Copyright Assignments & the Document Foundation

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Charles-H. Schulz Charles-H. Schulz
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Copyright Assignments & the Document Foundation

Hello all, (apologies for this quite long email)

I would like to discuss a bit the position of the Document Foundation
with respect to copyright assignments. I understand there have been
questions here and there about this topic, and it's perhaps necessary
to explain our position.

We initially agreed not to request the assignment of copyright for code
contributions, and we can only witness that it's been so far the right
decision: Many developers have joined us and contribute to the
LibreOffice codebase or extend it by localizing it and testing
LibreOffice.

We knew ever since the beginning that imposing a copyright assignment
would be a big minus for developers. For one thing, it represents
complexity for developers, and on the other hand, the experience we had
with the copyright assignment under the stewardship of Oracle speaks
for itself. It is also worth noting that in practical terms, the bulk
of the LibreOffice codebase, that is, everything except our new
patches, our new code, the localizations, the hacks, etc. is still
under copyright from Oracle. Also, as a warning of sorts, keep in mind
that copyright assignments are not the same thing as software licenses.

I am going to write below some of the reasons why I also think that not
having a copyright assignment is either a good idea or does not really
matter at all.

1) no one has yet been able to clearly articulate what advantage we
would gain by having one for TDF. For instance, it's not at all clear,
and is in fact quite likely than any major software vendor would be
shunned away from our project if we had a copyright assignment: it
would basically mean that we would own their "intellectual property",
and I'm not so sure it flies well with corporate lawyers in charge of
protecting it.

2) the state of the art in terms of such assignments is changing
rapidly. We stand at a corner of FOSS history, where the realization
that projects led by one vendor only tend to fail, unless the vendor
itself puts others in charge of the projects and gives free reins to
its community. Look at what's happening with Fedora with respect to
its ditching of copyright assignments. Experiences in other projects
show that the "protection" that such assignments provide is at best
minimal, and most of the times quickly abused, most of the time by its
steward.

3) copyright assignments are not blocking the reuse of code or
anything similar; there are several reasons for this, but one which is
practical: a few years ago, you had a central branch with a tool like
CVS. In the CVS (and even SVN) there was a real hierarchy. There was my
branch and you were contributing to it. Now, many projects use similar
tools, except that they are in fact quite different: they are
distributed: there are as many different copies as there are
developers; and the choice is social (people agree on what's best or
respect the guy who has the biggest beard or something like this). So
people create a big heap of code, and if they want to create their own
stuff in their own corner, they do it; they don't deal with
hierarchies, and paperwork. If they're not happy, they leave. That's
how it works today. BTW; LibreOffice uses Git, which is a distributed
SCM.  

4) the notion that we cannot change license because we don't have
copyright assignment needs to be put to rest once and for all today.
There is a very simple explanation with respect to this issue; ask any
lawyer and he/she will confirm this: Sun/Oracle has licensed the OOo
code under LGPL v3. They could have put "LGPL v3 or later" or "LGPL v3
or +". But they didn't. And that's what makes impossible to turn OOo
into a different license unless the sole copyright owner agrees to
change it, which is unlikely with Oracle.

5) based on my 4) point, you can object that without a copyright
assignment, we would be stuck with the same license for ever, since we
would not be able to decide to change the license of our lines of
code.  In fact, the problem lies in the heap of code we would have to
change in order to be able to turn the whole code into something
else... but here's what the developers of LibreOffice did: they simply
didn't change the license, they started to license their own changes
under the same license (LGPL V3)... and added : "or +" after it. So the
license will change or at least be modified that way. But what if we
want to change the whole thing? well, we'll contact all the authors who
got their code into LibreOffice. We have their emails, etc. And if some
of them don't agree with us, then perhaps we'll have to redevelop their
own code.

6) there is also a confusion between copyright assignment and copyright
protection. True, when you assign code to the FSF, you do expect to be
legally protected against unpleasant surprises. But developers can also
decide they don't like the FSF so you will have lost your
effective control over what you develop. One might object, then, that
if someone sues you, you would be better off with an entity
protecting you. Usually, the patent trolls and the suers on code of
this world don't attack individuals. They attack entities with money.
On to the money question...

7) what if we had money to protect our code? Well, we may still not want
to lose developers for that. But we could do something else: acting as
the defenders of all the copyright owners. And then, it does not
require a copyright assignment, it only requires, if a problem arises,
that enough contributors or all the contributors signs a small paper
saying "The Document Foundation is representing us legally in xyz case".
That's all.

Your questions are welcome, but I hope it helped clarified this
question.

--
Charles-H. Schulz,
Founding member of
The Document Foundation.

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BRM BRM
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Re: Copyright Assignments & the Document Foundation

----- Original Message ----

> From: Charles-H. Schulz <[hidden email]>
> 4) the notion that we cannot change license  because we don't have
> copyright assignment needs to be put to rest once and  for all today.
> There is a very simple explanation with respect to this issue;  ask any
> lawyer and he/she will confirm this: Sun/Oracle has licensed the  OOo
> code under LGPL v3. They could have put "LGPL v3 or later" or "LGPL  v3
> or +". But they didn't. And that's what makes impossible to turn  OOo
> into a different license unless the sole copyright owner agrees  to
> change it, which is unlikely with Oracle.

While I like that TDF is not requiring copyright assignment, there is one point
missing here that is in its favor.

True, Sun/Oracle has currently licensed OOo under LGPLv3.
But what's to stop them from going to LGPLv4 when it is available?
Absolutely nothing. At which point TDF may not be able to accept changes from
OOo any longer assuming it is still possible at that time
without updating the LO license to be the same or inclusive therein.

Perhaps the way around that is to require those contributing TDF to use the "or
later" language; though some may not want to.

Even without copyright assignment the only thing standing in the way of changing
the license - whether to LGPLv4 or even GPLv3 or whatever else -
is getting the permission of _all_ the copyright holders.

>From what I understand this is already impossible to do under Linux due to
deaths of at least one contributor.

