Freeware Authors: Beware of “Backspaceware”

Update, 2007-12-15 @ 1pm PST: Welcome Slashdot readers! Please see my other blog posts on the matter before jumping to make a comment: the first, second, third, and fourth.

Paint.NET’s license is very generous, and I even release the source code. All free of charge. Unfortunately it gets taken advantage of every once in awhile by scum who are trying to profit from the work of others. I like to call this backspaceware*. They download the source code for something, load it up in to Visual Studio (or whatever), hit the
backspace key over the software’s name and credits, type in a new name and author, and re-release it. They send it to all the download mirror sites, and don’t always do a good job covering up their tracks.

There is currently an individual who is doing this with Paint.NET. I won’t mention them by name or link to them in order to avoid pumping up their PageRank. Basically what they’ve done is downloaded the Paint.NET v3.10 source code, renamed it and changed the credits, removed the license and copyright notice (which violates the Paint.NET license, btw), plagiarized a bunch of content from the Paint.NET website, and bundled half the plugins from the Paint.NET forum without any of the authors’ permission.

That last one really pisses me off. It’s not enough to take advantage of my generosity, he has to backstab the altruistic community as well. “My paint program supports all sorts of cool effects and file formats!!!” Yeah jerk, because you ripped off the work of 50 people by blatantly violating United States copyright law. What’s even more entertaining is that this is the third time this guy has done this! He’s also been known to do this with all sorts of other freeware applications that are nice enough to release the source code. Oh, and did I mention when you install this guy’s backspaceware that it uninstalls Paint.NET? It also tries to use the same installation directory, %PROGRAMFILES%\Paint.NET.
(Don’t worry I used a virtual PC) He didn’t even remove the LICENSE.TXT files from the plugins he stole, which correctly cite themselves as Paint.NET plugins.

Real innovative work there, bub. I hope he puts this on his resume and someone asks him about it during an interview – that would be an entertaining conversation to watch.

Manager: “So you ripped off Paint.NET and a bunch of plugins, and re-released it with your name on it?”
Him: “Yup!”
Manager: “Cool! Welcome to your new job at Clown Burger. Make sure to ask customers if they want fries with that.”
Him: “I get free lunch right?”

I went and searched through my Inbox for his name because I wanted to find the e-mails I sent him the last two times he did this. What I also found was that awhile ago I actually gave this scumface technical support when he was having trouble installing Paint.NET! It’s so nice that he’s turned around and dumped on my face to show his appreciation.

To combat this and a few other similar instances that have happened over the years, I believe I will change the way that I release the source code for Paint.NET. As a stopgap before the v3.20 release, the version 3.10 source code is no longer available, starting immediately, while I finalize on this decision. It just feels like it’s a disaster waiting to happen with the way I’ve been releasing it so far.

Here are the changes I’m thinking of:

  1. I will no longer be releasing the source code for the installer.
  2. I will no longer be releasing the source code for PaintDotNet.Resources.dll, which has the code for loading resources as well as all the graphics (icons, logo, etc.)
  3. I will no longer be releasing the text and graphic resources in the source code distribution (RESX files, icons, logos). This includes the translations to non-English languages.
  4. I am still contemplating how much of PaintDotNet.exe I want to release. Especially parts such as the updater and core parts of the main UI that I’ve spent a lot of creative energy on.

The goal is to dramatically increase the amount of work required to release a backspaceware version of Paint.NET. The first one clearly does this. The 2nd and 3rd make it much harder to change names, credits, and logos. The 4th one makes it much more difficult to rip off the UI or “shell” of Paint.NET.

Plugin authors often need something to debug with, and I still want to ensure that people can study the source code for educational or honestly innovative purposes. These consumers of the source code don’t need access to the resource files: you can just use the PaintDotNet.Resources.dll and PaintDotNet.Strings.3.resources that ship with the regular download. However, by making it more difficult to commit a “backspace violation”, I am hoping to put an end to this and other lazy copycat schmucks.

A lot of software implements copy protection to save profits, but I’ve never really believed in the stuff. It’s unfortunate that I have to investigate these measures in order to help protect myself and others from lazy ripoff jerks.

* Someone else suggested “thief-ware”, but I think that implies at least a little planning and cunning. I believe that “backspace”-ware correctly infers the level of simple laziness and lack of any real skill.

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105 thoughts on “Freeware Authors: Beware of “Backspaceware”

  1. Zian says:

    This probably won’t handle all of the legit use cases for the source but for educational purposes, you could ask for a .edu e-mail address before e-mailing a copy of the source to the requester. That way, if anything happens, you can ask the university or school to bring some force down on the offender.

  2. John Stewien says:

    Damn man, that sucks. The thing is, once you start going down the path of trying to prevent these things you end up in some kind of arms race. With tools like reflector it’s easy enough to replace what you take out.

    Sometimes it’s just the price you pay for being out there. The real damage is what it does to you. There’s always conmen or crooks or spammers making money in bad ways. It’s statistics really, for X amount of open source software there’s Y people who will abuse it. Does that mean we should stop sharing?

  3. Oropeza says:

    This is a sad reality. Lazy people always look for getting the things the easy way, like those ad sense farms or the blog clones. That may make them feel “smarter”… but the reality is that at the end, no one will remember them.

    I like Zian idea; you could also release the code to those people actively participating in the forums or the plugin developers. You will know they will use it wisely.

  4. Bryan Livingston says:

    As someone who has gone thru similar things, I can appriciate your frustration. I’ve had some idiot on ebay selling a “program” for logo rendering that is essentially a help file that wraps around my site http://cooltext.com. They were essentially paying $5 just to get my URL. Ebay is plagued with fraud like this and I just have to hope that people will wisen up and quit buying such garbage.

    I have actually been seriously considering using your work for a project. I think it would fall under “honestly innovative purposes”. I wanted to rework it to use an office 2007 ribbon interface and integrate a Google Docs style online file system for collaboration. Similar to what I’ve been doing at http://vectorstudio.com for vector graphics. If I made any money with it, I was hoping to become your number one donator in both work and money.

