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Overview of copyright issues

From: Joseph Wakeling
Subject: Overview of copyright issues
Date: Wed, 09 Sep 2009 18:04:17 +0200
User-agent: Thunderbird (X11/20090817)

So, having read the past discussion and looked through source code etc.
it seems like there are several general observations, some conclusions,
and some questions.


   (1) Lilypond isn't violating any copyright/license requirements.
       There's no LEGAL pressure to switch to GPLv3, although there may
       be issues related to Lilypond's status in the GNU project.  (That
       said, the longer we leave the situation as it is, the more likely
       a legal issue WILL arise.)

   (2) The intention of the original authors, and the strict
       interpretation of the COPYING file, is that Lilypond is
       GPLv2 only.

   (3) Individual code files contain copyright notices but not licensing
       notices.  It's not clear if these notices have been maintained
       beyond updating the date -- have author names been persistently
       added where appropriate?  (Most the files have a single author
       listed; the one two-author file I saw was by Han-Wen and Jan.)

   (4) Individual documentation source files (.itely files) in general
       contain neither copyright notices nor licensing notices.

   (5) We have a full list of contributors to Lilypond but need to have
       PAPER documentation giving their permission to change the license
       of the code/documentation they wrote.

   (6) Confusion has come from

          (i) a Debian copyright file for the package, apparently last
              updated in 2004, stating that Lilypond is 'v2 or later'

         (ii) the fact that the Lilypond COPYING file, while describing
              the licensing situation accurately, does so in non-
              standard language (people expect to see the statement
              recommended in the GPL appendix, which allows for
              unambiguous distinction between 'vN or later' or 'vN')

        (iii) the lack of licensing notices within code and

         (iv) GNU recommendations that GNU packages always use the
              latest version of the GPL

          (v) the link on the main page which (still) points to the
              text of GPLv3 on (and has ever since v3 was
              released -- the first message pointing out this
              discrepancy was sent to the -devel mailing list over
              2 years ago!).

In addressing this there are several policies that can be put in place NOW:

   (1) All new files added to the code or docs must contain an
       unambiguous copyright AND licensing notice: I suggest in this
       case GPLv2 or later for code, and the GFDL 1.1 or later for docs.

   (2) Contributors of new material to existing files should add
       copyright/licensing notices *for their contributions*, again with
       appropriate 'or later' bits.

   (3) For files with single authors, those same authors can send
       patches containing explicit licensing notices for their files.
       If those licensing notices are GPLv2 or later (which they can do
       unilaterally since they are sole authors) that solves problems
       for a good part of the code.

   (4) It's still a good idea to get appropriate paperwork from EVERY
       contributor but with the above done we have a much less heavy
       amount of OBLIGATORY work.


   (1) How well have the copyright notices for individual files been
       maintained?  Do they refer only to original authors of files
       or all authors over that file's history?  (More precisely: is
       there not just a list of who contributed to LP but also who
       wrote exactly what?)

   (2) Is there a preference for transferring copyright to some third
       party (either the FSF or some LP-dedicated organisation)?  If
       not, it seems a good idea for future contributions to LP to be
       'or later', as it avoids a repeat of this issue in the future.

OK, I think that's the lot.  Thoughts/disagreements/comments anyone?

Best wishes,

    -- Joe

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