The main reason projects move towards having copyright assignment is to be able
to keep the licensing language up to date - to use the latest GPL/LGPL license
due to exactly the issue of how hard it is to track down every contributor and
get their permission in should they want to change the license. At present the
bulk of the code is held by Oracle and such can be most easily changed by
garnishing permission from one entity; though that will not be true for long for
TDF without copyright assignment - in which case there would be two - TDF and
Oracle.

The Linux Kernel guys don't require it; KDE E.v. does. Both methods have their
pros and cons.

Ultimately, as long as TDF and the community are aware and accept what may occur
should Oracle radically change the license it doesn't really matter.

Just pointing out it's a little more complex than Oracle is not likely to change
the license since they very well could. Fortunately they cannot do it
retroactively, at least with the LGPL.

$0.02

Ben

P.S. IANAL and such disclaimers. This is just from what I have learned from
years of watching the community and the licensing topics.


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Gianluca Turconi-3 Gianluca Turconi-3
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Re: Copyright Assignments & the Document Foundation

In reply to this post by Charles-H. Schulz
Charles-H. Schulz wrote:
> 4) the notion that we cannot change license because we don't have
> copyright assignment needs to be put to rest once and for all today.
> There is a very simple explanation with respect to this issue; ask any
> lawyer and he/she will confirm this: Sun/Oracle has licensed the OOo
> code under LGPL v3. They could have put "LGPL v3 or later" or "LGPL v3
> or +". But they didn't. And that's what makes impossible to turn OOo
> into a different license unless the sole copyright owner agrees to
> change it, which is unlikely with Oracle.

In LGPL v3, clause 2, letter b) is written: "then you may convey a copy
of the modified version: [...] under the GNU ***GPL***, with none of the
additional permissions of this License applicable to that copy.".

It's the "LGPL to GPL upgrade clause" of LGPL 2.1 revisited.

A choice is still possible, between LGPL and GPL.

I don't want to start a religion war, so I'm just stating that a
licensing change it's still possible. :)

About the rest of your message, I largely agree with you, although a
written statement from code contributors in which it's written "I'm the
only author and I own the copyright and any other derived right related
to my contributed code" would be really a good thing before starting a
"TDF labelled" distribution of LibO.

It'd be to prevent distribution liability for TDF or its founders or its
members in case of unlawful contribution from third parties.

You know it and you've written it too: lawyers love deep pockets when
suing... ;-)

Regards,
--
Gianluca Turconi

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Charles-H. Schulz Charles-H. Schulz
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Re: Copyright Assignments & the Document Foundation

In reply to this post by BRM
Hello BRM,


Le Thu, 28 Oct 2010 07:12:59 -0700 (PDT),
BRM <[hidden email]> a écrit :

> ----- Original Message ----
>
> > From: Charles-H. Schulz <[hidden email]>
> > 4) the notion that we cannot change license  because we don't have
> > copyright assignment needs to be put to rest once and  for all
> > today. There is a very simple explanation with respect to this
> > issue;  ask any lawyer and he/she will confirm this: Sun/Oracle has
> > licensed the  OOo code under LGPL v3. They could have put "LGPL v3
> > or later" or "LGPL  v3 or +". But they didn't. And that's what
> > makes impossible to turn  OOo into a different license unless the
> > sole copyright owner agrees  to change it, which is unlikely with
> > Oracle.
>
> While I like that TDF is not requiring copyright assignment, there is
> one point missing here that is in its favor.
>
> True, Sun/Oracle has currently licensed OOo under LGPLv3.
> But what's to stop them from going to LGPLv4 when it is available?
> Absolutely nothing. At which point TDF may not be able to accept
> changes from OOo any longer assuming it is still possible at that time
> without updating the LO license to be the same or inclusive therein.
>
> Perhaps the way around that is to require those contributing TDF to
> use the "or later" language; though some may not want to.
>
> Even without copyright assignment the only thing standing in the way
> of changing the license - whether to LGPLv4 or even GPLv3 or whatever
> else - is getting the permission of _all_ the copyright holders.

Good objection indeed! Actually, the problem is partly solved, since we
now license our software under "LGPL v3 or later". At least it would be
solved for the LGPL side of things. But my real answer here though, is
perhaps more provocative: if Oracle changes the licence, do we really
care? for the 3.3 we stick to the codebase of OOo, but I'm unsure we'll
stick that much  to it in further releases. In fact, I can already
point out, looking at our development activity, that we're not taking
the path of being "OpenOffice.org, just recompiled by the community". I
think as the time will go by, we will diverge more and more and end up
becoming quite different software.

>
> >From what I understand this is already impossible to do under Linux
> >due to
> deaths of at least one contributor.

Yes, and in this case a rewrite is needed.

>
> The main reason projects move towards having copyright assignment is
> to be able to keep the licensing language up to date - to use the
> latest GPL/LGPL license due to exactly the issue of how hard it is to
> track down every contributor and get their permission in should they
> want to change the license. At present the bulk of the code is held
> by Oracle and such can be most easily changed by garnishing
> permission from one entity; though that will not be true for long for
> TDF without copyright assignment - in which case there would be two -
> TDF and Oracle.
>
> The Linux Kernel guys don't require it; KDE E.v. does. Both methods
> have their pros and cons.
>
> Ultimately, as long as TDF and the community are aware and accept
> what may occur should Oracle radically change the license it doesn't
> really matter.


exactly.

>
> Just pointing out it's a little more complex than Oracle is not
> likely to change the license since they very well could. Fortunately
> they cannot do it retroactively, at least with the LGPL.
>
> $0.02
>

Thanks!

Charles.

> Ben
>
> P.S. IANAL and such disclaimers. This is just from what I have
> learned from years of watching the community and the licensing topics.
>
>



--
Charles-H. Schulz
Membre du Comité exécutif
The Document Foundation.