    I’d like you to reconsider, this douchbag isn’t going to get very far by ripping people off and he is not worth you time and effort.

  5. Rick Brewster says:

    John, if someone is skilled enough to use Reflector and piece together a working Visual Studio project file *and* integrate it correctly into the solution file, etc. etc. … then I’ll bet you they’re skilled enough to not need to release backspaceware and are doing it for educational or honestly innovative reasons. (Maybe they want to release, I don’t know, a web based Gaussian Blur or something. That would be awesome. I’d love to see them do that with the Paint.NET source code.)

  6. eidylon says:

    Yes; this sucks big-time; if only there were some way to revoke these kinds of peoples’ computer priviledges! LOL. But serioulsy, why must people do this, and simply show their level of idiocracy?

    I still stick by the logo i saw on onehorseshy.com – “Losing faith in humanity, one person at a time.” These people are enough to further that loss.

    Three cheerz to all the *honest* folk out there!

  7. Rick Brewster says:

    Bryan — If the source code that I release isn’t enough for what you need to do, go ahead and contact me and we’ll figure out some arrangement. I don’t plan on charging for the source code, but some kind of simple paper trail would probably be in order.

  8. Craig says:

    I feel sorry for you. I bet this sort of thing is really frustrating especially when you’ve been so generous. Its just a pity I’m just got into school holidays and i wanted to use you’re code and i especially wanted to look at the stuff your blocking, I hope you can find a way maybe just to release the source code to trusted people. Don’t get me wrong Paint.net is a great program and don’t feel obliged to release any of the source code.

  9. MunteAlb says:

    Maybe you are overreacting a bit. I know the situation, I have also been plagiarized many times. Sometimes I overreacted too. But your software is so well known, that there isn’t any chance that someone could steal it and make money from this.

    I don’t know what you want to do with the translation file, I didn’t understood well what will happen next. Are you gonna release a text file with the strings ? Are you gonna abandon the translations altoghether ?

    Finally, maybe there is a “good” part to this episode. There is a need of an installer for the best plugins that work with PN. The author of IrfanView, a well-known image viewer, offers an installer [separated from the software] with all the plugins: http://www.irfanview.com/plugins.htm . Maybe you should do the same, so the guy that stole your software will not find any more “customers” for “his” bundle.

  10. John says:

    Perhaps you could use a more restrictive open source license. That way if someone who doesn’t know what he’s doing doesn’t give them the source code you can sue him even if he doesn’t include plugins.

  11. ewrobinson says:

    That blows so hard…. If it helps, I used to do competitive martial arts…all I need is an address and no questions asked…..

    Anyway, for what it’s worth, keep up the good work!

  12. Andreas says:

    I know this feeling extremely well. I give away my work for free too, although it is not software but website templates. Every single week, I find my own designs published on various websites with other peoples names in the credits. Sometimes these “backspaced” templates are given away for free, and other times they are sold for hundreds of dollars as “unique designs” – even though they are already used on hundreds of thousands of websites worldwide. It takes up a lot of energy, and it is a shame – but sadly it comes with the job… Keep up the great work, and keep in mind that the majority of users are still extremely happy about what you do. Don’t let a few idiots spoil that, care for the people who love what you do!

  13. Javert359 says:

    Rick – use the license for what it was meant to do. Give them (and the ISP in question) a Take-down notice. If they don’t comply they’re in legal trouble. The whole idea of the license that you use was so that this couldn’t happen. Use the tools you have, and please don’t punish the rest of us!

  14. Rick Brewster says:

    MunteAlb – As for the translations, I merely mean that I would not include the translations with the source code release. The translators provide me with a RESX file that is compiled to a RESOURCES file that is then released with the normal download. So, I would not release the RESX. As for a “popular plugins” installer, that isn’t always feasible because of copyright reasons. I’d need to get permission from every author. It’s not impossible, I just don’t have the time 😦

    Javert359, I have e-mailed the individual and was told, “software will be taken down later today.” Well that was yesterday and it’s still up (*fume*). Once I get a little more time I’ll be doing more investigation and sending more e-mails if necessary. I already got the software taken down from SoftPedia, so that was a minor victory at least.

    Truth be told, I’ve always felt it was a risk releasing the full source code but that the benefits outweighed the risk. But I’m getting tired of cases like this, even if there have only been a few. I also get crash logs on occasion from forked projects, which requires ongoing work to guard against (manually scrubbing e-mails out of the source code, etc.).

    I also genuinely want to keep full brand-ownership, legally enforced or otherwise, over certain parts of Paint.NET (such as the MDI interface). I do not have full authority to change Paint.NET’s license to whatever I want it to be, as others have a stake in parts of its intellectual property and must be part of the decision as well. And that takes time and lots of hassle, and high paid lawyers to write it all up. It’s much, much easier to just cease distribution of certain parts of the source code or resources.

    Anyway I’m still fuming and deciding on what course of action I want to take. I have to be mad enough to take action, but not mad enough to “punish” everyone because of the actions of few. At a minimum, not releasing the graphic and text resources or code, or the installer, helps to erect a large barrier to backspaceware while still giving legitimate consumers access to 99% of what’s interesting. Or maybe the resources will be licensed separately, under Creative Commons – NoCommercialUse or whatever.

    I also don’t care for when people sell Paint.NET on eBay — either on a CD, or their own download mirror, or just a link to the Paint.NET website (lots of freeware gets taken advantage of like this). To guard against that, I’ve placed text in the installer stating, “Paint.NET is FREE OF CHARGE. If you paid for it (other than to donate at the Paint.NET website, of course), then we recommend that you get a refund!” and I think that will go a long way towards preventing this type of abuse.

  15. Terrence says:

    Sorry to hear about this Rick. You do some great work, and know first hand how much time you put into it. It is unfortunate that people find a need to take advantage of other people’s time and effort.

