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Re: Overview of copyright issues

From: Graham Percival
Subject: Re: Overview of copyright issues
Date: Thu, 10 Sep 2009 23:13:46 +0100
User-agent: Mutt/1.5.18 (2008-05-17)

On Thu, Sep 10, 2009 at 12:36:08AM +0200, Joseph Wakeling wrote:
> Han-Wen Nienhuys wrote:
> > I think having to sign paperwork (esp. having your employer sign
> > something) is something that puts a big barrier up for potential
> > contributors.  I am not sure it is worth the effort.
> I would not want to see users in general having to sign a contributor
> agreement or any such.  What does seem like a good idea is moving
> existing code from 'v2 only' to 'v2 or later' (or v3 if desired),

Not users, but contributors.  The problem is "if somebody emails a
patch to a file, can we assume that they're willing to license
their patch under that license?"

Morally, yes we can.  By current practice in most open-source
projects, yes we can.  By current practice in *some* open-source
projects (IIRC bison and gcc), no we cannot.

By actual strict legality... who knows?  It's possible that a
one-line bugfix that adds a missing ;  (if somebody changed a C
file without even trying to compile it)  still counts as copyright
material, and would strictly speaking require a signed paper
letter licensing that intellectual property under the GPL.

Honestly, I'm sure that not even lawyers know the answer to the
above question.  And I'm *also* sure that the answer depends on
which country you're in.  Or rather, which countries the
contributor lives in, reviewer lives in, or maybe which countries
they are current residing or visiting, where the source is hosted,
files are downloaded... honestly, international copyright law is a
total mess, and is woefully unprepared for the kinds of
collaboration that the internet allows / promotes.

In some ways, I hope this *doesn't* get resolved in the near
future.  The longer we wait, the more (current) youth will be
around, and thus the more liberal the copyright will be.  It's no
coincidence that the Pirate Party does so well with younger
voters!  People who have grown up with the internet generally
have a different view of copyright than those over 40.

- Graham

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