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Re: Contributor agreements and copyright assignment

Bjørn Mork <bjorn@mork.no> writes:

> IANAL, but I believe you are wrong there.  You give them much wider
> rights than this by assigning the copyright to the FSF.  The copyright
> owner is free to relicense the work in any way they want.

Have you see the copyright assignment contract that you make with the FSF?
It would be a breach of that contract for them to relicense the work in
any way they want.  The contract really does try to address this issue.

The assignment isn't a unilateral act.  The FSF promises to do things in
return for the assignment.

Now, bankruptcy is indeed a potential problem, since bankruptcy courts can
do all sorts of things, including dissolve or partly dissolve contracts.
But even in that admittedly dangerous situation, I do think there's a fair
amount of legal protection involved.  (And one gets some additional legal
protection from the FSF being a non-profit under US law.)

> I still don't think issues like this should prevent anyone from
> contributing to any currently open source project.  Yes, it will be
> frustrating if your work ends up being part of some proprietary
> software, but it's even worse if you cannot contribute to these projects
> out of fear of that happening.

The main issue for some of us is not so much the ethical objections to
these sorts of agreements but rather the fact that our employers flatly
are not interested in signing anything of the sort, ever, with anyone.
Much of my free software work is done as part of my day job, and my
employer is unwilling to sign any of these agreements (but is fine with me
releasing my work under free software licenses).

Russ Allbery (rra@debian.org)               <http://www.eyrie.org/~eagle/>

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