  16. pyrochild says:

    I absolutely despise people like that. He’s abusing all of the hard work that you and anyone else who’s contributed to Paint.NET has done. Whatever actions you find necessary to prevent crap like this from happening again, whether it be removing parts of the source code, or licensing the resources differently, or only providing the source code on request, I will support your decision.

    As of the time of this posting, the download on his main page seems to have been taken down “by aliens,” but the crap-ware is still available on download.com , so you might want to look into that.

  17. dhuser says:

    Rick,
    I hope this “author” finally removes the content and gets on with his life.

    I saw the program on Photo-Freeware.net and am wondering if you will have it removed: http://www.photo-freeware.net/creative-paint.php

    I see that he also completly ripped off the developer of Maxthon (http://www.maxthon.com/) by putting up his own “Internet Spirit!” browser. The webpage even looks the same. Also this:

    Programming, Themes, Plugins, and Etc Was Done BY Michael J., Hardy

    Need I Say More?
    dhuser

  18. Mario says:

    Once the genie is out of the bottle it’s hard to put it back in. It took 5 minutes to hunt down an alternate source for the 3.10 source code release you decided to pull. If you opt to engage in crippleware source code releases, you will ultimately find yourself competing against your own work as others will take over where you left off.

    Playing catch up to one’s own efforts can become a daunting task when faced with a team of capable and motivated developers. It’s far less damaging to let the slouches have their brief stay in the spotlight.

  19. Jones says:

    I am sorry this happened to you!
    I really appreciate your work and always found it great and very generous of you to provide all the source code! I hope that we still will have the possibility to download your code in the future but I completely understand if you start to change some things!
    Keep up the good work!
    Greets from Switzerland

  20. Andrew D says:

    Well, I really don’t like the idea of parts of the source not being released because of that jackass, but why not instead give it out to people you trust, meaning the source will really only get out to the people who want to find more about Paint.NET development and also the plug-in development, meaning no more rip-off artists like our Micheal J. Hardy’s. Also, just a suggestion, why not make an example of him and sue him?

    I will say; although I’d be disappointed if the sources wouldn’t get released again, but I see that it is a decision worth making because we don’t want any more Creative Paint’s……*shudders*

  21. Rick Brewster says:

    dhuser – Thanks for the link. I’ve sent them an e-mail about it.

    Mario – Then I guess I’ll have to keep on innovating while not releasing the source code for the stuff that I want to keep real ownership of.

  22. Willy says:

    How about people who were attempting to port Paint.Net to Linux? Too bad, I guess?

    In any case this will further make .Net a windows-only technology, despite the well-spirited but hopess attempts at playing catch-up of the Mono folks…

  23. Rick Brewster says:

    Willy, I don’t think the installer source code would have been much use to them anyway. It was very Windows-specific, as would be expected of an installer. And they don’t need to change the text or graphics of the application. So, I don’t see how this impedes them in any way.

  24. Chris McCracken says:

    That is really crappy, and unfortunate that you have to waste your time dealing with it. I deeply appreciate all the hard work that the Paint.NET team has done over the years. I’ve been using Paint.NET since the WSU 1.0 days, and am constantly recommending it to anyone that wants a better alternative to the commercial offerings. I am constantly amazed at what is crammed into each new release, and my only gripe is that there is no Mac OS version. I guess that with a name ending in .NET, that’s a bit of a stretch. 😀

  25. ed says:

    I was thinking that it’d be cool to run this on linux, just as an alternative to GIMP, but I guess now thats much more of a metric ass load of work, to be honest I didn’t know about paint.net before reading the headline on /.

  26. Shadow says:

    Go GPL, and when people rip you off, you’ll have legal grounds to stand on.

    Anyway, affiliate yourself with opensource and people will know what the real one is and what the not-so-real versions arent.

    the big give-away would be the sourceforge download page compared to say… tucows.

    I dont trust software from sites like tucows tbh.

    always get it from the source.

    Dont let idiots ruin your project.

  27. Serge says:

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the person that ripped your work is someone who’s 14 years old.

  28. negated says:

    Rick,

    First, I just want to say that Paint.Net is probably the best free program to ever grace a Windows box. Seriously, thanks for all the effort and attention to detail you and the rest of the Paint.Net team (over the years) have put into it. Bravo.

    That being said, there is one acronym that can solve all of your problems, and not make you have to close your code:

    GPL.

    -S

  29. Alex says:

    I’m waiting for the source of this app to be released, as it looks like a powerful piece of coding and I’d sure to learn a few tricks from it. Hopefully you’ll eventually release the full source. You have a powerful enough community going here such that most people will see any copies for what they are, and comment on any forum in which the copied apps are mentioned.

  30. Open Source It says:

    You’re a loser for changing the license.

    Use a real OSS license that could potentially protect your freedom and one which has had court cases upholding it (GPL and BSD).

    Your license change didn’t solve the stealing problem, the stealing problem is up to you to prosecute.

  31. Joe says:

    Why not use a private SVN/CVS/(whatever CM) server that people have to submit an application to get access to? And then limit them some in addition to that. That might be enough to deter crooks while honest people prolly wouldn’t care.

  32. Roger Hernandez says:

    I would say that once you go down the path of closing the source to part of the application it is a very slippery slope. Either you are an open source application or you are not.

    I am a software developer so I appreciate the amount of work that went into making such a powerful and polished application (a rare combination in the open source world), but if one person can unilaterally decide to close off part of it, then it is not an application I can comfortably recommend to others.

    GIMP is a remote 2nd best choice, but at least I can feel confident that it will not be closed sourced at one person’s whim.

  33. Roger Hernandez says:

    Sorry if this is a duplicate comment but:

    1) I was under the impression that there was a team developing Paint.NET, at least according to the long list of people listed in the About box. Have you consulted with them about this licensing change?

    2) Closing off parts of the application is a slippery slope, one you start you will have to continously close off more and more of it as people find work arounds for missing installers and art assets.

