Is my code mine?

Some of you might recall what happened with my game Finger Chase about a year ago. For those of you who don’t, tl;dr, some guy stole my code and called it his. Now, he’s planning on releasing it on the App Store on November 2018 (according to this). This got me thinking: Does my code even belong to me? I haven’t applied for a license or a copyright…

@niorg2606 I’ve always said that if you post code in this forum, then anyone can use it for whatever reason they want unless you specify that no one can use it. As for your code going on the App Store, I don’t understand why you can’t contact Apple and report the code as stolen and have them prohibit it from the App Store. But then I don’t know how you can prove it’s your code. My response to anyone who wants to put code on the App Store, don’t share it with anyone before hand.

@dave1707 Okay. Although I’m not planning on putting my game on App Store, I still don’t like the fact that he didn’t give me attribution. Not to mention, I did put an MIT license on it (that is, without applying for it), so he did technically follow through with distributing the code while breaking the license. I’ve also emailed the guy that did take the code and asked him not to put it on the App Store, although I doubt he’ll do what I asked. Now that I think about it, I forgot to mention the license on the email…

Did you contact anyone at Apple.

Hi @niorg2606 when it comes to creative works (including code), you do not usually have to apply for copyright, this happens automatically. It does depend on which country you and the other person lives in, however since Apple is US company they will very likely respond to a DMCA takedown notice if it comes down to that.

We’ve had similar problems with Cargo Bot (open source, but not free to redistribute without permission). You’ll need to send an official message to Apple if and when it gets put on the store. It’s easy to prove you own the code since Codea doesn’t encrypt /compile or obfuscate the code anyway.

@John Okay. Very interesting…
@dave1707 Not yet. I don’t think that right now is the best time to contact Apple, but if the thieve says he’s not going to take down everything related to his “Finger Chaser”, then that’s when I’ll contact Apple.

IANAL, but this is my understanding:

  1. Copyright (as @John says) is usually automatically assigned. You don’t need to claim it. So your code is yours.
  2. Although the convention on the forums has been as @dave1707 says to share code freely, that has no legal basis as there is no boilerplate licensing of posts (compared with, say, StackExchange). So unless someone explicitly says that you can use their code, you can’t. Hence just by posting your code you don’t make it so that someone can use it.
  3. However, you put an MIT licence on your code. This does the opposite of what you seem to think it does. It actually makes it legal to redistribute your code subject only to including the MIT licence again in the redistributed code. So providing this developer includes the licence text, they can publish it as an App.

In conclusion, your code is yours but you’ve explicitly granted permission for it to be copied and reused, even commercially, by licensing it with an MIT licence.

I released codes, but as they were so bad, nobody used them. My hint: Release only error codes.

@TokOut Releasing only error code won’t prevent someone from taking it. Error code can be corrected very easily. The only way to prevent someone from taking your code is don’t share it. If you’re going to post it on the App Store, don’t let anyone see it until it’s on the App Store.

@LoopSpace Yeah, but the MIT licence has a condition for redistributing code: you have to give attribution. I’m okay with people sharing my code (heck, I’d love it), but only if they give credit. This guy hasn’t.

@TokOut That would take the fun out of a game now, wouldn’t it? I mean, considering you wouldn’t be able to play it…

Okay, I’m going to ask Apple about the situation. Asking now would be easier because if I wait after he releases the app, I would have to negate his license if he puts one on.

@niorg2606 did you request attribution before you requested they take the app down? If the attribution is what really bothers you, I mean…

@niorg2606 Well, IANAL but my reading of the MIT License is that it does not require attribution. The only requirement that I can see is that the code continue to be released under an MIT license.

To be clear, I do not condone this person’s behaviour in any way. I just don’t think that the MIT License gives you any leverage at all.

On the other hand, saying that you’ll release an app is a long way from actually doing it. I saw no evidence of it actually having been submitted to the app store, and the kickstarter page didn’t look like that of a seasonned developer. So it might be that nothing comes of it.