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Re: Contributor agreements and copyright assignment

Russ Allbery <rra@debian.org> writes:
> 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?

Seen and signed :-)

> 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.

Yes.  It is pretty clear that the FSF as such cannot redistribute your
work under another license.  I most certainly may be wrong, and likely
is, but I still believe there still is a tiny possiblity that the
copyright assignment is transferred as an asset, without being bound by
the other parts of the contract.

> 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.)

Good.  Let's hope it won't be necessary.

>> 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).

Yes, that is an important problem with such policies.


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