    3) This decision means that I can not really recommend Paint.Net as a top of its class open source program. GIMP is a distant second best choice, but at at least I can be confident it will not be closed.

    4) About people profitting from your work: It’s not like they won’t continue to sell the verion 3.10 branch. The only people that are hurt by this are those, like me, that like to use the source as a study tool to see how well written .NET applications are constructed.

  34. Chris Turner says:

    So if this guy is abusing the copyright,
    why not just follow up legally?

    No need to punish your own legitimate users –
    and if the legal fees are too much, perhaps
    your plugin developers would be willing to assist
    since he’s misusing their work too..

  35. The "thief" says:

    Thanks for not releasing my name or website. It assures me that I can feel free to continue to steal from you, without fear. I mean, what are you going to do? Write another blog about “some guy”?

  36. Meter says:

    This is really sad. I am a developer of a small open source project, and when I started it, I assumed some license abuse might take place–both deliberate and not.

    If open source is gonna be more than a niche development model, it has to address two big challenges: 1)Getting everyone to understand that just because it’s open doesn’t mean it’s okay to plunder (i.e., there is a difference between “open source” and “public domain”), and 2) Making it possible to enforce licensing terms.

    Until the above are taken care of, all open source developers have to expect a certain amount of abuse and learn to live with it–or “close up” shop. I prefer to let leeches suck a bit of blood and keep the flow of information open–but then I have get to see what I’ve done turn into someone else’s profit. I’m sure it hurts a lot, but it also hurts me to think of closing up to get them to stop. Either way you lose.

  37. Peter da Silva says:

    You need to engage the open source community about this, because this is not a new problem and it’s one that we’ve been dealing with for years. It’s flat out illegal unless you have been insanely unlucky writing the license that you’re releasing the code under: even the liberal BSD license requires attribution be retained.

    In fact, it’s really not relevant whether you release the source code or not: it’s often easier to “re-label” software with a bit editor than using a compiler. The real recourse against copyright infringement of any kind is in the courts, not in technical measures.

  38. Neal says:

    I wrote a little open source utility a few years back that was useful to electrical engineering students. The following year I found a modified version, sans copyright or source, being sold at another campus for an irritatingly high price ($49.95) – in the campus store and credited to a university professor. I complained to the professor and several university offices, even threatening legal action, but was ignored or blown off.

    Fortunately for me I’d written a much improved version that I was about to release. I spent a week working assorted, and slightly obfuscated, identification routines into the code and data, then released my update. Sure enough it made its way into that bookstore by the next semester but it also spread to several other universities’ stores and had even been site licensed by a several engineering departments at other colleges. This professor had made quite a business of theft.

    I obtained a lawyer this time and initiated an action. In an initial meeting the professor denied everything except being inspired by my interface and he claimed total ownership of his code.

    In a second meeting we argued more and the university’s and professor’s attornies produced the disputed code in response to our request for discovery. The code bore marginal resemblence to mine – the professor had made substantial attempts to hide its origin. He’d even found and removed my identification routines – the obvious ones anyway!

    In our third meeting the attornies suggested we drop the action. We countered with demands that they cease and desist with distribution, they turn over 100% of all income from sales and licensing of both versions, the cover all my attorney fees, they provide $100k in punative damages, and they provide contact information for all purchasers and licensees for future business.

    They laughed and then we pulled out the big guns, executing the professor’s program and revealing the hidden features. They argued about the first few that didn’t specifically identify me. I “had reviewed the source,” although they failed to explain why the professor couldn’t reproduce or explain them. Then I showed how a computation with a given set of invalid inputs revealed my name. Finally I revealed that each file type that the program produced contained my copyright info encryted (rot13 in one, rot47 in another haha).

    Faced with the threat of the action continuing into the courtroom where the professor’s theft and blatent attempt at fraud would be revealed they agreed to all our terms (though only $50k punative settlement). The professor was not tenured and he left his position – most probably to avoid being fired. The licensing fees they returned paid my college tuition – wow!

    I say go after the crook.

  39. SW says:

    If you’re not going to continue to release the source, it would be better for people to get it from your thief than from you.

    Don’t make yourself the less appealing choice over this, or you’ll be nailing down your own coffin.

    Just a thought

  40. Tim Dobson says:

    Smile! You are on Slashdot!
    http://developers.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=07/12/15/1332207

    I think my reaction would be release the entirety of your software under GNU GPL v3.

    That way you get all the perks, and everyone will contribute back their improvements.

    Just make sure your program is better and you will do great.

    Don’t start closing stuff up, that really sucks, instead use copy left, it is much more effective.

    Remember, the bad guys will be bad, what ever licence you use.

  41. Rosyna says:

    I thought Paint.NET was released under the MIT opensource license. Which explicitly allows him to do these things. Except for the removing the license part, of course.

  42. Robert Accettura says:

    I’d consider checking with the eff for possible help… your not the only one who has had their digital rights infringed on. A few times in the past this has happened to other open source projects. IIRC a few times sites charged for Firefox for example.

  43. Mike Faris says:

    That really blows, dude. Would the guy’s initials who did this be Steve Ballmer?

  44. Matthew Stoltenberg says:

    I don’t think restricting the source access is the way to go. It must really suck to have people rip off your work, but sue their lazy bums. Don’t place restrictions on what you distribute especially if you have some smart/creative way of doing things. Post it all along with what you did and why for all the world to see. Even if some people who rip off your work, you will still have the satisfaction that many more people are using what you’ve made. I love Paint.NET. In my opinion it’s the best freeware paint program out there. It leaves the GIMP far behind in usability. Just don’t lock stuff up just because people are ripping you off. I think Red Hat had the best idea on this, you can (and people do) take all the branding off and distribute an exact replica of their distribution. This has not hurt their project in any way.

    Whatever you decide to do with the source, keep up the good work on Paint.Net.

  45. o2oo says:

    Your paint.net is on it’s way to become very well known. If people steal your code they will soon be busted.

