I am trying to make a computer program that simulates another computer. I want to simulate something called the Scott CPU (from here). Could I change a small thing about it and not have to ask for permission to use it?

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    It doesn't matter how much you change, you're still breaching copyright. – Nij Aug 4 '19 at 19:39

The copyright holder has the rights in whatever he created. If you have created something new based on his idea, the law will generally not be interested; but if your expression is recognisably a copy with a few changes, he can prevent publication or demand royalties. If you are uncertain which side of the line you fall, you should ask a lawyer (or, more cheaply, write to the author and ask if he objects).

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    It might be helpful to mention the concept of "derivative works" explicitly. (+1 nonetheless) – phoog Aug 4 '19 at 12:26

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