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Re: Thoughts on GPL's Appropriate Legal Notices? or the CPAL?

On Thu, Dec 15, 2011 at 02:43:33PM +0000, Simon McVittie wrote:
> On Wed, 14 Dec 2011 at 16:47:33 -0500, Clark C. Evans wrote:
> > the question for me is 
> > if "Powered By SugarCRM" is a reasonable author attribution.
> No, I don't think it is.
> "Copyright © 2011 John Doe" and "Copyright © 2011 SugarCRM Inc." are
> both Appropriate Legal Notices; "Incorporates code by John Doe",
> "Based on a work by SugarCRM Inc." and "Authors: John Doe, Jane Smith et al"
> all seem like reasonable author attributions.
> This is not the clearest possible example; be careful to distinguish here
> between SugarCRM, a product, and SugarCRM Inc., a legal entity. A product
> can't be an author, but perhaps a legal entity can, depending how you and
> your jurisdiction interpret the relationship between work-for-hire and
> authorship.
> Here's a clearer example with less confusing names: "Powered by
> GNU Emacs" is neither an author attribution nor an Appropriate Legal Notice;
> "© Free Software Foundation, Inc." is an Appropriate Legal Notice;
> "Author: Richard Stallman" is an author attribution.

I remember wrestling with this specific point when we were adding
these very late changes to GPLv3, around May 2007. SugarCRM was the
main company requesting this change. SugarCRM actually prepared its
"additional terms" before the final release of GPLv3, and obviously
wished to have FSF blessing for them (I believe the GPLv3 release of
SugarCRM occurred very shortly after the date the FSF released
GPLv3). As originally drafted, in fact, they were not acceptable (the
main issue being, as I recall, an incorrect maximalist understanding
of the 'Appropriate Legal Notices' requirement; I think Zarafa made
the same error -- a side issue I find troubling).

The FSF had gotten comfortable with the idea that under some
circumstances a corporate logo could be a reasonable author
attribution. Two issues concerned me: (a) even if a corporate logo was
otherwise reasonable as an author attribution, did inclusion of
"Powered by" make it unreasonable, or not an author attribution? (b)
was the 'SugarCRM' referenced in a "powered by" logo truly the
'author' of SugarCRM -- essentially what you're questioning here.

With respect to (a), when I raised some doubts, SugarCRM counsel
argued that "powered by" logos were then ubiquitous in certain sectors
of the software industry as an indicator of origin. It was clearly
true that "powered by" logos were in wide use; whether it was accurate
to say they were mostly used to indicate origin may be another
matter. In any case, it did seem to me that SugarCRM wished to use its
"powered by" logo as an indicator of origin. The FSF in any case was
convinced that a "powered by" corporate logo could itself be a
reasonable author attribution.

With respect to (b), I remember deciding that the issue didn't matter
in SugarCRM's case, because "SugarCRM" happened to be the name of the
"author" as well as the name of the product. I remember quite clearly
thinking that something like "Powered by SugarCRM" would be
inappropriate were SugarCRM not in some sense describable as the
corporate author of the software. 

You may sense that I am now not sure this late change to GPLv3 was a
correct policy decision. Nevertheless, the FSF clearly intended for
GPLv3 to legitimize the kind of additional requirements imposed by
SugarCRM in mid-2007, including limited requirements to preserve a
reasonably-sized "powered by" logo, and I believe the FSF's intent as
drafters, along with subsequent industry and community practice,
should provide some guidance on how to interpret GPLv3 today.

- Richard

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