    I find it interesting that you let just one person destroy everything here. I find your reaction a bit overrated. However you may stop releasing source code if you want to, but don’t blame just one person for it. The internet is full of stupid people, and this seem to prove that you are finally over the first phase of the popularity: your software are reaching beyond nerds – you have reached the stupid people 🙂

    If I were you, I would just keep doing what you do best, and not care of this. You should rather wait for any company getting a lot money for your programming, and then sue them some years later.

  46. J Catwell says:

    Rick,

    Sorry to hear about your decision. I personally think it’s the wrong way to go, but totally respect it.

    The problem with your approach is that Paint.NET is now becoming a much less appealing open source project, yet the effect will hardly be noticeable. Why? Because if all they want is to rename the product, change logos, etc, this can still be done very easily without the source code. Just open the assemblies in a decent resource manager and change texts and replace bitmaps to your hearts content.

    I think the right way is to ask FSF or the like for help. This is obviously a copyright violation, which should be enough for a round in the court (usually the threat is enough, but the FSF may be willing to go all the way)

  47. Zen says:

    Soon the turkey who’s rebranding Paint.net will discover resource editors, and you’ll be right back at the start.
    Good luck in your gopher hunt.

  48. orlando says:

    If it helps any, if it wasn’t for your software, I would never have even tried photo-editing in the first place. I now have an amateur’s grasp on the subject (from reading your tutorials) and it has allowed me to improve all of the images I take (all private images)

    I really you wish you would give the link so we could let people that stumble on his site the heads up

  49. Tuomo Stauffer says:

    Unfortunately nothing new. I have been developing software 30+ years and see this time to time since 70’s which was a great time, you had IBM, Univac, Burroughs, etc software to read. Some, not so clever or experienced, persons and corporations have had this going a long time. Yes, I have used parts or ideas of other software developed by someone else but always, even in case of real free, added the original credentials and made them very visible, I just happen to appreciate a good work. Now, it has got me in trouble some times with companies who don’t you want to do that! Sorry, that’s just way it is, if I can’t give the credit where it is due, I have to find some place to work. I think it is more an ego of a person or corporation than a monetary thing but still wrong even if not by law but ethnically anyway. And I think you will find a way, at least for now all (/., heh!) knows about this. Good luck.

  50. Logan Bowers says:

    It’s incredibly awesome and generous of you to have released the code to Paint.NET up until now and I hope this jackass doesn’t ruin your generosity for the rest of us.

    There will always be people out there that take advantage of others. Rather than recoiling and becoming more isolated, please at least try to find a lawyer that will go after this guy pro-bono as has happened with OSS projects. Hopefully you can get some money out of him!

  51. Doug Rizzo says:

    What if when you send out the source code you embedded the recipients email address in it somewhere, perhaps encrypted or something. At least that way when you discover that someone redistributed your work as theirs you would have proof that it was yours and who you had sent it to.

  52. Alex Loret de Mola says:

    Hang the bastard high.

    If you started up an “attourney fee fund to sue that asshole into oblivion,” I think a lot of us would contribute.

    The software your team made rocks the socks of even Photoshop in my opinion. Someone cashing in on that – and on other open source software too – for their own profit is lame. He needs to die… financially if not physically. 😉

  53. Mark says:

    Paint.Net is a great program and it’s a shame that people take advantage of the hard work guys have put into this program. I think that someone should find out where this person lives ( publish it)and everyone who uses Paint.Net goes over and lays a beating to them.
    it’s a real shame people like this are aloud to do things like this and not suffer for it in some way.

  54. Brian Horakh says:

    Everybody on here seems to miss the real issue:

    The difficulty and expense of enforcement of the open source license.

    —-
    Crippling the “open source” nature of your project doesn’t solve the problem, it just side-steps it. You’ve built something useful, you chose to give it away, but the downside is that *free* is easy to market/litigate against if the other guy is charging money.

    —-
    I would recommend you approach the major download sites where these get distributed. The economics of what is happening here affect them as well. If there are 500 different names for the same software – the consumer is going to get a bad taste in their mouth and will eventually stop using them (thereby cutting off their advertising revenue).
    —–

    I would recommend you start including manifests of either md5 or sha1 digests of all your files when you submit for download. Future versions of the software that use the same resource files (graphics, help, etc.) would have the same signatures. There may be better algorithms for determining “how much” of a file has changed. I thought of how I could build 3 or 4 while writing this.

    —–
    Distribute your “innovative” versions of software only through mirror sites who work with you.

  55. SR says:

    Change the license to a court-tested GPL version with some teeth, and “name and shame” the people who are ripping you off so netizens can choose not to deal with them.

  56. M. says:

    I respect your desire to keep his PageRank low, but I beg to disagree – he should be given full spotlight that show him for what he really is.
    Somebody bothered to document his activities:

    http://youfailit.net/?p=49

  57. Anonymous says:

    Is your Paint.NET program protected under any license? Gpl licences protects the author’s name over a publication.. when you want to distribute the source and *keeping the credits*.

  58. Ugarit says:

    paint.NET’s source code is released under the MIT License, which does not state that original attribution is required! I would change the license, GPL perhaps.

    The MIT License

    Copyright (c)

    Permission is hereby granted, free of charge, to any person obtaining a copy
    of this software and associated documentation files (the “Software”), to deal
    in the Software without restriction, including without limitation the rights
    to use, copy, modify, merge, publish, distribute, sublicense, and/or sell
    copies of the Software, and to permit persons to whom the Software is
    furnished to do so, subject to the following conditions:

    The above copyright notice and this permission notice shall be included in
    all copies or substantial portions of the Software.

