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Re: [SLUG] Re: Copyright assignment + the GPL [Was: Streaming media servers]


<quote who="QuantumG">

> Well the point of the GPL (over a BSD-like license) is to ensure that the
> source code for all distributed changes are available and are freely
> distributable.

Which is the case, even if the copyright owner distributes the software
under another license.

> So yes, although your specific changes are available to the community, all
> the changes that the new copyright owner distributes under a proprietary
> license are not.

The community doesn't own them, nor has a claim to own them. The copyright
holder gets to choose the license -> if they choose to distribute their
software under a FOSS license at all, you should be grateful!

> You might be ok with this, but I think it's just paying lip service to the
> GPL without actually accepting the concept of software freedom.

I strongly disagree with this sentiment. The copyright owner has gone so far
as to release their software (or large chunks of it) under a FOSS license.
This indicates that they at least understand and accept the mechanics of
"software freedom", which is a good deal better than if they hadn't released
the source at all. It's a great business model. It keeps them working on the
software, defending it, investing in it, etc. Again: Don't look a gift horse
in the mouth.

> As you put forward a number of bad situations that can arise from this, 
> allow me to set up my nightmare scenario for you.
> 
>    1. You contribute a significant amount of work to Helix  (like a new 
> feature).
>    2. RealNetworks demands a copyright assignment.
>    3. They put it into both the open source and proprietary distributions.
>    4. They sell their proprietary distribution to customers.
>    5. A customer finds a bug, wants a feature extension, etc.
>    6. RealNetworks adds fixes the bug, or makes the feature extension 
> in the proprietary distribution only.
> 
> That bug or feature extension is not free.

That's hardly a 'nightmare scenario'. In fact, most organisations using this
model are very much opposed to this kind of behaviour, because they know it
will either won't attract community developers, or it will inspire them to
fork the codebase (which is not in the organisation's best interests). Read
a bunch of the copyright assignment agreements for popular projects- most
say that the code will *also* be released under a FOSS license in perpetuity
(or reasonably similar wording). The organisations that effectively use
copyright assignment totally understand this issue.

See my last point for a situation that actually comes close to a 'nightmare
scenario'.

> It is a proprietary extension of copylefted code.

Absolutely not! You contributed your change under copyright assignment. The
patch author explicitly allowed for this to happen, so it is *nothing* of
the sort.

> It's this kind of nonsense that specifically inspired the creation of
> copyleft licenses

No, complete lack of software freedom inspired the creation of copyleft
licenses, not sensible business models built upon the foundations of
software freedom.

> but the license does not apply to the copyright holder, so the community
> suffers.

The community benefits *more* from the availability of the software, source
and commitment of the organisation that owns its copyright than it would if
the source were closed.

- Jeff

-- 
linux.conf.au 2005: Canberra, Australia                http://linux.conf.au/
 
   "Debian is not as minor as many business end people think." - Alan Cox