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BRM BRM
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Re: Copyright Assignments & the Document Foundation

----- Original Message ----

> From: Charles-H. Schulz <[hidden email]>
> Le Thu, 28 Oct 2010 07:12:59 -0700 (PDT),
> BRM <[hidden email]> a écrit  :
> > > From: Charles-H.  Schulz <[hidden email]>
> >  > 4) the notion that we cannot change license  because we don't  have
> > > copyright assignment needs to be put to rest once and   for all
> > > today. There is a very simple explanation with respect to  this
> > > issue;  ask any lawyer and he/she will confirm this:  Sun/Oracle has
> > > licensed the  OOo code under LGPL v3. They  could have put "LGPL v3
> > > or later" or "LGPL  v3 or +". But they  didn't. And that's what
> > > makes impossible to turn  OOo into a  different license unless the
> > > sole copyright owner agrees  to  change it, which is unlikely with
> > > Oracle.
> >
> > While I  like that TDF is not requiring copyright assignment, there is
> > one point  missing here that is in its favor.
> >
> > True, Sun/Oracle has  currently licensed OOo under LGPLv3.
> > But what's to stop them from going  to LGPLv4 when it is available?
> > Absolutely nothing. At which point TDF  may not be able to accept
> > changes from OOo any longer assuming it is  still possible at that time
> > without updating the LO license to be the  same or inclusive therein.
> >
> > Perhaps the way around that is to  require those contributing TDF to
> > use the "or later" language; though  some may not want to.
> >
> > Even without copyright assignment the  only thing standing in the way
> > of changing the license - whether to  LGPLv4 or even GPLv3 or whatever
> > else - is getting the permission of  _all_ the copyright holders.
>
> Good objection indeed! Actually, the problem  is partly solved, since we
> now license our software under "LGPL v3 or later".  At least it would be
> solved for the LGPL side of things. But my real answer  here though, is
> perhaps more provocative: if Oracle changes the licence, do  we really
> care? for the 3.3 we stick to the codebase of OOo, but I'm unsure  we'll
> stick that much  to it in further releases. In fact, I can  already
> point out, looking at our development activity, that we're not  taking
> the path of being "OpenOffice.org, just recompiled by the  community". I
> think as the time will go by, we will diverge more and more and  end up
> becoming quite different software.
>

For the most part, probably not. Though all code coming from OOo is LGPLv3 only,
you might for whatever code is shared if LO was to relicense its code under
LGPLv4 or later at some point, if only to gain the advantages of the new version
of the license from the FSF.

And I in no way intended to make it sound as if LO is just a community recompile
of OOo; rather, it is the community extension of OOo. Kind of similar to how
Andrew Morton and Linus Torvalds both had their own development trees and
releases of the Linux Kernel. Linus' is the official kernel, but it equally
competed with the mm branch maintained by Andrew Morton. The mm branch typically
had everything in Linus' branch plus some other stuff - extra patches, etc. -
that Linus is not ready or willing to accept yet.[1] LO, at least at this
juncture, is very similar with OOo - it's inherited a huge code base that has to
be maintained, and is adding its own stuff. It is wise to incorporate the
changes from OOo for any overlap there is if not only so there is a lower level
of support required for LO until those parts get written out, etc. The bigger
difference here is that LO has to worry about user interface stuff - where
Andrew Morton does not. Only time will truly tell how the two products (LO and
OOo) diverge; but we shouldn't shut the door or exclude the possibility of
continued merges from OOo.

As a developer I certainly do like the no copyright assignment; as an
organization looking to be able to enforce and update the license as necessary
to maintain the product I would prefer the copyright assignment. As I said
earlier, both have their pros and cons.

I wonder if anyone has ever investigated a middle-ground - a contract between
the organization and the developer such that the developer allows the
organization to update the license so long as the license meets certain
conditions - so the organization can be pro-active concerning license changes,
yet doing so without assigning copyright. While IANAL it seems there might be a
way to meet both needs.

Again, just $0.02.

Ben

[1] mm tree was closed down several years back. So it's no longer current, but
there are still numerous other layers in the Linux development model that do
just this still.


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Thorsten Behrens Thorsten Behrens
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Re: Copyright Assignments & the Document Foundation

In reply to this post by BRM
BRM wrote:
> The Linux Kernel guys don't require it; KDE E.v. does. Both methods have their
> pros and cons.
>
Hi, just a very small correction here - KDE e.V. does not require
it, it is optional to sign their FLA (a trait shared among other
FLOSS projects, e.g. the Python Foundation acts similarly).

Cheers,

-- Thorsten

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BRM BRM
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Re: Copyright Assignments & the Document Foundation

----- Original Message ----

> From: Thorsten Behrens <[hidden email]>
> To: [hidden email]
> Sent: Thu, October 28, 2010 5:37:19 PM
> Subject: Re: [tdf-discuss] Copyright Assignments & the Document Foundation
>
> BRM wrote:
> > The Linux Kernel guys don't require it; KDE E.v. does. Both  methods have
>their
>
> > pros and cons.
> >
> Hi, just a very small  correction here - KDE e.V. does not require
> it, it is optional to sign their  FLA (a trait shared among other
> FLOSS projects, e.g. the Python Foundation  acts similarly).
>

Thank you for the correction. I thought they did from what I had read a while
back.
Yet another method to accomplish the same goal.

Ben


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todd rme todd rme
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Re: Copyright Assignments & the Document Foundation

In reply to this post by Charles-H. Schulz
On Thu, Oct 28, 2010 at 9:18 AM, Charles-H. Schulz <
[hidden email]> wrote:

> Hello all, (apologies for this quite long email)
>
> I would like to discuss a bit the position of the Document Foundation
> with respect to copyright assignments. I understand there have been
> questions here and there about this topic, and it's perhaps necessary
> to explain our position.
>
> We initially agreed not to request the assignment of copyright for code
> contributions, and we can only witness that it's been so far the right
> decision: Many developers have joined us and contribute to the
> LibreOffice codebase or extend it by localizing it and testing
> LibreOffice.
>
> We knew ever since the beginning that imposing a copyright assignment
> would be a big minus for developers. For one thing, it represents
> complexity for developers, and on the other hand, the experience we had
> with the copyright assignment under the stewardship of Oracle speaks
> for itself. It is also worth noting that in practical terms, the bulk
> of the LibreOffice codebase, that is, everything except our new
> patches, our new code, the localizations, the hacks, etc. is still
> under copyright from Oracle. Also, as a warning of sorts, keep in mind
> that copyright assignments are not the same thing as software licenses.
>
> I am going to write below some of the reasons why I also think that not
> having a copyright assignment is either a good idea or does not really
> matter at all.
>
> 1) no one has yet been able to clearly articulate what advantage we
> would gain by having one for TDF. For instance, it's not at all clear,
> and is in fact quite likely than any major software vendor would be
> shunned away from our project if we had a copyright assignment: it
> would basically mean that we would own their "intellectual property",
> and I'm not so sure it flies well with corporate lawyers in charge of
> protecting it.
>
> 2) the state of the art in terms of such assignments is changing
> rapidly. We stand at a corner of FOSS history, where the realization
> that projects led by one vendor only tend to fail, unless the vendor
> itself puts others in charge of the projects and gives free reins to
> its community. Look at what's happening with Fedora with respect to
> its ditching of copyright assignments. Experiences in other projects
> show that the "protection" that such assignments provide is at best
> minimal, and most of the times quickly abused, most of the time by its
> steward.
>
> 3) copyright assignments are not blocking the reuse of code or
> anything similar; there are several reasons for this, but one which is
> practical: a few years ago, you had a central branch with a tool like
> CVS. In the CVS (and even SVN) there was a real hierarchy. There was my
> branch and you were contributing to it. Now, many projects use similar
> tools, except that they are in fact quite different: they are
> distributed: there are as many different copies as there are
> developers; and the choice is social (people agree on what's best or
> respect the guy who has the biggest beard or something like this). So
> people create a big heap of code, and if they want to create their own
> stuff in their own corner, they do it; they don't deal with
> hierarchies, and paperwork. If they're not happy, they leave. That's
> how it works today. BTW; LibreOffice uses Git, which is a distributed
> SCM.
>
> 4) the notion that we cannot change license because we don't have
> copyright assignment needs to be put to rest once and for all today.
> There is a very simple explanation with respect to this issue; ask any
> lawyer and he/she will confirm this: Sun/Oracle has licensed the OOo
> code under LGPL v3. They could have put "LGPL v3 or later" or "LGPL v3
> or +". But they didn't. And that's what makes impossible to turn OOo
> into a different license unless the sole copyright owner agrees to
> change it, which is unlikely with Oracle.
>
> 5) based on my 4) point, you can object that without a copyright
> assignment, we would be stuck with the same license for ever, since we
> would not be able to decide to change the license of our lines of
> code.  In fact, the problem lies in the heap of code we would have to
> change in order to be able to turn the whole code into something
> else... but here's what the developers of LibreOffice did: they simply
> didn't change the license, they started to license their own changes
> under the same license (LGPL V3)... and added : "or +" after it. So the
> license will change or at least be modified that way. But what if we
> want to change the whole thing? well, we'll contact all the authors who
> got their code into LibreOffice. We have their emails, etc. And if some
> of them don't agree with us, then perhaps we'll have to redevelop their
> own code.
>
> 6) there is also a confusion between copyright assignment and copyright
> protection. True, when you assign code to the FSF, you do expect to be
> legally protected against unpleasant surprises. But developers can also
> decide they don't like the FSF so you will have lost your
> effective control over what you develop. One might object, then, that
> if someone sues you, you would be better off with an entity
> protecting you. Usually, the patent trolls and the suers on code of
> this world don't attack individuals. They attack entities with money.
> On to the money question...
>
> 7) what if we had money to protect our code? Well, we may still not want
> to lose developers for that. But we could do something else: acting as
> the defenders of all the copyright owners. And then, it does not
> require a copyright assignment, it only requires, if a problem arises,
> that enough contributors or all the contributors signs a small paper
> saying "The Document Foundation is representing us legally in xyz case".
> That's all.
>
> Your questions are welcome, but I hope it helped clarified this
> question.
>


I understand not requiring any form of copyright assignment, but what about
voluntary copyright assignment?

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Cor Nouws Cor Nouws
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Re: Copyright Assignments & the Document Foundation

In reply to this post by BRM
Hi all,

BRM wrote (29-10-10 00:41)

>
>> From: Thorsten Behrens<[hidden email]>
>>
>> BRM wrote:
>>> The Linux Kernel guys don't require it; KDE E.v. does. Both  methods have
>>> their pros and cons.
>>
>> Hi, just a very small  correction here - KDE e.V. does not require
>> it, it is optional to sign their  FLA (a trait shared among other
>> FLOSS projects, e.g. the Python Foundation  acts similarly).
>
> Thank you for the correction. I thought they did from what I had read a while
> back.
> Yet another method to accomplish the same goal.

What would be the use of people giving the option to share a CA or not.
Just the fact that, in case for e.g. a licence update, you only have to
contact x% of the contributors?


Regards,
Cor

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Re: Copyright Assignments & the Document Foundation

----- Original Message ----

> From: Cor Nouws <[hidden email]>
> To: [hidden email]
> Sent: Fri, October 29, 2010 2:22:03 AM
> Subject: Re: [tdf-discuss] Copyright Assignments & the Document Foundation
>
> Hi all,
>
> BRM wrote (29-10-10 00:41)
> >
> >> From: Thorsten  Behrens<[hidden email]>
> >>
> >> BRM wrote:
> >>> The Linux Kernel guys don't require it;  KDE E.v. does. Both  methods have
> >>> their pros and  cons.
> >>
> >> Hi, just a very small  correction here - KDE  e.V. does not require
> >> it, it is optional to sign their  FLA (a  trait shared among other
> >> FLOSS projects, e.g. the Python  Foundation  acts similarly).
> >
> > Thank you for the correction.  I thought they did from what I had read a
>while
> > back.
> > Yet  another method to accomplish the same goal.
>
> What would be the use of  people giving the option to share a CA or not. Just
>the fact that, in case for  e.g. a licence update, you only have to contact x%
>of the  contributors?

It certainly reduces the burden. Otherwise you have to contact 100% of
contributors, not all of which may be easy to find if at all.