    THE SOFTWARE IS PROVIDED “AS IS”, WITHOUT WARRANTY OF ANY KIND, EXPRESS OR
    IMPLIED, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO THE WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY,
    FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE AND NONINFRINGEMENT. IN NO EVENT SHALL THE
    AUTHORS OR COPYRIGHT HOLDERS BE LIABLE FOR ANY CLAIM, DAMAGES OR OTHER
    LIABILITY, WHETHER IN AN ACTION OF CONTRACT, TORT OR OTHERWISE, ARISING FROM,
    OUT OF OR IN CONNECTION WITH THE SOFTWARE OR THE USE OR OTHER DEALINGS IN
    THE SOFTWARE.

  59. mike says:

    Another “freeware” developer finally understands what the whole “Free Software” movement is all about.

    Please don’t do something crazy like locking it down. You own the copyright and the DMCA protects you. Use a cease and desist order to have his site taken down.

  60. Ian Clarke says:

    If the guy violated your copyright, then threaten him with legal action, or at least send a DMCA takedown notice to his hosting provider.

    Also, if you know his name, make it the title of your blog post (you don’t need to hyperlink to him). That way, the next time an employer Googles him, they will see this story.

    If this guy forces you to impose more restrictive licensing terms on Paint.NET, then that will be the worst possible outcome, in a way he will have won (and it may not even stop him).

  61. Theo says:

    Rick: BSD requires you attribute the code even if it is compiled. MIT does not, hence it is not true attribution. It is only attribution in source code, which users will never see.

  62. Anonymous says:

    The easy solution is to just remove the installer. If you develop open source work, the idea is to share the libraries so other developers can incorporate the features into their own project.

    You shouldn’t be surprised that things like this happen when you do something stupid such as giving away the ability to build/package your entire project in a single step.

  63. drakaan says:

    Maybe something as simple as crafting your own license based on the MIT license you currently use, but with the addition of:

    “Any derivative work(s) must give attribution to the original auhor(s) and the original product name(s) in any advertising or informational materials for the derived product(s), and in any location (window, help file, logo, splash screen, license file) within the derived product that the name of the derived product(s) is/are displayed.”

    As with the GPL, nothing within copyright law gives anyone that right…only the license does, so it’s a legal dead-end for them.

  64. Rick Brewster says:

    Anon —

    “The easy solution is to just remove the installer.”

    That’s exactly what I’m doing!

    “You shouldn’t be surprised that things like this happen…”

    I never said I was surprised.

  65. Rick Brewster says:

    Theo: The MIT License is part of the installer. Hence you can’t just remove it from the installer. What do you mean by “attribute the code even if it is compiled”? I’m not sure how that is different than MIT. If I put the MIT License on a block of code, it can’t be removed by someone else. Maybe I’m not understanding you here.

  66. Michele says:

    First let me express my gratitude for having released your tool. I have been using it for about a year or so, and, being a software developer, I can fully appreciate the effort that went into it.
    I read your story, and that way of exploiting the work of others is very sad. Sue the bastard ass off.

  67. Mike says:

    Dude, do something clever: count off every (say) 23rd letter so that is spells out your license.

    Do multiple “encodings” into the source, so they would have to do much more than just wipe off the notices.

    Or, of course, you could ignore it, and release the entire project into the Public Domain – which is how I release my software.

    GL! -Mike

  68. smotpoker1 says:

    I was not aware that this happens?To me it is always the ones that overprice their products that got pirated.Now to take something that was free and make money off of it by selling it is a scam and should be treated as one.Any way to post who was ignorant enough to buy his stolen ware program and let them know? So hopefully they chase his ass down and just beat the living shit out of him?Go ahead you have a right post his name,address,phone number as a way to others to inform him how frakking lame that puke is, and so he can be put in the internet spotlight.

  69. Paul says:

    This may sound dumb, but I guess I am, or that is how I feel at this moment till I read your statement.

    “I thought the ‘Creative-Paint’ was from Paint.net.”

    I have been working on an image for Oh my lets see almost 3 1/2 years now (I have sever carpal tunnel, a year ago I had the operations to fix both of my hands) anyway I have been using “Paint.net” to do a lot of the work, I just could not figure out how to do in Paint Shop Pro 7.

    And ‘Paint.net’ was working very well for me. I was at http://www.photo-freeware.net/creative-paint.php
    I thought this a update,or something new from you. Needless to say,… as you said, “It un installed ‘Paint.net’ and when I tried to re install I received a nasty error.

    I have tried everything I can think of to
    get Paint.net back in, but because I was a dumbazz.

    I just can not get my beloved Paint.net to install at all. 😦

    I do not know whom that “creative-paint Guy” is I am however upset.

    He needs to be STOPPED!.

  70. Marcus says:

    Hi there.
    I have been using your program for a while and first of all, want to congratualte you for the great work you have done.

    As I am also a developer and looking into the opern source and shareware markets, this saddens me. However, arms racing is not the answer.

    This guy was dumb enough to touch your source and sell the software, so you can – and maybe even should – go after him.

    That’s the good news.
    The bad news is that there are tons of websites out there that charge people for open source software. And – by billing for the distribution and service, not the software per se – they are even legally entitled to that.

    So if he was not that dumb, but would have just distributed your code and charged people for the distribution and (probably nonexistent) support, he would have been fine.

    Nonetheless, breaking the open source by closing your source code… I don’t think that is the way to go.
    Marcus

  71. Law is law says:

    Rational Law Advice. You do not need this kind of protection, because the law is on your side. Maybe the guy may rip your software, but if he ever gets successfull by doing that, then you can sue him and get serious money. I’d love some fool to steal my work because he is so weak when I open law’s purifying fire. You should take it easy and not let the bastards terrorize you. That’s how terrorists work anyways.

    – Let him do it, he will suffer it later.

  72. Philipp Lenssen says:

    But your steps also make it harder for legit “playing around with the source for educational or otherwise legit purposes kind of things.” Is the copycat actually harming you, other than being disrespectful and potentially illegal (which might require you to sue him)? If so, in what ways? And reversely: in what ways has it helped Paint.NET that it was so completely open in the past, e.g. might it have been the very thing that made it popular in the first place?

