Thanks, Jon. I've read these articles when they came out and I just now read them again for good measure.
I recognize that there are legitimate concerns, especially several of the sagas around SunOracle (which you, Jon, correctly predicted and which I at the time dismissed as FUD).
But on the other hand, I think the community consensus on lkml and lwn.net is too one-sided.
My own experience with Tahoe-LAFS is that whenever contributors would offer patches that were substantial, I would politely ask them if the for-profit company that I then worked for (allmydata.com) could please have the rights to do whatever we wanted with the patches. With two exceptions they all said "sure". The two exceptions said they didn't want to give those rights to a for-profit company, and so we said "fine". (Their two contributions were in auxiliary modules rather than in the core and they turned out to be modest.)
It didn't seem to me that anybody was deterred from contributing because of my practice of asking for this permission, and it didn't seem to me that we suffered from communication problems because of it.
My experience in this parallels the recollections of L. Peter Deutsch about Ghostscript in his interview with Stig Hackvan: http://devlinux.org/deutsch-interview.html . (Note: Raph Levien told me in personal communication that later there were problems with Ghostscript's dual-licence model which is why they changed it to be GPL-only. However, I don't remember him telling me specifically what the problems were and his recollections aren't in the public record where I can look them up and cite them.)
Re-reading Michael Meeks's article today gives me more reservations about his position. For example, he says it took a few weeks to get his first copyright assignment to FSF and then his patch languished without review or merge for years, which deterred him from contributing further. Then he says that he wondered if the delay due to copyright assignment partially caused the larger delay. Well maybe, maybe not! The real deterrent was the years of not-accepting his patch, not the weeks of waiting for paperwork, and failure to review a patch happens far too often, with or without copyright assignment.
For another example, he cites the existence of XEmacs as a demonstration that some people prefer not to assign copyright (in this case to FSF for GNU Emacs). Okay, that's fair, but at the same time the greater rate of contributions to GNU Emacs and the more vibrant community of contributors must be taken as a demonstration that some people are fine assigning copyright and this doesn't necessarily derail a project.
I just think we don't need to be doctrinaire about this. Maybe one size doesn't fit all. Maybe it's okay if some projects try different copyright assignment policies.
Almost all open source projects fail to attract any contributors at all, and that's true regardless of whether they require copyright assignment or not. A few open source projects attract lots of contribution, and both approaches are present in that set too.
People have asked me how I succeeded at attracting contributions to Tahoe-LAFS. My answers are: (a) we just got lucky, (b) we had (and have) an exciting and potentially important system with working code (which was more due to Brian Warner than to me), and (c) our community is friendly and polite.