GnuTLS, copyright assignment, and GNU project governance
Posted Dec 23, 2012 5:16 UTC (Sun) by rfontana
In reply to: GnuTLS, copyright assignment, and GNU project governance
Parent article: GnuTLS, copyright assignment, and GNU project governance
Dismissing relicencing as a rare and unneeded benefit, I believe is quite short sighted and wrong. Consider effectively indefinite copyright, our legislature more and more taking up laws governing technology, new technologies, and eventually people dying and becoming truly inaccessible to agree to a licence change.
My sense of the article was that the author was saying that relicensing was a dubious benefit of copyright assignment for GNU projects in particular, since such projects invariably use "or later" licensing and it is probably quite rare for the FSF to relicense its copyrighted code from (a) GPL to LGPL, (b) GPL/LGPL to noncopyleft, or (c) GPL/LGPL to some non-GNU copyleft license. There are known historical examples of (a) (though I have a feeling that such examples are typically ancient) and I suspect there have been rare cases of (b); I'd be rather shocked if (c) had ever occurred.
Copyright assignment is not the only policy that can be used to ease relicensing, but that's a whole nother topic. I've come to think that, for all its cultural pain, copyright assigment may actually be more honest than such alternative instruments as CLAs or, say, requiring contributions to a copyleft-outbound project to be licensed in under a noncopyleft license. These alternative instruments are troubling to me as they seem to feed off a prevailing irrational sentiment among many developers that giving up formal ownership (while retaining a license allowing most of what ownership gave you) is somehow worse than retaining formal ownership while giving some inbound entity much of what ownership transfer would have given it, including power to relicense.
The best policy IMO is inbound=outbound and acceptance that possible future relicensing may be a bit of a hassle for copyleft projects. In general it's a problem that has been exaggerated by people on all sides of disputes over contribution policies.
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