Ben


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todd rme todd rme
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Re: Copyright Assignments & the Document Foundation

On Fri, Oct 29, 2010 at 9:28 AM, BRM <[hidden email]> wrote:

> ----- Original Message ----
>
> > From: Cor Nouws <[hidden email]>
> > To: [hidden email]
> > Sent: Fri, October 29, 2010 2:22:03 AM
> > Subject: Re: [tdf-discuss] Copyright Assignments & the Document
> Foundation
> >
> > Hi all,
> >
> > BRM wrote (29-10-10 00:41)
> > >
> > >> From: Thorsten  Behrens<[hidden email]>
> > >>
> > >> BRM wrote:
> > >>> The Linux Kernel guys don't require it;  KDE E.v. does. Both  methods
> have
> > >>> their pros and  cons.
> > >>
> > >> Hi, just a very small  correction here - KDE  e.V. does not require
> > >> it, it is optional to sign their  FLA (a  trait shared among other
> > >> FLOSS projects, e.g. the Python  Foundation  acts similarly).
> > >
> > > Thank you for the correction.  I thought they did from what I had read
> a
> >while
> > > back.
> > > Yet  another method to accomplish the same goal.
> >
> > What would be the use of  people giving the option to share a CA or not.
> Just
> >the fact that, in case for  e.g. a licence update, you only have to
> contact x%
> >of the  contributors?
>
> It certainly reduces the burden. Otherwise you have to contact 100% of
> contributors, not all of which may be easy to find if at all.
>

I don't mean to be morbid, but they may not even be alive.

-Todd

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BRM BRM
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Re: Copyright Assignments & the Document Foundation

----- Original Message ----

> From: todd rme <[hidden email]>
> On Fri, Oct 29, 2010 at 9:28 AM, BRM <[hidden email]>  wrote:
> > > From: Cor  Nouws <[hidden email]>
> > > To: [hidden email]
> >  > Sent: Fri, October 29, 2010 2:22:03 AM
> > > Subject: Re:  [tdf-discuss] Copyright Assignments & the Document
> > > BRM wrote  (29-10-10 00:41)
> > > >> BRM wrote:
> > > >>> The  Linux Kernel guys don't require it;  KDE E.v. does. Both  
methods

> > have
> > > >>> their pros and   cons.
> > > >>
> > > >> Hi, just a very small   correction here - KDE  e.V. does not require
> > > >> it, it  is optional to sign their  FLA (a  trait shared among other
> >  > >> FLOSS projects, e.g. the Python  Foundation  acts  similarly).
> > > >
> > > > Thank you for the  correction.  I thought they did from what I had read
> > a
> >  >while
> > > > back.
> > > > Yet  another method to  accomplish the same goal.
> > >
> > > What would be the use  of  people giving the option to share a CA or not.
> > Just
> >  >the fact that, in case for  e.g. a licence update, you only have  to
> > contact x%
> > >of the  contributors?
> >
> > It  certainly reduces the burden. Otherwise you have to contact 100% of
> >  contributors, not all of which may be easy to find if at all.
>
> I  don't mean to be morbid, but they may not even be alive.
>

Which when we discover, may be good to offer the estate - the ability to
hand-off copyright assignment so that:

i) the estate can completely close out
ii) the estate won't have to worry about being questioned about it in the future
iii) the estate may not be aware of it to start with and may get closed out
without anything happening; in which case local law determines what happens (yet
another headache)
Iv) the estate or successor-in-interest may not understand the question

IANAL,

$0.02

Ben


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Andrea Pescetti Andrea Pescetti
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Re: Copyright Assignments & the Document Foundation

In reply to this post by Charles-H. Schulz
Charles-H. Schulz wrote:
> We initially agreed not to request the assignment of copyright for code
> contributions, and we can only witness that it's been so far the right
> decision: Many developers have joined us and contribute

Honestly, I believe new developers joined because the bar for
contribution was lowered to the point that anyone who can use a text
editor can contribute to the code, even if he is unable to build
LibreOffice. The Easy Hacks were a nice way to attract new people. Of
course the paperwork reduction may have helped too, but I don't see it
as the most effective improvement.

> 3) ... In the CVS (and even SVN) there was a real hierarchy. ...
> BTW; LibreOffice uses Git, which is a distributed SCM.

So did (and still does) OpenOffice.org with Mercurial, another
distributed SCM. But I don't believe this is relevant.

> 4) the notion that we cannot change license because we don't have
> copyright assignment needs to be put to rest once and for all today.
> There is a very simple explanation with respect to this issue; ask any
> lawyer and he/she will confirm this: Sun/Oracle has licensed the OOo
> code under LGPL v3. They could have put "LGPL v3 or later" or "LGPL v3
> or +". But they didn't. And that's what makes impossible to turn OOo
> into a different license unless the sole copyright owner agrees to
> change it, which is unlikely with Oracle.

Well, if you take for granted that cooperation between Oracle and the
Document Foundation will forever be impossible then you are right. But
who knows what will happen in months, years? If Oracle changes attitude
and wants to discuss licensing with the Document Foundation, the
Document Foundation will be in the awkward position of "representing"
the LibreOffice developers only in theory, because any agreement would
then need to be confirmed with every developer; while with a copyright
agreement/assignment in place, the Document Foundation could effectively
represent a measurable percentage of the codebase, and its opinion be
weighed accordingly.

Best regards,
   Andrea Pescetti.

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Charles-H. Schulz Charles-H. Schulz
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Re: Copyright Assignments & the Document Foundation

Hello Andrea,


Le Sat, 30 Oct 2010 17:10:07 +0200,
Andrea Pescetti <[hidden email]> a écrit :

> Charles-H. Schulz wrote:
> > We initially agreed not to request the assignment of copyright for
> > code contributions, and we can only witness that it's been so far
> > the right decision: Many developers have joined us and contribute
>
> Honestly, I believe new developers joined because the bar for
> contribution was lowered to the point that anyone who can use a text
> editor can contribute to the code, even if he is unable to build
> LibreOffice. The Easy Hacks were a nice way to attract new people. Of
> course the paperwork reduction may have helped too, but I don't see
> it as the most effective improvement.


