Copyright arrangements for a web project

Ian Jackson ijackson at
Thu Dec 12 17:29:12 UTC 2013

Joshua D. Drake writes ("Re: Copyright arrangements for a web project"):
> On 12/12/2013 06:44 AM, Ian Jackson wrote:
> > * It would clearly be sensible to appoint a licence steward in the
> >    GPLv3 sense.  If the current project leadership lack free software
> >    credibility, could SPI serve as licence steward ?
> What do you mean steward? If you are asking if we should guide them to 
> use the GPLv3, I would vote against that. SPI (as a corporation) should 
> not value what Free Software license over another.
> If you are asking if we could be the entity that the license denotes as 
> the licensor, I don't see a problem with that.

I mean that SPI would fulfil the role of the "proxy" as described in
GPLv3 s14.

> >    What instructions/directions would SPI take ?  The goal would have
> >    to include the SPI Board making the value judgement, not just
> >    deferring to the project's leadership - that is, the SPI Board would
> >    make the decision itself in what it sees as the interests of the
> >    project and the free software community.
> I don't think this is a board decision. I think we should empower 
> members within a committee to make those decisions.

If SPI doesn't already have such a committee it would be silly to
create one just for this.  In the past difficult decisions relating to
SPI's copyright or trademark legal powers have been taken by the

Or to put it another way: the purpose of a committee is be delegated
by the board to deal with what would otherwise be an excessive
workload by the board.  This advantage has no relevance if the work
needs to be done very rarely.  And leaving matters with the board
would provide a greater degree of political robustness because the
board are directly elected.

> The licensor can not change the license unless the licensor also owns 
> the copyright for contributions. Contributions are owned by their 
> authors. Therefor this is a rather moot point, unless your idea is to 
> require copyright assignment as well as license assignment ala FSF, 
> Canonical, MySQL.

Have you read GPLv3 s14 ?  Do you contend that my proposal below is
legally ineffective somehow ?

> >    Ideally it would be good to avoid requiring copyright assignment to
> >    the licence steward.  Can this be achieved by some text in the
> >    standard licence rubric eg
> >
> >      This program is free software: you can redistribute it and/or
> >      modify it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as
> >      published by the Free Software Foundation, version 3, or (at your
> >      option) any other general public free software licence publicly
> >      endorsed for PROJECT by Software in the Public Interest Inc
> >      (i.e. SPI is a proxy as described in s14 of the GNU GPLv3 but SPI
> >      is not limited to endorsing only future versions of the GNU GPL).
> I think this re-defines the point of a license. What I read that to say 
> is, if I want to use project X, I can use it as any license that project 
> X likes or GPLv3. However, I am a BSD License advocate, if project X 
> doesn't like BSD (even though it is a Free license), I can't use it? 
> That is bogus. I would let the standard license terms stand on their own.

I have no idea what you're saying here.  What I intend for this is the
same thing as GPLv3 s14 but also allowing the project to transtion to
a completely different licence if that becomes desirable in the

If everyone who contributes to the project provides a Signed-off-by (a
la the Linux kernel), and thereby licences their contribution under
the terms I quote, then if the licence steward approves a new licence
then everyone automatically has the rights granted under the new
licence.  The licence change would have to be accompanied by a change
to the rubric, to mention the new licence instead of the GPLv3; that
way the new versions of the project are available only under the new

The decision to adopt a new licence would hopefully in practice be
made within the project but because the clause mentions SPI, it would
need to be rubber-stamped by SPI (and SPI would resolve any dispute).


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