FSFE Newsletter - February 2014

Hugo Roy hugo at fsfe.org
Sun Feb 9 18:23:24 UTC 2014

+ 2014-02-09 Sun 16:04, Fabian Keil <freebsd-listen at fabiankeil.de>:

> > First, there's no such thing as a “viral” free software license.
> You may not like the term, but this doesn't mean that it doesn't
> exist: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viral_license

It's not that I don't like the term. It's a term that is not
accurate, but it's misguided, ill-informed and backed by FUD from

And you are right only on this: not liking the term does not mean
it does not exist. But it's true the other way around: not liking
it does not mean such a thing as a viral license exists either.

Now, have a look at the wikipedia article: it's of poor quality,
it says: “This article relies on references to primary sources.
Please add references to secondary or tertiary sources. (December
2011)” has a couple of "citation needed" and has a prominent
section “Criticism of the term” taking almost 1/3 of the whole
article. You cannot miss the fact that most references in this
article are about Microsoft statement from early 2000s. 

So you are actually making my point stronger:

Do not use this term, because you are not making yourself a favour
by using this term, you are only discrediting what you are saying.

> > Second, this is not about whether people prefer BSD/MIT-style
> > licenses or (A/L)GPL-style. This is about assigning your copyright
> > to an entity in a way that makes it possible for that entity to
> > decide on their own if they want to release as proprietary
> > software or not something that include your contribution.
> This doesn't require copyright assignment, though. The same can
> and does happen with what you refer to as liberal licenses.

Yes, and so? I don't understand your point. What we are talking
about here is *copyright assignment*, nothing else.

> >                                                           It may
> > very well be possible that the whole is never released as Free
> > Software at all, whether under a liberal license or under a
> > protective license.
> Again, this doesn't require copyright assignment.

And so, what's your point? 

Copyright assignments are done for other reasons. You are the one
who were confused about this in your former email, I'm only making
it clear that what we wrote in the newsletter has nothing to do
with BSD licenses. It's an entirely different subject, which
according to your first email was something you did not understand

With a copyright assignment, the assigned entity owns the rights
itself, it's an entirely different position than merely being a

> Even Matthew Garret only seems to be concerned about copyleft
> licenses (and how Canonical defends the CLA):

> | ... Canonical ship software under the GPLv3 family of licenses
> | (GPL, AGPL and LGPL) but require that contributors sign an agreement
> | that permits Canonical to relicense their contributions under a
> | proprietary license. This is a fundamentally different situation
> | to almost all widely accepted CLAs, and it's disingenuous for
> | Canonical to defend their CLA by pointing out the broad community
> | uptake of, for instance, the Apache CLA.
> http://mjg59.dreamwidth.org/29160.html

From the paragraph you're quoting, I can only state that you seem
to have a complete misunderstanding about the subject.

You're saying that the above paragraph means that Garret is
concerned about copyleft; whereas if you read the statement by
Garret you will see that there's a sentence about copyleft, and
then there's "*but*" about CLAs. The criticism is *not about
copyleft*, it's about Canonical's CLA (copyright assignment).

> > Third, to answer your question, this was discussed many times
> > within FSFE, especially in the process that led to the FLA
> > http://fsfe.org/activities/ftf/fla.html years ago. 
> >
> > As far as this bit in the newsletter goes, it was discussed
> > including in FSFE's legal team.
> Is the discussion documented somewhere?

What do you mean “documented”? FSFE's position regarding
proprietary software is well documented on fsfe.org and elsewhere.
We don't have to document every single discussion that leads to
the publication of 1 single paragraph anywhere. I have explained
to you the historic background, which team¹ is in charge, and I
have tried to explain to you some legal differences between a
copyright assignment and a copyright license. I don't see what I
can do further here.


1. The team in charge of legal issues in FSFE is mostly the legal
team formerly known as the Freedom Task Force. We're a team of
lawyers and experts in Free Software, some of us for longer than
FSFE even exists. 

Hugo Roy, Free Software Foundation Europe, <www.fsfe.org>  
Deputy Coordinator, FSFE Legal Team, <www.fsfe.org/legal>  
Coordinator, FSFE French Team, <www.fsfe.org/fr>  
Support Free Software, sign up! <https://fsfe.org/support>
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