The paperwork was only a practical detail: not relinquising your
copyright is the most important.


>
> > 3) ... In the CVS (and even SVN) there was a real hierarchy. ...
> > BTW; LibreOffice uses Git, which is a distributed SCM.
>
> So did (and still does) OpenOffice.org with Mercurial, another
> distributed SCM. But I don't believe this is relevant.
>
> > 4) the notion that we cannot change license because we don't have
> > copyright assignment needs to be put to rest once and for all today.
> > There is a very simple explanation with respect to this issue; ask
> > any lawyer and he/she will confirm this: Sun/Oracle has licensed
> > the OOo code under LGPL v3. They could have put "LGPL v3 or later"
> > or "LGPL v3 or +". But they didn't. And that's what makes
> > impossible to turn OOo into a different license unless the sole
> > copyright owner agrees to change it, which is unlikely with Oracle.
>
> Well, if you take for granted that cooperation between Oracle and the
> Document Foundation will forever be impossible then you are right.
> But who knows what will happen in months, years? If Oracle changes
> attitude and wants to discuss licensing with the Document Foundation,
> the Document Foundation will be in the awkward position of
> "representing" the LibreOffice developers only in theory, because any
> agreement would then need to be confirmed with every developer; while
> with a copyright agreement/assignment in place, the Document
> Foundation could effectively represent a measurable percentage of the
> codebase, and its opinion be weighed accordingly.


So we do take for granted that Oracle will not contribute to the
Document Foundation, because that's what Oracle clearly implied in their
last press release and what they told us (informally). This has to be
very clear from now on. We are still open for future discussions, of
course, but what you seem to imply is that conditions for a cooperation
would require the document foundation to assign copyright (the
contributions of the LibreOffice developers) back to Oracle again. Well
this is something that will never ever happen. If Oracle wants to work
with us, if we find a way to cooperate, I can assure you that the
condition will not be that we give our copyright to Oracle. Everybody
can keep its own copyright and it will be a very healthy situation.

Best,
Charles.

>
> Best regards,
>    Andrea Pescetti.
>


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Andrea Pescetti Andrea Pescetti
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Re: Copyright Assignments & the Document Foundation

Charles-H. Schulz wrote:
> Andrea Pescetti a écrit :
>> Honestly, I believe new developers joined because the bar for
>> contribution was lowered ...
>> the paperwork reduction may have helped too, but I don't see
>> it as the most effective improvement.
> The paperwork was only a practical detail: not relinquising your
> copyright is the most important.

I haven't seen any new contributor write that they joined because of
(the refusal of) a copyright agreement; while I have seen several new
contributors write that they started contributing because the "Easy
Hacks" were so easy that they didn't require any previous technical
knowledge.

So, unless this theory can be supported by numbers, the mere refusal of
copyright assignments/agreements does not seem to me the reason why new
contributors were attracted.

> So we do take for granted that Oracle will not contribute to the
> Document Foundation, because that's what Oracle clearly implied in their
> last press release and what they told us (informally). This has to be
> very clear from now on. We are still open for future discussions, of
> course, but what you seem to imply is that conditions for a cooperation
> would require the document foundation to assign copyright (the
> contributions of the LibreOffice developers) back to Oracle again.

No, I never thought this, let alone write, let alone imply.

> if we find a way to cooperate, I can assure you that the
> condition will not be that we give our copyright to Oracle.

Of course. I'll retry.

If the Document Foundation wants to live in the real world, it will have
to discuss with companies that work on OpenOffice.org and its
derivatives (and this is peculiar to the OpenOffice.org codebase, so
examples taken from elsewhere might not fit).

Now, without copyright assignment/agreement (granted by the LibreOffice
developers to the Document Foundation), the Document Foundation will be
in the awkward situation I described: it manages a product (LibreOffice)
but cannot represent the LibreOffice developers since it doesn't own the
code.

This makes it a weaker player: if the Document Foundation MANAGED, say,
20% of the "OOo+LibreOffice" code, then its "weight" in talks with
corporations can be proportional to it. But if it merely REPRESENTS 20%
of the code but still any decisions must be ratified by the individual
developers, its "weight" will be much lower.

Do you need an example? Think of a "happy ending" where, to the benefit
of users, OOo and all derivatives merge in a common project. There are
many stakeholders (Oracle, IBM, Novell, Red Hat, Redflag, the Document
Foundation...) and they might agree on a new, free, license with some
special provisions due to the long history of OOo. Now, without
copyright assignments/agreements every stakeholder would be able to join
the unified project except the Document Foundation. By choosing against
copyright assignments/agreements you are killing this dream... And I
can't see how the Document Foundation could realistically say it is open
to discuss with companies in this setting.

Regards,
   Andrea Pescetti.


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André Schnabel André Schnabel
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Re: Copyright Assignments & the Document Foundation

Hi Andrea,

( just to mention: I did not make my mind on this yet, I'm just
providing some thoughts)

> Von: Andrea Pescetti <[hidden email]>
> An: [hidden email]

> > The paperwork was only a practical detail: not relinquising your
> > copyright is the most important.
>
> I haven't seen any new contributor write that they joined because of
> (the refusal of) a copyright agreement; while I have seen several new
> contributors write that they started contributing because the "Easy
> Hacks" were so easy that they didn't require any previous technical
> knowledge.

If we want an answer on this (would developers not have joined if there
was a CA) we would need to ask them. This should indeed be asked
at the dev-list. I'd bet, that at least some of them would state
that they not would have joined.


>
> Do you need an example? Think of a "happy ending" where, to the benefit
> of users, OOo and all derivatives merge in a common project. There are
> many stakeholders (Oracle, IBM, Novell, Red Hat, Redflag, the Document
> Foundation...) and they might agree on a new, free, license with some
> special provisions due to the long history of OOo. Now, without
> copyright assignments/agreements every stakeholder would be able to join
> the unified project except the Document Foundation. By choosing against
> copyright assignments/agreements you are killing this dream... And I
> can't see how the Document Foundation could realistically say it is open
> to discuss with companies in this setting.


