FSFE Newsletter - February 2014

Hugo Roy hugo at fsfe.org
Mon Feb 10 23:05:02 UTC 2014

Dear Johannes,

It's not really helpful if you don't try to read replies to your
post and focus on details like how the QT company is named (Diga
or whatever, naming it the QT company is, I believe, enough to
understand for anyone).

+ 2014-02-10 Mon 20:27, Johannes Zarl <jzarl at fsfe.org>:

> On Monday 10 February 2014 13:52:11 Hugo Roy wrote:
> > No it does not, unless you think that FSFE is here talking about
> > "agreements" that also include software licenses.
> I think we are talking about CLAs, not software licenses.

Yes, but other posts were confused about this, hence the need to
restate it again to avoid confusion.

> Let me make my thoughts more explicit (keeping the Qt example from my mail 
> from Friday):
> Person A wants to contribute to the Qt project, and signs the CLA that allows 
> Digia to have a dual-licensing with both GPL and their proprietary license.
> Therefore the CLA makes it possible to distribute the code under non-free 
> licenses. Therefore person A can not value software freedom.

If person A values software freedom, he or she should contribute to
QT, the software project (under the free software license: GPL or
BSD whatever) but should not contribute to a scheme whereby the
contribution would be proprietary software (or put somebody in a
position to make that decision).

> the work that undoubtedly goes into it. The fact that we are disputing *one* 
> sentence within the last half year or so that I'm on this list shows that the 
> editors are *very* careful with writing the newsletter.

Yes. And in this case, this bit was also given feedback from
FSFE's legal team. However,  it's easy to forget that many legal
tools and concepts we deal with are not known to other people.
Believe me, the whole thread starts from there. 

> > > - The owner of Qt may make the entire Qt project proprietary by first
> > > releasing it under a BSD license.
> > 
> > You see, the problem with your example is that it's actually
> > wrong.
> How so?

I explained it to you in my former email. 

To put it bluntly, your sentence is nonsense.

Let me take it bit by bit.

    The owner of QT:

As I said earlier, it's not clear what you mean here. If I follow
common understanding, the "owner" would be the copyright holder of
QT software.

    … may make the entire QT project proprietary by first
    releasing it under a BSD license

This sentence does not make sense. The copyright holder of QT has,
under copyright law, all the right to release QT as proprietary
software. There's no need to license to BSD first, or to anything.

As I wrote, what you really wanted to say is not "owner" but
"licensee", otherwise there's no point in mentioning the BSD
license in your sentence.

> > In case 2, what is “the owner of QT”? You say BSD. 
> BSD is not a legal person, and thus cannot own anything. The owner (no quotes) 

Of course I meant the BSD license here. What else would I be
talking about?!

As already said: the whole thing looks like a basic
misunderstanding of what the person is in a legal position to do.
The owner and the licensee are in two very different positions.

This is why software copyright licenses are an entirely different
beast than software copyright assignments.

> > I think it's fair to assume that contributing to proprietary
> > software (and *not* to free software) is not valuable to software
> > freedom.
> Well, that stands to question here. Qt is arguably both proprietary *and* free 
> software. Your sentence is certainly true for the general case, but Qt is a 
> corner case. Does the (additional) contribution to proprietary software 
> *weaken* the value of the contribution to the free software?

My personal opinion here is that a business model built around
making money with proprietary software, and contributing to that
business model, is not really valuable to software freedom indeed.

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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