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Re: Icon designer wanted (Aquamacs Emacs)

From: David Kastrup
Subject: Re: Icon designer wanted (Aquamacs Emacs)
Date: Wed, 04 Jan 2006 14:28:39 +0100
User-agent: Gnus/5.11 (Gnus v5.11) Emacs/22.0.50 (gnu/linux)

address@hidden writes:

> David Kastrup wrote:
>> David Reitter has explicitly stated that he will not bother making
>> sure that the material with which he is enhancing Aquamacs has the
>> required paperwork done.
> Sorry, that's not my job and not where I'm competent. Here's how
> Google's Eric Schmidt put it: "Programmers want to program, they
> don't want to do their laundry."

But they also don't want to be bothered by cockroaches breeding in the
laundry that is left on the floor to rot.

> What I can do is to make sure that the source is documented and the
> necessary paperwork can be obtained in case the Emacs project
> accepts some of the icons.  The FSF is competent at this stuff, and
> I'm glad they're doing it.
> Anyways, the fact that we don't have paperwork for everything in
> Aquamacs doesn't make it less free

Nonsense.  It means that an employer of some contributor who just did
not believe his contract terms valid, or an infringed party because of
someone who thought "creative commons license is good enough for
borrowing" can send you a cease-and-desist order prohibiting further
distribution.  And that certainly qualifies for "less free".  The
freedom needs to be dependable.

> and projects without the legal infrastructure aren't any less
> honourable (just less complete -- but we're unpaid volunteers, so
> please don't complain).

I completely disagree.  Making use of an upstream project without
bothering to resubmit improvements, trying to recruit developers for
only improving your own branch, and not being bothered about this ever
being possible to be folded back into the main project has _nothing_
at all to do with being honorable.  It is at best neutral.  It does
not benefit upstream, and since it detracts developers from
contributing upstream, actually is damaging.

> And since we're doing this for mainly altruistic reasons (and fun),
> please consider that if you require everyone - even downstream
> projects - to maintain infrastructure, you will lose developers and
> maintainers. You remember that you lost a dedicated maintainer for
> exactly that reason, don't you?

Well, did you look at a copyright assignment contract?  You agree in
writing that you will be held accountable for any monetary damages
occuring because you misstated the legal state of software you
contributed.  That is a responsibility and a burden.  Of _course_ this
is a barrier for contributors.

But you are trying to shoot the messenger.  The FSF has not written
the copyright laws that make this sort of thing necessary.  The FSF
has not the deep pockets of, say, IBM who can afford to get sued by a
party like the SCO group, in a lawsuit dragging on for years without
end.  And that's the kind of shit you have to be prepared for if you
don't keep copyright accountable in one hand.  Even _if_ nobody
actually made the mistake of contributing what he was not allowed to.

Copyright laws and litigation don't go away if you close your eyes and
shout "lalala I can't hear you".  Yes, this will put off developers
who would otherwise choose to contribute.  And no, it still is not
possible to avoid.

What I find disturbing:

a) changes are made downstream without bothering to try to get them
into upstream.  Working upstream may be quite more aggravating and
frustrating, but _that's_ where one contributes back.  Making use of
the freedom to fork a project is convenient and proves that freedom is
something nice to have.  But it does not increase the value of the
freedom, only documents it.

b) and now you are trying to make people work on Aquamacs improvements
that _clearly_ would be relevant on all platforms, instead of trying
to recruit people for doing the work _upstream_ that you would like to
have done.  And that clearly is not cooperative, so talking about "not
less honorable" in this context is empty words.

c) you say that you can't be bothered with legal details, other
contributors shouldn't, and that the FSF should worry about that
itself if at some time the work for which you try to attract
developers away from Emacs would be desirable to be integrated back.
>From what you wrote, it does not appear like you'd be interested in
complete records of all sources of icons and their respective
copyright holders.

That means, in addition to choosing to be of no help to Emacs right
now, you are laying the groundworks of not being able to change the
situation should you reconsider about contributing at a later point of

The situation of a platform-specific enhancement with an "open" stance
towards developers and paperwork and no priority for upstream is not
new.  It's XEmacs all over again, and the price for all involved
parties has been hefty and caused wagonloads of work unusable for lots
of people in both directions.  The resulting duplication of labor had
a much more severe impact on the development of both systems than the
scare factor of paperwork ever had.

Yes, having to bother with legal stuff takes its toll.  But it's not
an invention of the FSF who certainly would prefer a world without
copyright, and the "alternative" of not bothering takes a much higher
toll in the long run.

David Kastrup, Kriemhildstr. 15, 44793 Bochum

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