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Re: Including ESS with Emacs

From: Stefan Monnier
Subject: Re: Including ESS with Emacs
Date: Sun, 25 Nov 2018 11:45:49 -0500
User-agent: Gnus/5.13 (Gnus v5.13) Emacs/27.0.50 (gnu/linux)

> We'd like to contribute ESS to the FSF so that it can become part of
> Emacs.

[ I think it'd be best to include it into GNU ELPA rather than into
  Emacs, tho.  ]

> My understanding is that the copyright assignment process might
> be the most difficult part.  ESS is a very (30ish years) old project, and
> so has many contributors, some of whom may not be able to sign the
> paperwork.
> Is there a process for figuring out who exactly needs to sign the FSF
> copyright paperwork? Is it just authors of the current code according to
> git-blame, or everyone who's contributed 15 lines of code, or something
> else?

It should be all authors who contributed more than 15 lines-or-so of the
current code.  `git blame` can be a good starting point, but note that it
can be misleading: someone who just adds a `save-excursion` and reindents
all the code will cause git-blame to hide the contributors of all the
reindented code.

The way I went about it in the past is to collect all the known authors.
Then I remove those who already have signed paperwork, and those who
contributed less than 15 lines of code (by looking at the
corresponding commits).
Then I try to contact all those that remain.

This often involves a fair bit of work and time, to try and find current email
addresses, to get an answer, to sign the paperwork, to get the FSF to
process the documents, ...

After that, there are typically some authors still pending, either
because they refuse to sign, or because you can't find a valid email, or
because they don't reply.

At that point, you dig into the code in more detail, to try and see
which part of their contribution remains in the current code and whether
that can fall under the "15-lines worth of code" (where a renaming of
a variable counts as 1 line even if it touches 100 lines).  That often
lets you remove a few more from the pending list.

Finally, there will probably be a few hold outs who contributed
a non-trivial amount of code which is still present but whose copyright
paperwork we can't get.  At that point, we have to take a yet deeper
look at what to do with it: rewrite the code, drop it altogether, or
move it to a separate package.

Note that if at the last stage there is still a major contributor, it
might render the whole effort pointless.  So it's best to start with the
most prolific contributors.


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