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Re: Emacs Lisp's future

From: David Kastrup
Subject: Re: Emacs Lisp's future
Date: Fri, 19 Sep 2014 13:12:14 +0200
User-agent: Gnus/5.13 (Gnus v5.13) Emacs/24.4.50 (gnu/linux)

"Stephen J. Turnbull" <address@hidden> writes:

> Nic Ferrier writes:
>  > I am torn between a much more open and distributed Emacs (which I
>  > suspect rms won't like)
> What's not open or distributed about Emacs?  Maintaining legal
> paperwork is a cost and an inconvenience, but the GPL itself legally
> guarantees openness and in practice Emacs development is highly
> distributed.  ELPA is only going to provide more cases where people
> want to "sign papers", or to gather "papers" from their coauthors.  I
> can't see this as a problem -- Emacs will acquire more copyrights than
> it would have otherwise.
> I suppose it's theoretically possible that the body of unassigned and
> perhaps unassignable Emacs Lisp will grow faster than the body of
> assigned Emacs Lisp, but I doubt it.  Even if it does, most people do
> obey the rules, and the body of free software will increase.
>  > and having Emacs stay guaranteed free 
> There are no guarantees.  It is certainly possible that an SCO-like
> attack could be made on Emacs, especially via submarine patent.  The
> FSF legal policy merely makes it less likely to succeed, and provides
> the FSF the option of shifting costs onto contributors if it fails to
> defend the copyrights they claimed to assign.

The cost-shifting is not likely to ever trigger since it is rather
explicitly only applicable for deliberate or at least conscious
inclusion of material from uncleared origin.

I think it's more a protection against blatant submarines.  What the
assignments do does not significantly protect against "an attack on
Emacs".  Rather they make sure that the FSF can aggressively pursue
violations of the GPL on Emacs without having to fear muddy waters
resulting in large legal costs and settlements.

Now that's my personal take of the situation.  I cannot vouch for
Richard's though: after all, the main trigger for creating the GPL _was_
a cease-and-desist call concerning the redistribution of derivatives of
Gosling's Emacs variant, causing a bunch of lost work.

David Kastrup

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