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Bad Licensing for an Educator
 

By: David Rader II on July 01, 2010 @ 8:28 PM

Because I consider it such a goof, this bad license example is going in the Funnies!

An excerpt from a Book publisher who focuses largely on Technology has this in their license agreement (as of this articles time):

"If the code is incorporated into a software product, Web site, or Web service, is the product, site, or service a commercial venture? We don't object to commercial ventures, but if someone is looking to profit from our work (or that of our authors'), and the use is substantial, we may want to consider a license fee. (Send licensing queries to permissions@oreilly.com.) "
I added the bold to enhance focus on the worst part.

First, I'll touch on the obvious mistake here: People willing to buy educational technology books very often buy them to learn whats in the book, very often for career purposes (e.g. to make money).

Second, I'll touch on the second obvious mistake here: These have not been recognized as educational books. If they're as good as we hope they are, possibly large chunks of code don't need to be changed- in fact, doing so may hinder its performance.

The third obvious mistake is someone has failed to realize the nature of educational books THEY'RE EDUCATIONAL BOOKS! If someone teaches you how to do something in an excellent manner, sure, it's great to try to improve it! However, imagine if a college English teacher taught you the MOST perfect method of composition then said- later in life, depending on how substantially you use this perfect method, I may require additional payment. Or if a math teacher taught you an incredible formula and said if you use it too much he might require licensing.

On a minor note, in their terms they don't define "substantial". It could mean how often it was used, how size (in lines of code) used, what percentage of it is original, etc. They really shouldn't have this clause in there at all though from my standpoint.

If I'm paying to learn how to do something and it just happens to be exactly what I need, well, I might not change it, but I'm sure as hell not going to pay for it twice.

One thing is for sure, I'll never buy an O'Reilly book as long as these terms exist.

Sometimes I use ENORMOUS chunks of code from books, especially when I'm first learning something I know nothing about and have utterly no other knowledge to make anything different (because I'm learning). As time goes on, I still use many of the same methods because that's "how I learned to walk" so to speak. Well, I'm not learning how to walk out of any of their books, they scare me.

Maybe I've been too blunt here and my best guess is they never really act on this clause... Considering the potential consequences of a dispute getting out of hand whether the code use was appropriate. I can see the paper headlines now "O'Reilly taught me so much, and I'm still paying for it." I don't know that they don't act on this clause though, so I'm bring it to light. If it's a non-issue, it should be easy to scrap- If it's an issue... that's scary.

P.S. I've actually seen some O'Reilly books before and liked them a great deal. If they change this unusual license term (for an educator), I'll definitely consider their books again. I'm lucky I didn't buy any or I'd be worried writing this article (since I'm writing negatively about them).

I'll take a big cup of NO "I'll teach you how to do it this way, but you can't do it this way".




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