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Re: zwiki copyright status

(Cc'ed to OP since I am not sure whether he subscribes to -legal.)

Bob McElrath writes:

> 1. Does the above constitute a valid copyright transfer?  Given the
> above, what is the copyright status of this project?  Are the copyrights
> still held by individual contributors or are they (in your legal
> opinion) actually held by the maintainer?

Whether it constitutes a valid copyright transfer requires making a
legal conclusion.  You need a laywer or judge for that.  None of the
mailing lists you wrote can offer legal advice.

My non-lawyer's understanding is that you need something in writing
and signed to properly assign copyright.  The exact requirements for
this will vary from country to country.  My guess is that so far you
do not have valid copyright assignments under US law.  Again, that is
a guess, not legal advice; if you want a reliable answer, you must
retain a lawyer.

The license changes described in your questions 2 and 3 require assent
from each legal copyright holder.  Once you have assigned all the
copyrights to one person (or a few people), they may be able to
relicense the software.  A copyright assignment may include language
to forbid that kind of relicensing by the assignee; again, a lawyer
specializing in copyright issues can help.

Your question 4 is underspecified.  The most likely form of attack on
an assignee is by an employer or alma mater of a contributor, and next
most likely is by some other party that has a contractual relationship
with a contributor.  You might require that a contributor's employer
or school also execute a copyright assignment to protected against
that.  However, a copyright complaint could come from almost any
direction; there is no way to protect against all possible attacks.

The complaints likely to be affected by choice of license are those
alleging hoarding of open source software (by violating their
licenses); these are relatively rare and easy to avoid.

Michael Poole

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