  73. she says:

    There is one problem here – this way you will hurt not only that guy who did wrong, but the others too.

    Hope you reconsider.

  74. ceasedesist says:

    Why not do a google search, find out where it is and send a Cease & Desist letter to each of the offending sites? I’m sure you could find a free form online that you can use. If you have 50 developers that are pissed off, that is plenty of man power to pull off a C&D campaign.

  75. goafter says:

    I forgot to mention, go after the ISPs that allowing the file to be downloaded.. they can blacklist it (among other things).

    Sorry to hear this happened to you.

  76. Max says:

    I found out about Paint.NET only a few days ago, and have to say that this is really sad news. Not the fact that the code was taken and modified, but the response you are planning. Unlike others, I will not say that I understand your reaction, because I don’t.

    Let me point something out to you. Look at a project like SQLite – software that has no license whatsoever. It’s public domain. Do you think that author is loosing sleep over the fact that someone can _legally_ take his code and modify it in any way they please? No, it’s an altruistic act of giving out the software with not restrictions whatsoever. That’s what truly free software should be about.

    Your restrictions will not do a damn thing to punish the person who took your code and is now distributing it. They don’t care… They’ll find another piece of code to abuse in this manner.

    What you will do is take a step back from creating free and open code. Punish those who cooperate with you rather than those who abuse the freedom.

    It never ceases to amaze me how much effort the open-source community is pouring into legal issues. I bet there are now many people out there who just can’t help but think of new and creative ways to punish that one individual.

    Here’s an idea – don’t worry about it. You can’t do anything about assholes like that. They have always existed and they will continue to exist no matter what you do. Reward those who cooperate, ignore those who destroy. The fact that this story is already being linked to on Slashdot, Reddit, and many other sites is sufficient to let people know of what happened. If anything, your software received more publicity from this. So don’t try to fight a battle you can’t possibly win (but you can certainly lose if you go through with the proposed changes).

    When I first encountered SQLite, I liked that author’s philosophy so much that I’ve now adapted it to all the software I develop on my own time. Rather than a license, here’s what we put at the top of our source files:

    May you do good and not evil.
    May you find forgiveness for yourself and forgive others.
    May you share freely, never taking more than you give.

    Isn’t that better than a legal message? The software is in public domain, I have no control over it once it is released. And you know what… I don’t care. I have better things to do than design new protection schemes that don’t work. Do yourself a favor and don’t go down the road of more and more restrictions.

    The community as a whole is that one that will lose, not this other guy. As since he already violated your original license, as others said – sue him (if you have the time, money, and the energy for it). What’s the point of having a license if you don’t plan on enforcing it? You might as well just get rid of it completely, close the source and rest well in the knowledge that no one is taking your code and using it in a way they shouldn’t. Somehow though I don’t think this is a good solution.

  77. PAOLO RICCI says:

    I am real sorry this happened and feel that we as general public and fans of Paint.Net should get to this parasite and do anything legally feasible to erase him from the web, business and anything we can throw to him. I also feel that removing the sources does no good to all of us who have been trying to get it under MOno or OSX, and I hope you will reconsider the move. In any case thanks for wondeful app and keep up the great work.

    Paolo

  78. Mark says:

    There is something even worse than what you have described.

    Someone could take your code, and actually add new features to it, then lock it up with closed source while similarly hiding the credit.

    Then, their improved version of the program would never be modifiable by anyone else — far worse than just having a uselessly identical clone out there, because the enhanced version would start taking away market share from the real, open source, version

    To prevent this, use the GPL.

  79. Erik Mackdanz says:

    If he’s violated the license, go after him. He can pay your legal fees in addition to his.

    Isn’t this the purpose of having a license?

    It sounds like you’re planning to punish the community instead of the infringing party. If that’s how you’re going to react, you might as well remove the license entirely.

    Suing this man would not generate ill will against you in the user community, but revoking source code will.

  80. Doug says:

    Maybe you should release Paint.NET with a bunch of bundled plugins, instead of making people manually install them to use them.

  81. Mike says:

    After looking over your site, I assume your intent in releasing the source is to allow users or students to use it as a reference. If this is the case, you should NOT be using the MIT License. This particular guy may not be complying with the license exactly, but it would be simple for someone to do almost the same thing and do it perfectly legally.

  82. ThomW says:

    lol

    I knew exactly who the guy was before even looking. The same guy did this to me with my freeware game — Disasteroids 3D.

    I see someone already posted a link to youfailit, but in case you’re reading my comment and haven’t already seen it I’ll post it again. 🙂

    http://youfailit.net/?p=63

  83. jsonchiu says:

    It’s dumb to close the source. I mean, sure some people “backspacewarize” your product, it doesn’t harm you in any way. You don’t lose donation incomes from that. You just have to track it down. That’s all, if you really care. Also, change MIT license to GPL.

  84. Nanette says:

    Golly – could this scumbag be the reason for me not being able to get into Paint.Net for the last two days? Every time I try to get to the Furum or Tutorials I get this message: SQL ERROR [ mysql4 ]

    Table ‘s’ is marked as crashed and should be repaired [1194]

    Or – could it be my computer? Other than that the Paint programme itself is working fine.

  85. F'dup says:

    Rick, I would pay for you stuff.
    This is what happens when some F’dup person scumbag douchewad steels free things. He’s probably jacking off at home right now to his centerfold because he can’t get a girl. What is the world cumming to? F’n sick and tired of scums walking the earth like this. I hope he falls in a hole or gets rammed by something really big.

  86. Saving money says:

    Definitely gonna pay for it !Perhaps you could use a more restrictive open source license. That way if someone who doesn’t know what he’s doing doesn’t give them the source code you can sue him even if he doesn’t include plugins.

  87. Asbjørn Ulsberg says:

    I believe the problem here is with the license Paint.NET was released under and not that it was open source in the first place. Had you chosen another Open Source license, like GPL, work like that of the scumbag that has ripped of Paint.NET would have been illegal according to the license and the FSF would have been happy to (I’m sure) pursue the case and sue the socks off the bastard.

