#GCC does away with the requirement for copyright assignments to the FSF:
gcc.gnu.org/pipermail/gcc/2021

I think it’s a wise decision in this day and age. 👍

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@civodul

More importantly than the decision itself, it sets a good precident, as many companies insist on copyright assignments and have been able to point to the FSF.

There is still the issue of handling copyright relicensing when the author has passed on, but perhaps one problem at a time?

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@emacsen I think relicensing it not much of an issue: it’s copyleft and can only go in the direction of more freedoms for users (as in: one can redistribute LGPL code under GPL, GPL code under AGPL, etc.).

As long as it does not become the wild west like #Linux, with enough of a mess to make the SCO lawsuit possible, I think it’s okay. (Unfortunately the Steering Committee’s statement does not rule out the possibility of creating a mess…)

@civodul @emacsen The copyright assignment of the FSF has always been a tool to allow strategic relicensing to weaker licenses if a proprietary competitor crops up that threatens to dominate the domain.

In an age of widespread open core strategies that looks like a wise option to have.

@ArneBab @emacsen I’ve never heard about assignment to the FSF being used as a tool to allow relicening under a weaker license; that would be quite astonishing!

The main justification is that it makes it easier to enforce copyright in court:
gnu.org/licenses/why-assign.ht
gnu.org/prep/maintain/maintain

@civodul @emacsen here’s the argumentation when such weakening of a license can be a net win for free software: ebb.org/bkuhn/blog/2009/01/14/

@ArneBab @emacsen @civodul It's a good argument, but not one the FSF has ever made for their copyright assignment practice.

@clacke @emacsen @civodul It is an argument that Bradley Kuhn made for the relicensing of Qt. I don’t know whether there is official text on the FSF pages, but argumentation by Bradley Kuhn is pretty close to decisionmaking in the FSF.

@clacke @emacsen @civodul that’s what I said about not knowing whether the argument for strategic relicensing is on the FSF page.But Bradley was executive director and is on the board of directors, so they are most definitely aware of that option and the benefits it can bring.

@ArneBab, I’m pretty sure that’s not the case, since (1) the FSF works explicitly against proprietary software and (2) the assignment states that the work shall remain copyleft:

The Foundation promises that all distribution of the Work, or of any work “based on the Work”, that takes place under the control of the Foundation or its agents or assignees, shall be on terms that explicitly and perpetually permit anyone possessing a copy of the work to which the terms apply, and possessing accurate notice of these terms, to redistribute copies of the work to anyone on the same terms. These terms shall not restrict which members of the public copies may be distributed to. These terms shall not require a member of the public to pay any royalty to the Foundation or to anyone else for any permitted use of the work they apply to, or to communicate with the Foundation or its agents in any way either when redistribution is performed or on any other occasion.

Cc: @civodul, @emacsen

@cnx @emacsen @civodul that description matches at least LGPL, GPL, and AGPL, so it would allow starting a project under AGPL and if a lax-licensed competitor with lots of proprietary additions appears and threatens to dominate (as the many Apache-Licensed JS-tools now do), relicense to LGPL, because having a dominant copyleft core is much better than getting a lax system that becomes corrupted to the point where it is no longer viable to use it without proprietary parts.

@civodul @emacsen Relicensing requires approval of all copyright holders, because, well, they hold the copyright and can do whatever they want with the code.

Just because it currently exists under an open license does not imply there is no ownership any longer. It just grants the public the ability to participate in the ownership by making modifications (without modification there is no participation).

So assigning a single copyright holder is really the only...

@civodul @emacsen ... practical option for relicensing.

I'm not a big fan of the FSF these days, but this practice isn't wrong.

@jens @emacsen I’m well aware of this. :-) My point is that GNU licenses are written in such a way that recipients of code covered by a GNU license can choose to use it under the terms of a “stronger” license.

For example, LGPLv3 says that one “may convey a copy of the modified version […] under the GNU GPL”. Copyright holders don’t need to be involved.

@emacsen @civodul Exactly. The recent Audacity debacle is but the latest in a long line of examples where a corporate entity employs a CLA and points at the FSF's practice as an excuse, ignoring that assigning copyright to a non-profit that makes promises in return is entirely different from assigning it to a corporation and getting a thank you at best (apart from those at the core who got paid).
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