[Nagiosplug-devel] Antwort: Re: Antwort: Re: Contributing patches and retaining copyright

Alain Williams addw at phcomp.co.uk
Wed May 6 15:17:23 CEST 2009

On Wed, May 06, 2009 at 02:35:34PM +0200, Sascha.Runschke at gfkl.com wrote:
> > We're following advice given by FSF: http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.html#AssignCopyright

Basically they are saying:

	If we are the copyright owners then we can legally bash anyone who
	infringes the copyright.

I can see their point, it makes life simpler.

However: if that situation were to arise with nagios plugins, then
there is no reason why the different plugin owners could not give
Ton Voon/whoever the legal right to protect (ie sue for infringing use
of the code).

The point about it being easier if the owner/maintainer were to abandon it
is wrong - it is GPL, there is nothing to stop you forking it - if the
owner abandons it or not.
It would, however, be considered impolite to fork if the owner/maintainer
continues to do the job and in a way that is not too different from what
the 'general population of users' want - which may mean accepting
decisions that the owner makes that you may not agree with.

> > If you have contributed some code to the project, we thank you and 
> > we make sure you (and/or your company) get credit. But in reality, 
> > the team take on the responsibility to make sure that the code 
> > continues to work correctly. Not just at commit time, but forever. 

With a responsive owner then you can submit patches back to him.
If/when he abandons it - you fork your copy/version.

> Well, the above FAQ entry does not mention a single word about
> "ease of maintainance of code", but instead it's all about those
> GPL fanatics and their lawyers. While I like the GPL, I do not
> like the fanatism some of the "open source evangalists" come
> around like. No offense here against anyone involved in this
> discussion - I do have some special people of the GPL public
> in mind, but I don't like calling names.

> > I think this continued responsibility should be reflected in the 
> > ownership of the code.
> > 
> > The upshot for you (and/or your company) is that you no longer 
> > maintain that code anymore - that has to be worth something!
> I don't think that continued responsibility has _anything_ to do
> with ownership - at least not with GPLed code.

Well, almost.
If someone owns they code they can change the license into something else
if they wish. The code that was GPLed cannot be taken away, ie you can't
stop anyone using/distributing/... it up to the point that the license
changed. However: once the license changed (perhaps to something not open)
and development continued then users have a choice:

1) continue using the code up to when the license changed, live with any bugs
2) use the post license change code for the extra goodies and perhaps pay a fee
   to the owner, if required
3) fork the code (as of license change) and develop in parallel, perhaps emulate
   the festures in (2).

This is why code with multiple owners is best ... it prevents someone doing (2).
If (and this is a thought experiment, not an accusation/...) Von Toon/Nagios
Enterprises/... were to be bought by <insert large nasty company name> then
the Nagios community would be better protected by multiple copyright.

What might be considered is dual ownership: this would set out what the various
parties could do with the code. I would not feel happy if code that I had
contributed for free were now proprietary & being used to make someone else a profit.

Alain Williams
Linux/GNU Consultant - Mail systems, Web sites, Networking, Programmer, IT Lecturer.
+44 (0) 787 668 0256  http://www.phcomp.co.uk/
Parliament Hill Computers Ltd. Registration Information: http://www.phcomp.co.uk/contact.php
Past chairman of UKUUG: http://www.ukuug.org/
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