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Re: Group Copyright

Thomas Bushnell, BSG <tb@becket.net>:

> > Lots of free software projects are developed by fairly large groups.  It
> > seems to be a common practice for everyone who contributes to a project to
> > be added to the Copyright notice at the top of the file.  Is this actually
> > wise?  IIRC, should it become necessary, legal action cannot be taken by
> > just one or two of the Copyright holders - it has to be everybody.
> It's unwise, though in general you don't need everyone to agree to
> bring an action; each person has independent rights over the part of
> it that's theirs.  But it is very likely to greatly complicate such
> things.
> An excellent solution is to assign the rights to the FSF or another
> similar organization.

On the other hand, having a large number of copyright holders of a GPL
project can be an advantage: it means the project cannot easily be
bought out or have its licence changed or abused, as you would need
the consent of every copyright holder.

There was a relevant example recently. I forget the details, but
somebody put a binary-only device driver into the kernel. Linus said
it was all right, but other kernel authors objected strongly, and I
think their objections had a good effect in that case.

In practice, most people working on free software projects can't be
bothered with assigning copyrights, so everyone who contributes is a
copyright holder, whether their name is mentioned or not. After a
while it become difficult to trace all the authors, which means you
couldn't assign the rights to the FSF even if you wanted to. So we'd
better hope there isn't a legal problem with "group copyright" (and I
don't think there is).


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