Copyright arrangements for a web project

Paul Tagliamonte paultag at
Thu Dec 12 16:57:59 UTC 2013

On Thu, Dec 12, 2013 at 02:44:19PM +0000, Ian Jackson wrote:
> (This is a bit off-topic for the Debian list; I hope people won't mind
> me asking opinions here though.)
> I'm being asked for advice on encouraging contributions by the people
> behind a couple of "community-ish" websites which I use regularly.
> There's a lot of work to be done to improve the attractiveness to
> contributors, and one of the things that needs fixing is the
> licensing.
> It's my view that a community software project ought to use a copyleft
> licence nowadays.  But two questions arise:
> * 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 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.
> * Should the project give the licence steward the power to change the
>   public licence unilaterally in the future in ways other than just
>   upgrading to newer versions ?  I think the answer is probably "yes"
>   because the licensing landscape for web applications isn't settled
>   yet.  Is this a good idea and how should it be done ?
>   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).
>   (Along presumably with some Signed-off-by system for contributions.)

This is the approach KDE takes (I saw this in NEW a few times) - 

| Copyright <year>  <name of author> <e-mail>
| 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; either version 2 of
| the License or (at your option) version 3 or any later version
| accepted by the membership of KDE e.V. (or its successor approved
| by the membership of KDE e.V.), which shall act as a proxy 
| defined in Section 14 of version 3 of the license.
| This program is distributed in the hope that it will be useful,
| but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of
| GNU General Public License for more details.
| You should have received a copy of the GNU General Public License
| along with this program.  If not, see <>.

I'd very very much prefer to do something like this for my Debian work,
even so far as to say that it can be used under the terms of any DFSG
free license - but I'm also perfectly cool to use {,A,L}GPL-{2,3}+ for my
work as well.

I trust Debian with license freeness, and I do also trust SPI as well.
I'd be happy to allow them to relicense my work, or even give a list of
licenses that it can be used under.

> * Personally I'm an AGPLv3 proponent.  The system ought to be suitable
>   for AGPLv3 provided that its submodules are AGPLv3-compatible (and
>   if they aren't, then we can probably write a licence exception).
>   (The main program I'm thinking of here is a Ruby on Rails
>   application.)  What are people's feelings about AGPLv3 ?

I like it a lot.

> Thanks,
> Ian.


 .''`.  Paul Tagliamonte <paultag at>  |   Proud Debian Developer
: :'  : 4096R / 8F04 9AD8 2C92 066C 7352  D28A 7B58 5B30 807C 2A87
`. `'`
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