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Re: Copyright arrangements for a web project

On 12/12/2013 06:44 AM, Ian Jackson wrote:

(This is a bit off-topic for the Debian list; I hope people won't mind
me asking opinions here though.)

I'm being asked for advice on encouraging contributions by the people
behind a couple of "community-ish" websites which I use regularly.
There's a lot of work to be done to improve the attractiveness to
contributors, and one of the things that needs fixing is the

It's my view that a community software project ought to use a copyleft
licence nowadays.  But two questions arise:

* It would clearly be sensible to appoint a licence steward in the
   GPLv3 sense.  If the current project leadership lack free software
   credibility, could SPI serve as licence steward ?

What do you mean steward? If you are asking if we should guide them to use the GPLv3, I would vote against that. SPI (as a corporation) should not value what Free Software license over another.

If you are asking if we could be the entity that the license denotes as the licensor, I don't see a problem with that.

   What instructions/directions would SPI take ?  The goal would have
   to include the SPI Board making the value judgement, not just
   deferring to the project's leadership - that is, the SPI Board would
   make the decision itself in what it sees as the interests of the
   project and the free software community.

I don't think this is a board decision. I think we should empower members within a committee to make those decisions.

* Should the project give the licence steward the power to change the
   public licence unilaterally in the future in ways other than just
   upgrading to newer versions ?  I think the answer is probably "yes"
   because the licensing landscape for web applications isn't settled
   yet.  Is this a good idea and how should it be done ?

The licensor can not change the license unless the licensor also owns the copyright for contributions. Contributions are owned by their authors. Therefor this is a rather moot point, unless your idea is to require copyright assignment as well as license assignment ala FSF, Canonical, MySQL.

   Ideally it would be good to avoid requiring copyright assignment to
   the licence steward.  Can this be achieved by some text in the
   standard licence rubric eg

     This program is free software: you can redistribute it and/or
     modify it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as
     published by the Free Software Foundation, version 3, or (at your
     option) any other general public free software licence publicly
     endorsed for PROJECT by Software in the Public Interest Inc
     (i.e. SPI is a proxy as described in s14 of the GNU GPLv3 but SPI
     is not limited to endorsing only future versions of the GNU GPL).

I think this re-defines the point of a license. What I read that to say is, if I want to use project X, I can use it as any license that project X likes or GPLv3. However, I am a BSD License advocate, if project X doesn't like BSD (even though it is a Free license), I can't use it? That is bogus. I would let the standard license terms stand on their own.

   (Along presumably with some Signed-off-by system for contributions.)

* Personally I'm an AGPLv3 proponent.  The system ought to be suitable
   for AGPLv3 provided that its submodules are AGPLv3-compatible (and
   if they aren't, then we can probably write a licence exception).
   (The main program I'm thinking of here is a Ruby on Rails
   application.)  What are people's feelings about AGPLv3 ?

It is a license. I don't have feelings about it one way or another. However, as I noted earlier. I do not think it is SPI's responsibility to prefer any Free license over another.


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