific maths in it that I assume you cannot copyright (you can not "own" 2+2), if I only use the maths is there an issue?

As a result of it only being copyrighted from 2010-2012 does that mean it is now "unrestricted for all intents and purposes"?

  • It's unlikely you can do whatever you want with the source. In the absence of clear indications, I'd contact the copyright holder. As for your overall question, Free and Open Source software is also copyrighted, so what is the problem? – Andres F. May 4 '16 at 17:31
  • Those years are when the software was written. Copyright lasts for a lifetime or two. – CodesInChaos May 4 '16 at 17:38
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    You should read the License.txt file. It looks like an MIT-style license, with multiple copyright holders. – Erik Eidt May 4 '16 at 18:00
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What it means is that the software is copyrighted with all rights reserved, but the source is also available. Nothing more, nothing less.

Perhaps you're confusing source availability with Open Source software? Open Source means more than simply "source is available"; it implies that a certain minimum set of freedoms are available along with the source code, essentially to allow arbitrary users to continue to work on and republish the code as if they were the authors.

It's quite possible to share source without a license granting these freedoms, however. As a developer, I frequently work with proprietary software components that I have the source to, but which I'm not allowed to freely fork, modify, and republish. This is a pretty common model in commercial software development, in fact.

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Copyright is a legal construct that restricts peoples ability to gain an unfair advantage of your creative work. Everything creative you do has copyright on it, whether you claim it or not. Typically the rights that you have as the creator are time limited, in that they cease to exist after a period of time, which is why stating the date of copyright is common - copyright in The UK lasts for 50 years after the creators death, in the USA is is even longer, and has been subject to extensions several times in recent years.

However, copyright does not give complete control. There are fair use rights, which do vary considerably around the world. For example, quoting a key paragraph from a book is likely to be legal, put scanning the entire book and posting it on the internet is highly dubious. Unlike patents, copyright does not protect you from someone else having the same idea, just as long as they have not copied it from you.

So, to return to the code in question, the author of the code has claimed that the code was written between 2010 and 2012, and that despite publishing the source code, they are retaining all their rights they are entitled to under copyright law.

Firstly, is the formula of sufficient creativity that it is even copyrightable? Just because someone has put time and effort into deriving an equation, does not mean that it is a creative work.

The second question I would have, is the formula their creation? It is quite possible that they have created an implementation of code that uses a formula that they have sourced from else where, in which case, the formula is not theirs to license to you.

The third question, is there a patent issue around this formula? does it form a key part of a business process or other patentable design? If so, copyright is the lesser of your problems. If there is a patent in place, they have exclusive rights up to the point of the patent expiring.

Here is a link to the UK copyright law, UK copyright law which states that within the UK mathematical formulae are not subject to copyright. So in the UK at least, you are free to reuse the formula ( but not the code implementing it - you will need to write your own completely independent version of software)

  • Just noting for clarity. I believe copyright usually expires quite some time after an author's death, which it then becomes "public domain". Probably depends on your country though. – user161778 May 5 '16 at 14:41
  • Yes, there is an international treaty on copyright, which sets out the basic principles but implementation details vary considerably. In the UK (C) protection is for a shorter timeframe but with fewer fair use exceptions compared to the USA – Michael Shaw May 5 '16 at 17:46
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The author has explicitly stated All rights reserved. This means that you are not allowed to copy the code for any reason, unless you have been granted a license to do so by the author. There's a presumption that if the code has been uploaded to a public web server, then you're allowed to view it, but that's all.

The copyright date 2010-2012 simply lists the range of dates over which the software was developed. Copyright lasts for many years beyond that. Unless you're reading this in the 22nd Century, you should assume the work is still copyrighted - and even then check if the copyright period has been extended yet again.

  • I think it'd be a stretch to say "All rights reserved" has ever meant "cannot copy for any reason", especially now-a-days. Sources I can find are in books so have Wikipedia: en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/All_rights_reserved – user161778 May 5 '16 at 14:48
  • there are "fair use" legal exceptions which allow limited copying in specific circumstances, regardless of the authors intent. – Michael Shaw Jun 2 '16 at 11:28

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