Microsoft: The Joy of Figuring Out What Code Can Do

October 26, 2020

DarkCyber finds Microsoft in an interesting spot. On one hand, Microsoft wants to be open sourcey. The idea of community created and community supported software provides a useful source of ready-to-microwave code nuggets, hints about whom to hire, and an opportunity to reduce the maintenance cost of certain components.

On the other hand, monitoring what’s on GitHub and, more importantly, how code can be used is a sticky wicket.

“RIAA Blitz Takes Down 18 GitHub Projects Used for Downloading YouTube Videos” explains:

Microsoft-owned GitHub has removed today 18 projects from its code-hosting portal following a legal request filed by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA)….In a letter sent to GitHub, RIAA argued that the “clear purpose of this source code [the youtube-dl library]” was to “circumvent the technological protection measures used by authorized streaming services such as YouTube” and to allow users to “reproduce and distribute music videos and sound recordings […] without authorization.”

The issue is likely to be a thorny one. Code can be used for many things:

  • To perform a function
  • A way to learn how to do a task
  • Create software unrelated to the GitHub offering.

Microsoft has removed the “offending” software. But the problem could become the seed of a giant junk maple in the main Redmond campus green space. The article makes this point, and it is an important one:

RIAA isn’t alleging the library infringed on its rights, but that the library is illegal in itself.

Just as Microsoft wants to get open sourcey and more social, it finds itself in an interesting spot. Who or what will fertilize and water this tiny take down seed? Exactly what can code do? Exactly to what purposes can code be put? What about software which includes code which can do something a third-party defines as illegal? So many questions for the JEDI knights.

Stephen E Arnold, October 26, 2020


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