Updated July 31, 2011 Another interesting battle brewing with regard to Open Source and copying of source code between Google and Oracle over Java.
If you’ve been following my blog recently perhaps you’re aware of activity related to a post I wrote back in September asking for a free version of the Delphi command line compiler. In a response to a comment asking if I’d ever tried the Free Pascal compiler I stated:
I haven’t tried the Free Pascal compiler for a number of reasons including the fact that it’s RTL/FCL violate Borland/CodeGear’s copyright. I’ve looked at the code closely and IMO copyright issues abound.
At that time, there were a few replies but over the last few days members of the Free Pascal core team as well as the FP community attacked me personally over this statement. Upon request I published one example illustrating my point using Classes.ExtractStrings. Unfortunately, this was met by further attacks until a comment from Marco van de Voort and subsequent email apology from Daniël Mantione, both members of the core Free Pascal team. The following republished with Daniël’s permission:
date:13 Nov 2007 15:25:14 -0800
subject:Weblog Mail from ‘Daniël Mantione’ on ‘Steve Trefethen’s Weblog’
I would like to offer apologies on behalf of the Free Pascal development team for the aggressive comments on your weblog. The situation puzzles us; that code you showed is more similar than one would expect with an independend implementation, yet it doesn’t look like being taken from Delphi source. Michael, who comitted it, cannot remember having written it so it might have been contributed by someone, but searches through e-mail archives haven’t revealed anything yet.
Anyway, it’s good that this is on the agenda now. Copyrights are something we have to be carefull about.
In further support my statements I added five additional examples all from classes.pp which covers roughly 16% of that file, which is not exactly a “fringe file”. I’ll add that this more recent review took but a few minutes and is by no mean extensive nor exhaustive unlike a review I did earlier this year. Daniël has since provided me plausible explanations as to how these issues might have arisen and indicated that the core team is reviewing sysutils.pp and classes.pp.
Unfortunately, this is neither a new issue nor limited to sysutils.pp and classes.pp. I’m disappointed that seemingly no one from the Free Pascal team or community discovered nor, to my knowledge, raised these issues years ago.
And, fwiw, I haven’t been employed by Borland since June 28, 2007 nor, as was implied in a comment, do I have any financial interest in the company whatsoever.
Of course, this raises the issue of how do you go about validating the originality of Open Source source code in general? And no, I don’t have a good answer.