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One Of The Most Bizarre Statement I Got To Read

Today I read the following:

“This project is GPL so I cannot see its source”

Doesn’t it look bizarre?

The author of this statement won’t look at source code opened under the GPL license.

This isn’t the first time I get to read such a thing. A while ago on a mailing list, I came across:

“I see that the Git repository as of Friday says that it is under the GPL, which means that people may be posting GPL code to this list and I can’t risk compromising myself by seeing it. So, I have to leave this list and the community now.”

After asking around, I was told not reading GPL code is kindof self discipline meant to maximize chances GPL code never enters a codebase and puts a product into jeopardy: better be safe than sorry.

I was also told a fair amount of companies don’t like their employees to look at open source code, due to potential patent infringement issues. I’ve never heard of this in France, maybe it seems to be common in the US where the broken patent system is ubiquitous.

The idea is: if the company gets accused of patent infringement you can more easily claim you never read any third party code. I can’t help thinking this is a very blunt promise. Will “but I left the mailing list!” convince a court employees never read other’s code? Sounds doubtful.

Someone mentioned me it also apply to reading patents themselves: infringing knowingly gets you even more damages.

All in all, I find that situation bizarre.