    I respect your decision, but I believe it is wrong. And either way it’s very unfortunate for the (open source) .NET community.

  88. Rick Brewster says:

    Asbjørn, my decision was not wrong. You don’t know why I chose the MIT license in the first place, so I don’t know why you believe you are an expert on why I should have chosen GPL.

    Honestly, the “open source community” is really justa fairy tale.

  89. max says:

    Hi Rick
    I understand this blog entry is almost 2 years old. I’m sorry I’m about to give you another “unrequested” opinion, perhaps you’ve already made your decision on the matter, and that’s it.
    But somehow I feel compelled to share my thoughts, as I feel I might give you something else to counter-balance your decision.
    Or maybe not, but I thought I’d try anyway…
    While I respect and understand your decision, in my view, it doesn’t make much sense in the big picture of things.
    It’s like this terrorism situation we are facing these days.
    Should we, because of the actions of some very small minority, really give up on our freedoms?
    Or should I lock my kids at home because there are rapists out there?
    Pricks like this will always exist, no matter what. They exist in all facets of society, and always will.
    But I feel that you’ve let the prick win. And all the good people out there that appreciated your software being open are the ones now losing out.
    It’s like, with your decision, you are acknowledging this little prick with much more importance than he should have ever been given.
    Lots of people who could learn SO MUCH from your amazing efforts will no longer be able to.
    And make no mistake, Paint.NET is a really rich piece of software, and really, so much can be learned from it.
    Credit for Paint.NET cannot be EVER taken away from you, no matter what this little prick does.
    So why not stand tall and let the prick rot away?
    At the end of the day, do you really think anyone is gonna give a rats arse about this guy??
    Just as a more personal example.
    A couple of years back I took a short 4-month university course that ended with a weekend away for everyone to socialize and celebrate completion.
    During that weekend, we were sad to find out that drinking was not allowed due a bad “mishap” in the past.
    So there we were, grown up men, wanting to share a nice drink, but unable to, probably because of some drunken teenager who created trouble god knows how long ago.
    It is such a simple thing, but it made us who wanted to share a drink really sad, almost to the point of spoiling the whole occasion.
    This particular course has run for years, and will likely continue for many years to come.
    Now, for how long do they intend to punish all the “newcomers” because of this particular event?
    It might be a simple story, but it really made me think about “what’s right” in situations like this.
    Anyway, at the end of the day it is you who has put all the effort out there, and not me.
    I just feel sad seeing people giving up on noble causes because of a small minority.
    What you were doing is really special, and it was highly appreciated.
    I am sure this feeling is echoed by others too, but I’m sure you know that.

    Just a final thought: The GPL allows one to charge for the source code. So maybe that could be an option for those that really want to learn from your program?

    Anyway, all the best, and keep up the good work!

    Cheers

    max

  90. Rick Brewster says:

    max, Your points are valid, but you’re missing perspective. You’re thinking about it as someone who was neither involved in nor directly affected by any of this. Try this question instead: if one of your children was kidnapped (yes this is a horrible thing to postulate of course, but bear with me), wouldn’t you guard the others much closer? What if it had been your teenage kid who got drunk and had a major mishap? Wouldn’t you go to lengths to ensure your kid(s) couldn’t get alcohol as easily?

    Of course, the answer is yes in both cases.

    So, remember: I’m taking measures to protect *my* work. Your analogies, while reasonable, do not apply when the situation is transposed to *my* perspective.

  91. max says:

    Well, maybe I missed perspective, I’m biased to say otherwise, but I was indeed trying to see it from your point of view.
    Let me just say that at this point I don’t want to convince you to change your license, or convince you of anything for that matter, and I also don’t want to get too philosophical, but I’ll just try to wrap up my points.
    In the terrorism example, what are we to do if not move on with our normal lives? Don’t you think that if we change our lifestyle, aren’t they the ones who would be winning?
    In your kidnapping example, I would of course take measures to prevent things like that from ever happening, but I cannot lock the kids at home.
    Don’t you think what you are doing is effectively locking the kids at home?
    The episode I mentioned wasn’t about under-age drinking. That’s illegal and anyway, out of the scope of what I was trying to say – so if that was the problem I would do everything to stop it. But it wasn’t the case. We were all students that had finished a short course, but we weren’t all young, some of us married and with kids. And from our perspective, here we were, 30 and 40 year olds, not being able to have a drink for the whole weekend, being “punished” because of someone years ago that had nothing to do with us… And you are there really craving to have a beer and a laugh with friends, and it just doesn’t make any sense… We all abided by the rules out of politeness of course, but then what? It didn’t really make anyone happy…
    Of course it was just a weekend away, so it is not a big deal, but it serves as a micro-example of how things can become when put into a greater perspective.
    Another quick example. Say I want to donate food to a poor country. I find that half of my food is being stolen in the way due to corruption of whatever. So what do I do? Stop completely? Wouldn’t I be giving up on MY initial intention, let alone punishing all the other hungry and innocent people? I still wanna give those people food, don’t I? So what has changed? Ain’t I just letting something inside of ME die?

    In other words, yes, perhaps try to punish the culprit (not everyone else), and perhaps adopt preventive measures, but don’t let that spark of life die – whatever it may mean.

    Having said that, perhaps you really not a “free software” type of person, and you are taking a simple business decision, in that case, no need to be philosophical.

    I just find it very sad to see your initial “good intentions” in making the source available, die out because of a ignorant few. That’s all. 🙂
    You make a GREAT piece of software, and it becomes even a greater ASSET to the rest of the world when you make its source code available.
    Perhaps you being the coder and going through all that hard (one-man) effort makes it perhaps tougher for you to see the beauty in making the source available, since you are already making the software available gratis. But from MY point of view, making it available for free makes you a nice guy, making the source available makes you somebody to look up to… As corny as that may sound…

    Sorry for dragging this again…
    Cheers

    max

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