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[Savannah-register-public] [task #14621] Submission of Graph Model Libra

From: Brook Milligan
Subject: [Savannah-register-public] [task #14621] Submission of Graph Model Library
Date: Thu, 21 Sep 2017 23:50:35 -0400 (EDT)
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Follow-up Comment #8, task #14621 (project administration):

> Follow-up Comment #7, task #14621 (project administration):
> > Please study what is known about the different legal situations in
> > different countries.
> I'm sorry, such a study would take too much time; could you point
> out the key differences relevant to our discussion?

See below.

> > There are in fact differences with respect to
> > what is allowable under copyright law, who has standing to seek
> > remedies, etc.
> Yes, but in most countries copyright law complies with the Berne
> Convention, and it says that the authors shall enjoy economic
> rights unless they transfer their rights to someone else.

It is true that the Berne Convention has 172 parties, and that that group
likely includes all relevant jurisdictions for practical purposes. However, it
is not at all the case that the Berne Conventions protects “economic
rights”.  Neither does US or German copyright law; I doubt any copyright law
does. Specifically, the Berne Convention protects the following rights:
translation, making adaptations and arrangements, public performance,
recitation, broadcast, or other communication, reproduction, and use as basis
for audiovisual work.  The US law protects rights expressed slightly
differently: reproduction, preparation of derivative works, distribution of
copies, public performance, public display, and digital transmission.  The
details of how the requirements of the Berne Convention are met, i.e., the
laws in place that actually protect these rights, can and do differ among
jurisdictions.  For example, in the US one can transfer copyright ownership,
whereas in Germany that is not possible to do.  Who is able to seek remedies
and what remedies are possible depend on the details of local law.  Even
worse, the identification of which local law prevails is not even clear for
works (such as software under development worldwide) that are published widely
and simultaneously.  One relevant consequence of this is that in US courts
contributors to software only have standing for their own contribution in the
absence of some procedure that clearly establishes the right for some person
or entity to act on their behalf.  The details of this are different in German
courts.  They are almost certainly different in other jurisdictions as well;
after all, all the copyright laws for the 172 parties to the Berne Convention
were crafted locally within the context of each legal system.  The Berne
Convention is not a legal system; it just states that certain rights must be
protected and provides for certain minimum protections. Individual parties are
responsible for implementing that.  All of these aspects create a large degree
of uncertainty for all copyrightable works, but especially ones that are
collaboratively produced such as free software.

Again, none of this is about “economic rights”.  Indeed, that is a
red-herring with respect to a discussion of rights to use software freely.

> > Because it is released under the AGPL, the
> > software will always be free.
> > 
> > Nothing in the policy I have identified conflicts with anyone's
> > ability to maintain the free status of a GPLed program (or library in
> > this case). After all, it is released under the GPL and thus by design
> > cannot be made "unfree".
> If "Us" decide to release a proprietary version of the library,
> the library in that version will be nonfree. The only people
> who could prevent this are contributors---but if they sign that
> agreement, they can’t.

This is fundamentally irrelevant to whether this is free software.  Yes, all
sorts of hypothetical things can occur in the future.  However, none of those
activities have any bearing on the rights of people wishing to use released
code, contributions to that released code, derivative works, or anything else.
Once released under the (A)GPL, those rights are guaranteed forever.  That is
the entire point of developing those licenses and the entire point of the many
documents promulgated by the FSF.  Thus, any development of a Savannah
project, even with the contributor agreement that I am using, remains free
software.  These contributor agreements cannot change that.  (Of course, more
draconian agreements might, but they are not being used; all contributor
agreements are not equal and all are not bad.)  They just make it clear who
has standing to protect the freedoms encapsulated within the license.  Without
that clarity, we are at the mercy of an ad hoc interpretation by a legal
system that may not be supportive. Avoiding such a situation is actually
strengthening the freedoms that users gain from free software.

> > As for contributor, their stated aim is the
> > following: "The goal of is to develop the
> > legal and technical infrastructure that will enable open source
> > collaborative projects to receive,
> Savannah doesn't support open source
> <>, we
> free software.
> These are different things
> <>.

Yes, the FSF has gone to great lengths to differentiate free from open source
software.  Those differences are abundantly clear.  However, that does not
bear on the point of whether or not a process that is supportive of open
source software is also supportive of free software.  The legal landscape
applies to free software just as much as it applies to open source software. 
Means of assuring legal clarity that allows protection of one may well be
beneficial to protecting the other.  There is ample evidence from the analyses
that I have cited and described in this thread to indicate that is the case. 
Furthermore, the approach I am using is not in conflict with the goal of free
software as espoused so clearly by the FSF. All releases and contributions are
forever protected; that is, in fact, the stated goal of the FSF as well as

> > the goal is to create an environment in which collaborative
> > projects can thrive
> People can collaborate in proprietary projects.  Collaboration by
> itself is not our goal, our goal is freedom.

This thread has strayed far from the assessment of whether or not a submitted
library meets the standards set out by Savannah and should be accepted.  You
have published a set of requirements and a set of guidelines that are intended
to aid the review process.  The FSF has published abundant statements
regarding what constitutes free software and the rationale behind the value of
it.  I have created a project in good faith that is appropriately licensed,
has appropriately licensed dependencies, and makes no restrictions on ongoing
development based upon either the releases or potential contributions.  There
is nothing here that is in contradiction to the guidelines that have been
provided for Savannah projects.

Please address the question at hand.

Thank you very much.


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