Ok, got your point. But I (personally) see that this is very unlikely to
happen. I might be wrong, but everything I heard from the OOo main
sponsor so far indicated that they will never ever debate the CA /
licensing issue on a common ground.

Anyway - it all depends on the question if developers would sign the CA.
And we can only ask developers on this.

André




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Michael Meeks Michael Meeks
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Re: Copyright Assignments & the Document Foundation

In reply to this post by Andrea Pescetti
Hi Andrea,

On Sun, 2010-10-31 at 23:56 +0100, Andrea Pescetti wrote:
> I haven't seen any new contributor write that they joined because of
> (the refusal of) a copyright agreement; while I have seen several new
> contributors write that they started contributing because the "Easy
> Hacks" were so easy that they didn't require any previous technical
> knowledge.

        Well - there is of course an element of truth to this. However - easy
hacks are attractive IMHO because not only are they easy, but because
the result gets included in the code-base, and the developer of them is
treated as a valued peer. Saying "sure you did some good work, but until
we get a faxed form it is worthless to us" to all your contributors has
a sterilising effect on volunteers - and it has a -huge- scalding effect
on other corporations wanting to contribute. Furthermore - the absence
of a corporate spider at the centre of the web makes it possible to
build a loyalty and sense of ownership of the project as a whole -
rather than to a company: which is critical.

        To see ease of writing patches as the primary improvement is to miss
the fact that people don't just want to write patches, they want to get
them included, and be valued as contributors, co-owners and peers: not
as 'intellectual property production machines' to be 'harvested'
etc. :-)

> Now, without copyright assignment/agreement (granted by the LibreOffice
> developers to the Document Foundation), the Document Foundation will be
> in the awkward situation I described: it manages a product (LibreOffice)
> but cannot represent the LibreOffice developers since it doesn't own the
> code.

        Sure - it can recommend, advise, and encourage people in directions; it
can lead the project via the brand, it can encourage collaboration and
resolve conflicts - but sure; it is not a monolithic entity that can
dictate ownership of the code.

> This makes it a weaker player:

        Or does it ? sometimes influence can be rather valuable, more so than
ownership or control of the asset. In this case because people are
willing to give you far more influence than ownership :-)

> Do you need an example? Think of a "happy ending" where, to the benefit
> of users, OOo and all derivatives merge in a common project. There are
> many stakeholders (Oracle, IBM, Novell, Red Hat, Redflag, the Document
> Foundation...) and they might agree on a new, free, license with some
> special provisions due to the long history of OOo. Now, without
> copyright assignments/agreements every stakeholder would be able to join
> the unified project except the Document Foundation.

        Wait - this is an amusingly different side to the same coin that I see.
You try to draw a picture of a terrible dysfunctional situation where
companies have all this freedom to join something that individuals do
not :-)

        The reality is quite different - that individual contributors to
LibreOffice have -collectively- a substantial say in how their aggregate
contribution is used - since no-one else can go away and "negotiate"
away ownership of their code / translation / artwork etc. Indeed -
individuals are peers of their corporate contributors in any such
discussion. That means that it cannot be done in a dark corner - for
sure !

        This IMHO is a huge strength and reason for individual ownership.

> By choosing against copyright assignments/agreements you are killing
> this dream...

        Personally I hope that the 'dream' of assigning exclusive ownership to
Oracle, that is not shared with others, is thoroughly dead.

        To me the experience of this has been more of a nightmare than any
dream - in addition I have -never- seen evidence that Oracle actually
needs this right. Furthermore, I am persuaded that in general,
developers bear other contributors no ill will per-se, and would be open
to a new (non-abusive) [ie. copy-left] licensing regimen, if one is
proposed.

        Clearly, the dream of working together is real, the licensing regimen
we suggest 'LGPLv3+/MPL' meets Oracle's product needs [ though not
behind-the-scenes license sale needs of course ] (of that I am certain).
So - I do believe this is a completely reasonable offer, made in good
faith, and that the (C) assignment issue is really a distraction; and
worse a dangerous one about concentrating control, whose merit (as you
suggest) is around non-transparent discussion and negotiation.

        HTH,

                Michael.

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Giuseppe Castagno Giuseppe Castagno
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Re: Copyright Assignments & the Document Foundation

In reply to this post by Charles-H. Schulz
Charles-H. Schulz wrote:

> Hello BRM,
>
>
> Le Thu, 28 Oct 2010 07:12:59 -0700 (PDT),
> BRM <[hidden email]> a écrit :
>
>> ----- Original Message ----
>>
>>> From: Charles-H. Schulz <[hidden email]>
>>> 4) the notion that we cannot change license  because we don't have
>>> copyright assignment needs to be put to rest once and  for all
>>> today. There is a very simple explanation with respect to this

[big snip]

>> Perhaps the way around that is to require those contributing TDF to
>> use the "or later" language; though some may not want to.
>>
>> Even without copyright assignment the only thing standing in the way
>> of changing the license - whether to LGPLv4 or even GPLv3 or whatever
>> else - is getting the permission of _all_ the copyright holders.
>
> Good objection indeed! Actually, the problem is partly solved, since we
> now license our software under "LGPL v3 or later". At least it would be
> solved for the LGPL side of things. But my real answer here though, is
> perhaps more provocative: if Oracle changes the licence, do we really
> care? for the 3.3 we stick to the codebase of OOo, but I'm unsure we'll
> stick that much  to it in further releases. In fact, I can already
> point out, looking at our development activity, that we're not taking
> the path of being "OpenOffice.org, just recompiled by the community". I
> think as the time will go by, we will diverge more and more and end up
> becoming quite different software.
>
>> >From what I understand this is already impossible to do under Linux
>>> due to
>> deaths of at least one contributor.
>
> Yes, and in this case a rewrite is needed.

this can work in practice for small addendum, but what about bigger one?

That may take some time.

