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

Ton Voon ton.voon at opsera.com
Wed May 6 19:24:44 CEST 2009

On 6 May 2009, at 15:34, Sascha.Runschke at gfkl.com wrote:

>> Our policy has nothing to do with "GPL fanatism" or the like.   
>> Having a
>> single copyright holder can simplify things, that's all.
> I agree to a certain extend.
> Though the _need_ to give away the copyright to the team can make
> things harder, too. Especially for all of us who work for companies
> using nagios and writing code/extensions/plugins for it. I cannot
> give away something which doesn't belong to me. Code I produce
> during my work is owned by my company. And it's not like I'm
> alone in that boat - lots of people are in the same position.
> By ruling out any submission without relinquishing the copyright
> you also miss on a lot of submissions at all. I considered submitting
> some plugins for a long time and have even been doing some work on
> refurbishing them so they are usable by the public without the need
> to hack things inside the plugins - but I can stop that work now.
> Big question is:
> Does the "benefit" of that restriction beat the "disadvantage" of
> missing a lot of possibilities for new code submission?
> I sincerely doubt that...

There's lot of good discussion on this thread, but I just want to home  
in on the issue re "code is owned by my company so I cannot contribute".

Let's assume the Nagios Plugin team does accept dual copyrights, and  
your company, Company A, has a non-trivial (less than 10%, but greater  
than 5 lines) change made and want to retain copyright. Let's say the  
change gets into the core code with those copyrights intact.

Then let's say Company X takes Nagios Plugin code, rips out all  
copyright statements, and then proceeds to call the code their own (by  
the way, this actually happened a few years back). Legally, its much  
more difficult for the Nagios Plugin team to pursue infringement - we  
have to contact all copyright owners and get agreement before any  
action is taken. This is why we want the simplicity.

But let's concentrate on Company A - what's happened to their  
"intellectual property"? Can they now have a say in how the Nagios  
Plugin team responds to this? I guess they could, but they have more  
important things to do, like running their company. What's happened to  
the code they've released? Well, now everyone can see it, it can get  
incorporated anywhere that there is a fork of the plugins code. The  
only difference with the Nagios Plugin team is our integrity of  
allowing the dual copyright in the first place - anyone ripping code  
is not working to the same standards.

The fact of the matter is that Company A is not going to get any  
additional benefit from contributing their code upstream to a project.  
Their "ownership" of their changes will not get them a seat at the  

(If you do want a seat at the table, you can - join the team and  
contribute. I am more than happy to take on new members that will  
devote their time to the project. I listen to a lot of opinions, but I  
value the opinions of the people doing the work a lot more.)

So what does Company A get out of contributing? They get their changes  
evaluated by our team. They get their changes tested by a wider  
audience. They get their code running against our test servers. They  
get reduced support overhead as they no longer need to continue  
patching their version (which may break in future). None of these have  
anything to do with copyright.

As an example, my company, Opsera, make changes to Nagios. As required  
by GPL, we publish the changes we do to Nagios (http://trac.opsview.org/browser/trunk/opsview-base/Makefile#L256 
). We list all the patches we make against a virgin Nagios tarball.  
Some of our patches do say "Copyright Opsera", but with the caveat  
that if it gets into the core distribution, then we give the copyright  
to Ethan (http://trac.opsview.org/browser/trunk/opsview-base/patches/nsca_alternate.t#L6 
). The benefit to Opsera is that we are perceived as (1) experts, (2)  
good citizens. And if it gets into core code - great! That's one less  
thing to patch and worry about. There's no way Opsera would claim to  
be "authors of Nagios".

If your company doesn't want to contribute, that's their prerogative  
and the licence permits that. But I'm willing to bet that a change in  
policy to dual copyrights will not make a difference.

If you want permission from your company to contribute, you need to  
make the argument with them.


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