FSFE Newsletter - February 2014

Fabian Keil freebsd-listen at fabiankeil.de
Wed Feb 19 10:03:56 UTC 2014

Hugo Roy <hugo at fsfe.org> wrote:

> + 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
> Microsoft.
> 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.

I understand your point of view, but I don't share it.

> > > 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? 

My point is that in case of permissive licenses the licensee is
already free to reuse the software as part of a proprietary product
and thus doesn't need copyright assignment.

> Copyright assignments are done for other reasons. You are the one
> who were confused about this in your former email,

I actually understand and understood the differences between
copyright assignments and licenses.

> > 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).

I agree that Garret is not criticising copyleft licenses.

He states that the CLA allows Canonical to use code in
proprietary products and that this is a problem for software
under copyleft licences (as they don't allow this already).

He does not state that this is a problem for free software
in general (as liberal licenses already allow the reuse
in proprietary products anyway).

Alas, the newsletter said:

| If you value software freedom, FSFE recommends you not to sign
| agreements which make it possible to distribute your code under
| non-free licenses.  

It did not say:

| If you feel strongly about your copyleft code not being used in
| proprietary products, FSFE recommends that you do not sign
| agreements that make it possible to distribute your code under
| non-free licenses.

The latter makes sense to me (even if it's somewhat obvious),
while the former seems to imply that there's a conflict between
valueing software freedom and allowing the reuse of code in
proprietary products.

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