I implemented PDF/A-1a in OOo around 3 years ago
(http://blogs.sun.com/GullFOSS/entry/news_in_pdfexport), rewriting it
from scratch would not be a quick matter.

And, my personal opinion only, years back I signed the then Sun (J)CA, I
will sign a TDF one or similar without problem.

May be the CA should be on a voluntary basis.

Just my 0,02 as a dev, and not a lawyer.

beppec56

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Giuseppe Castagno
Acca Esse http://www.acca-esse.eu
giuseppe.castagno at acca-esse.eu
beppec56 at openoffice.org






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Harri Pitkänen Harri Pitkänen
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Re: Copyright Assignments & the Document Foundation

In reply to this post by André Schnabel
Hi!

On Monday 01 November 2010, Andre Schnabel wrote:
> If we want an answer on this (would developers not have joined if there
> was a CA) we would need to ask them. This should indeed be asked
> at the dev-list. I'd bet, that at least some of them would state
> that they not would have joined.

I can at least say that I would most likely not have contributed if a CA had
been required. "Most likely" means that I would have read the assignment and
looked at the organization behind it before making the decision. If they were
both solid and there were strong enough justification for it, I would sign. In
this case neither the organization nor the assignment text exist yet so I
cannot do that.

I am not a major contributor so this may not weight much in the final
decision. But one rather large problem that I see with the assignments is that
if they are required also from developers of external libraries then the
assignment would also be needed from developers that may not have any interest
in LibreOffice but may still have some common development interest with us.

Let's take Word import/export filters for example. They could (at least in
theory, I saw the idea somewhere in the Wiki) be split to a separate library
and shared with KOffice or someone who wanted to write a free competitor for
Google Docs. People developing such libraries might react badly if they would
be required to sign a CA just to get a patch in to support a product that they
have no personal interest in. One of the strengths of free software is that we
can work together on such things even if our own goals were totally different,
perhaps even competing.

We could solve this by excluding all external libraries, including the
hypothetical Word import/export library, from the CA requirement. But would
such arrangement lose most of the benefits of CA that covered everything? My
(perhaps incorrect) understanding of the situation is that many proprietary
derivatives of OOo were shipped without providing any source code under the
LGPL. If the import/export library was LGPL only then no-one could do such
thing anymore. Not that I understand why avoiding LGPL this way is important
for anyone, but probably the companies have their reasons.

I'm not totally against the CA. I have signed the JCA for Sun and contributed
some small patches to OOo in a few cases where that was needed to solve some
issue that affected only Finnish users or something similar. But after reading
this discussion and thinking about it I do feel that there is more to win by
not replicating that process for LibreOffice.

Harri

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Roberto Resoli Roberto Resoli
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Re: Copyright Assignments & the Document Foundation

2010/11/1 Harri Pitkänen <[hidden email]>:
> Hi!

Hi all,

> On Monday 01 November 2010, Andre Schnabel wrote:
>> If we want an answer on this (would developers not have joined if there
>> was a CA) we would need to ask them. This should indeed be asked
>> at the dev-list. I'd bet, that at least some of them would state
>> that they not would have joined.
>
> I can at least say that I would most likely not have contributed if a CA had
> been required. "Most likely" means that I would have read the assignment and
> looked at the organization behind it before making the decision. If they were
> both solid and there were strong enough justification for it, I would sign. In
> this case neither the organization nor the assignment text exist yet so I
> cannot do that.

The same holds for me. CA is  possibly a "necessary evil", it doesn't
make much sense
asking an unbiased opinion to developers, they don't like it in
general, of course.

TDF has to have a very clear position about it, nevertheless, for the
very good reasons Andrea already
pointed out. TDF is going to be in a much weaker position if it does
not asks a JCA or CLA or
something like that to his contributors.
Weaker regarding his position towards commercial companies, weaker in his
ability to provide support to his contributors against patent claims
or other litigations.
As a developer, i think that protection from patent claims provided by
L/GPL3 in not sufficient, I would like if TDF could be in charge in
such cases, not me.

> I am not a major contributor so this may not weight much in the final
> decision. But one rather large problem that I see with the assignments is that
> if they are required also from developers of external libraries then the
> assignment would also be needed from developers that may not have any interest
> in LibreOffice but may still have some common development interest with us.
>
> Let's take Word import/export filters for example. They could (at least in
> theory, I saw the idea somewhere in the Wiki) be split to a separate library
> and shared with KOffice or someone who wanted to write a free competitor for
> Google Docs. People developing such libraries might react badly if they would
> be required to sign a CA just to get a patch in to support a product that they
> have no personal interest in. One of the strengths of free software is that we
> can work together on such things even if our own goals were totally different,
> perhaps even competing.
>
> We could solve this by excluding all external libraries, including the
> hypothetical Word import/export library, from the CA requirement. But would
> such arrangement lose most of the benefits of CA that covered everything? My
> (perhaps incorrect) understanding of the situation is that many proprietary
> derivatives of OOo were shipped without providing any source code under the
> LGPL.
> If the import/export library was LGPL only then no-one could do such
> thing anymore. Not that I understand why avoiding LGPL this way is important
> for anyone, but probably the companies have their reasons.

These are very good points. At the moment, anyway, all new files are
(or should be)
contributed in a Mozilla-like three-license fashion[1]. Comparing it
with the Mozilla
boilerplate [2] from which it is presumably derived, it lacks the
final part, but i think it's clear that
anyone is free to use the contribution under any one of GPLV3+, LGPV3+
or MPL license.

> I'm not totally against the CA. I have signed the JCA for Sun and contributed
> some small patches to OOo in a few cases where that was needed to solve some
> issue that affected only Finnish users or something similar. But after reading
> this discussion and thinking about it I do feel that there is more to win by
> not replicating that process for LibreOffice.

My feelings are slightly on the other side, for the reasons i told at
start, but let's see how this interesting thread will evolve...

bye,
rob

> Harri

[1] http://www.freedesktop.org/wiki/Software/LibreOffice/LicenseHeader
[2] http://www.mozilla.org/MPL/boilerplate-1.1/mpl-tri-license-c

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