GnuTLS, copyright assignment, and GNU project governance
Posted Dec 20, 2012 3:49 UTC (Thu) by rsidd
Parent article: GnuTLS, copyright assignment, and GNU project governance
One could in fact argue that the more the copyright holders, the more stakeholders can pursue legal action against infringement, and the better it is for enforcement. But when the FSF decided on these policies, the legalities of all these things weren't very clear. The Linux experience shows that (1) one can still pursue infringement claims even when the copyright is held by hundreds of people, (2) a lot of companies are willing to cooperate without being beaten with a stick: infringement is usually out of ignorance. And, as RMS himself points out, the FSF's ability to enforce its copyrights is limited by manpower. In view of all this, the FSF should change its policies, and perhaps even retroactively return copyright to all past contributors, if such a thing is possible.
However, the copyright assignment problem with FSF is a symptom, not a disease. The disease is RMS -- remember Ulrich Drepper (long-time maintainer of GNU libc) calling him a "control freak and raging manic"? The "control freak" part sounds about right and has been proved again and again in the GNU project. This is not to discount his contributions and his continuing role as a conscience keeper. But his coding contributions (gcc, glibc, emacs) date to the 1980s, and for two decades he has used these, together with a bunch of utilities (most of which also existed in free versions in BSD) to claim ownership of a mythical GNU operating system and its "variant" "GNU/Linux". The OS in question uses the Linux kernel, gcc, glibc, the above utilities, and a huge amount of non-GNU software.
It is time RMS retired from administering the GNU project and focused solely on free software evangelism. Actually, he should have done that 20 years ago. But it is clear he does not trust the developers at various GNU projects to independently run their own projects.
Finally, a correction: the "gnuplot" program does not riff on the GNU name and has no connection with the GNU project. It dates back to 1986 (when the GNU project was in its infancy), and was a riff on "llamaplot", favoured by one author, and "newplot" which it turned out was already taken.
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