An Algorithmic and Social Introduction to Computer Science (CSC-105 2000S)

What do you consider significant implications of being able to copy JavaScript programs from the Web?


There have been two separate incidents where I have found a website with some really neat javascript. I thought that I could look at the javascript code and then incorporate it into my website. (Granted I was going to make some detail changes). But, I had a hard time making sense of the code. This may be because of my lack of knowledge about Javascript.

what kind of implications? One evident implication from what I have said is the unauthorized use of the javascript. Since the code can be copied, the author has no control over his creation and no means of getting compensated for his work. Of course, most of the javascript that is available to copy is not top secret. In most cases, it is either a neat program or a useful tool. In any case, when javascript code is copied, it only means good things for internet-users, since the performance of the web is enhanced. A good example is a search engines. If this javascript had a patent on it, imagine how difficult it would be to use the internet. I won't say that allowing javascript to be copied will have the same results as open-source software, but I will say that it might follow the same concept. That being, the program is copied from original author by a new user. New user makes modifications. Then another user copies the program, and makes new modifications and improves the program. The idea is if the trend continues, each time the program is copied, a better program is produced.


As students of JavaScript, it's really useful to be able to look at how people are doing things, even if we can't always understand them. In general, it's nice to be able to see the nuts and bolts of how something's created. However, this access, of course, brings with it the risk of infringing on someone's hard work (perhaps someone's _copyrighted_ hard work, thus technically breaking the law). I can also see that besides copyright issues, this capacity could lead to stagnation rather than improvement--everyone merely copying the standard way of doing something rather than innovating. But generally, it seems that people who enjoy working with computers often also like to innovate and rarely take one way of doing things as gospel, so perhaps that wouldn't be much of a problem.


well, i think the positive implications are that people need not know or understand everything about how to program (or do JavaScript specifically) to be able to have more advanced features or functions on their respective webpages. of course, this also has its downfalls as far as the dangers of playing with or using something you don't fully understand. though i don't know this for a fact, i assume that you could probably crash something or create a virus by using a JavaScript incorrectly? well, at least crash something.

also, then we get into the legal implications. who owns JavaScript? is it public? who gets credit for it? how do you cite it? when? where? are there guidelines? are they nearly as strict as the guidelines for citing in a paper? should they be? should everyone have to write their own JavaScript? or would that be like reinventing the wheel every time?


on the one hand,

1. Being able to copy Javascript from archives on the web provides increased access to interesting and useful page features that might be difficult for the amateur computer user to derive on thier own with limited knowledge of Javascript.


2. This enables an open-source or bazaar-type effect to take place in which web users are learning from each other in the creation of a potentially mutally beneficial discourse on the language of Javascript.

but on the other hand,

2. The code that is copied by the user may be flawed or have program specifications which the user's servers may not necessarily be compatible with.

and 3. The problems that a person who "copies" program code may encounter will be very difficult for them to solve without a clear understanding of Javascript and the other programs it takes to construct a web page. (i.e. the bullet colored ball example in yesterday's class.)

4. Leaving code in an open-source setting may make the shared information more available and vulnerable to hackers on the internet.

5. Who will get credit for certain design feature codes? Intellectual property concerns are also of interest. Citation etiquette and standards?


Insofar as being able to copy JavaScript programs from the Web increases access to programming information and programming capabilities for a wider usership, it seems like something of a democratization, if you will, of the technological realm. If such programs were unavailable in this manner, I'm sure that many people who wanted to, say, start their own webpages but didn't know how to write JavaScript, would have a much more difficult time doing so.

At the same time, an inherent issue with this kind of access to information seems to be the question of who owns it. Essentially, every program is the creation of some individual. So should JavaScript programs be accorded the kinds of intellectual property rights as other individual creations? Should there be something analagous to patent or copyright laws attached to the duplication or use of another individual's program? And if such programs are copied and used for profit, should the writer of the program be entitled to royalties? These all seem like salient questions in terms of the implications of copying JavaScript from the Web.


The ability to copy JavaScript programs from the web reduces the amount of redundant work, reduces the amount of time required to create a website, and demonstrates that computers languages are intended to be built upon. Copying JavaScript programs from the web allows programmers to write JavaScript faster. The theory assumes that programmers have better tasks to do in their life than write JavaScript programs that have been written by someone else. The JavaScript language hopes that by offering programs on the Web that the programmers might be able to further develop the JavaScript language if the fundamentals of the language are easily available.

Also, the ability to copy JavaScript programs from the web prevents the language for heading in different directions. Of course, there will be minor revisions but if everyone is using more or less the same library on the Web then the language should develop into a stronger cohesive language. The availability of programs on the web gives JavaScript the ability to grow at a fast rate. If the programs were not available via the Web, the user would only have access to programs they, as an individual, created. The user, if the programs are available on the web, has access to everyone's programs; JavaScript then changes at a faster rate of change for all users, rather than change only on the individual user level.

Additionally, placing JavaScript programs on the Web has many of the same advantages of open-source software.


Like most things involving the Web, there are pros AND cons. On the positive side, being able to copy JavaScript programs from the Web is useful for those who want to make web pages with applications that they do not know how to write/program. So it makes more people able to make better web pages, and it also allows more experienced JavaScript to experiment with new and better ways of writing JavaScript and creating neater and funner web applications. This and brings up the whole issue again about shared software. In this case, it is good, but it also has it's bad side - anyone who uses the JavaScript code for malicious purposes, whether it be in creating a virus or for putting unethical material on the web. Of course you could argue that people using computers, the Web, and JavaScript to corrupt other people or other computers will do so even if we didn't share software or allow people to copy JavaScript from the Web, but that's a whole separate argument.


I think there are many implications of copying JavaScript programs. First, I think it's a great tool with which to learn the tricks of the trade. I've found it very useful, not just from pages like the JavaScript Source, but also from pages I look at every day to get a feel for what I like and don't like as far as pages go and to help me learn the principles behind the programming of all the nifty menus and such. I think, however, that after awhile copying becomes a problem. Who owns a posted JavaScript program whose source is easily available to the public? Is it just the authors, or does it become public domain when posted like that? With most programs, you have to license it in some way and pay a fee, but not with readily available JavaScript programs on the Web. Also, if I want to put a menu in my page and simply copy the script from ESPN's site and change some of the words, then I haven't learned anything and am just copying. What happens to creativity when everyone copies everyone else? I think it's important that Web page designers be able to design their own algorithms and programs for JavaScript without constantly consulting other sources; otherwise, all Web pages will be identical, and we certainly don't want that.


I think the most obvious but also most problematic issue is that of plagiarism. It is very difficult to protect what you have created when someone can just click "view source" and copy it. I admit I have been known to copy images from sites that request you ask permission first. However, sites like the JavaScript source that many of our classmates have been finding scripts at seem to be a good thing. Basic HTML is relatively easy to learn, but once you move into the complexities of advanced HTML and JavaScript, you lose the average person. Places where you can just pick up scripts make more complicated web pages something any person can make.


Well, I guess in yesterdays response I addressed some of the benefits of being able to copy Javascript programs off the web. As far as other implications go, there is definitely a negative side to it. I'm sure the limits of copyrights and publishing laws have been tested and stretched. It also detracts from the uniqueness of a design or program, if everyone is able to access it. But it also lends to the interconnectedness of the Web, allowing users to have similar functions on locations across the Web. One aspect of availability is cost; whether or not people are able to charge money for their programs. If this is an implication, then there are whole other doors opened. Intellectual property (JavaScript programs) could be stolen and sold on an online "Black Market" of sorts. But if the files are public and equally accessible, then there may not be a huge issue with this.

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