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Re: [AUCTeX-devel] Hello and a question about missing AUCTeX features

From: David Kastrup
Subject: Re: [AUCTeX-devel] Hello and a question about missing AUCTeX features
Date: Sun, 12 Apr 2015 20:04:24 +0200
User-agent: Gnus/5.13 (Gnus v5.13) Emacs/25.0.50 (gnu/linux)

Marcin Borkowski <address@hidden> writes:

> Oh.  This probably settles the thing.  I had some hope that AUCTeX is
> outside the scope of this FSF-papers insanity.  I don't have those
> papers signed, and unless there is some serious change (either in FSF,
> or in my ethical standpoint - either one is possible, but not very
> likely), I'm afraid I cannot sign them.

Shrug.  If you call it "your ethical standpoint", you are saying that
the FSF has behaved unethically regarding the copyrights they have been
handed for safekeeping.  Or that you expect them to do so in future.

Or that you want to reserve to yourself the right to have second
thoughts about contributing material to AUCTeX.  Untangling the
copyrighted material would be a mess if you or your direct or subsequent
heirs (for 95 years after your death) change your mind about the

The assignments have been ongoing for 30 years by now: I have yet to see
behavior by the FSF in connection with them that I'd like to call

On the other hand, I have seen a core contributor to XEmacs (which does
not generally use copyright assignments) that he would rather retract
all his work than have it relicensed under GPLv3 so that XEmacs would be
able to continue merging code from Emacs.

Presumably others managed to talk him out of it but exactly that kind of
thing can happen with shared copyrights.  And if you did not assign your
copyright, the decision ultimately will rest with people who are not
even born yet and whose only connection with your wishes is that they
will likely share some genes with you.

This idiocy of locking up persons' work far beyond their death is not
the FSF's fault.  And the FSF has contractual obligations in turn for my
copyright assignment, obligations that my heirs would not have.  So I
rather take my bet with them.  And I am definitely not betting that our
legal systems get a clue by the time I die.

Even if you consider the FSF evil incarnate, they are rather tied down
with how they can abuse the copyrights they get assigned: they must only
license under public licenses giving the general recipients the same
rights they have.  Take a look at the FSF parts of the assignment
contracts if you have the opportunity.  The easiest way to do that, of
course, is to request the assignment papers.  You will still be free to
throw them away afterwards and not go through with your
assignment/contribution.  And you are pretty sure to make your decision
based on the current version.

> Another, technical question is: assuming that I develop some
> AUCTeX-based utilities (=elisp functions), does it make sense to write
> about them here?  I do not want to give an impression that I'm somehow
> hostile towards AUCTeX developers (I'm not), or that I want to compete
> against them (I don't, and even if I did, I'm probably not competent
> enough to do it successfully anyway).  The problem is that I'm /very/
> critical towards the FSF (to the point that I do not want the FSF to
> be in posession of any piece of paper with my personal signature).

Shrug.  Without such a piece of paper, ultimately people you don't even
know and who have no contractual obligation to you will be in possession
of your copyrights eventually.  Once you are no longer there, they are
free to take your work off the net and it will get scattered,
redistributed by people who can no longer enforce the license you
intended unless they add substantial amounts of code.

And of course, you can confine your contributions at any time: a
copyright assignment does not entitle the FSF to material you never
intended to hand over.  It only concerns material you wittingly
contribute to the AUCTeX/Emacs repositories.

So it may make sense to consider whether the consequences of making your
point against the FSF are actually effective in promoting your ethics.

David Kastrup

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