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Re: Legal issues

From: Francesco Potorti`
Subject: Re: Legal issues
Date: Tue, 20 Feb 2007 12:38:51 +0100

>I was discussing the availability of Octave to a student the other day 
>as a viable alternative to MATLAB.  He was intrigued but asked about the 
>legality of it - after all, both have a number of functions with the 
>same names that perform the same tasks.  While I know that the code 
>under the hood is different - at least, Octave code is not pirated from 
>MATLAB code - is it copyright infringement that the functions have the 
>same names?

No, it is not.  Generally speaking, interfaces are not copyrightable.
That's why we have compatible free libraries such as the GNU libc,
compatible free kernels like Linux, and so on.  As far as compatible
APIs are concerned, the most famous case I know of is the creation of a
BIOS compatible with IBM's.

Similar cases exist as far as user interfaces are concerned (rather than
API)s, the most famous cases being the creation of Borland's Quattro,
that had an interface compatible with Lotus' 123, and that of Microsoft
Windows, which borrowed many features from Apple's OS.  A famous example
regarding network protocol interfaces is the free Samba implementation
of Microsoft's SMB protocol.  Currently, some corporations try to block
copying their interfaces by using software patents.

I would be grateful to those that can spot inaccuracies on the above
statements and let me (and the list) know.

Francesco Potortì (ricercatore)        Voice: +39 050 315 3058 (op.2111)
ISTI - Area della ricerca CNR          Fax:   +39 050 315 2040
via G. Moruzzi 1, I-56124 Pisa         Email: address@hidden
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