Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Re: [Ubuntu-bugcontrol] Please, consider reflecting on the Canonical Contributor Agreement

On 12/29/2014 09:08 PM, Alberto Salvia Novella wrote:
> Instead of repeating myself, I'm going to ask you a question:
> What do you think my purpose is?

I don't feel particularly compelled to do your work for you. I will, however, address the usual concerns an a FAQ-like

Q: You use the GNU Public License (GPL) when you distribute your software, and the GPL prevents you from placing
additional restrictions on contributed code. Aren't you violating the GPL by requiring a copyright license for
contributions to your projects?

A: No, the GPL prevents you from placing additional restrictions on distributed code, not on contributed code.
Accepting a contribution always requires additional restrictions, be they quality and applicability restrictions or in
the case of an organization like the Free Software Foundation, full and express transfer of all authorship rights as far
as legally possible in the local jurisdiction of the contributor. The CLA addresses upstream contribution, the GPL
addresses downstream distribution.

The Free Software Foundation themselves expressly agree that the GPL applies only to downstream distributions, not
upstream contributions [1].

Strictly speaking, the GPL is a license from the developer for others to use,
distribute and change the program. The developer itself is not bound by it,
so no matter what the developer does, this is not a "violation" of the GPL.

Q: If I let you use some of the code I write, I should have a say in how you use it., including whether you use it to
make money.

A: Well, yes and no.

If you're going to contribute code under the GPL, you can't apply addition restrictions on how it's used without
violating the GPL. Sections 7 and 10 of the GPLv3 explicitly state that.

Copyright law, which is the framework on which the GPL is enforced, does allow you to make such additional restrictions.
In fact under most jurisdictions the default is that a project is unable to use your contributions at all under
copyright without express written consent. The Free Software Foundation requires that express written consent be in the
form of total transfer of copyright to themselves. The express written consent in the form of Canonical's CLA only
requires a grant of the same rights as the copyright holder has, without any change to their existing rights.

Q: I don't want to you be able to license you project under anything except the GPL if I contribute to it.

A: That's nice.

Q: Why should I make a contribution to your project if you're going to make money off it and I'm not? You're getting
the fruits of my labour for free, I should get a cut of your profits.

A: Sure. You're already getting a good deal of value from the fruits of my labour for free. I'd like to see you give
something back in return, but I don't require it. It's nice that you'd contribute to my further development of the
software you're using, and I appreciate being able to feed and clothe my family. If you think the exchange is unfair
and you're entitled to more value than you're already receiving, you can try to use that contribution to generate your
own revenue directly.

Q: I'm not going contribute to you project unless you accept all my conditions.

A: I'm not going to accept your contributions to my project unless you accept all of my conditions. The symmetry is
delicious. It's OK, you can continue to use my work for free.

Q: Requiring a CLA for contributions is destroying people's willingness to contribute. Aren't you concerned you're
going to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs?

A: Nice allegory. I always liked folk tales.

Some individuals refuse to compensate in kind for the free stuff they're using because of the CLA. They have their
varied and various reasons. Nobody is going to force them to contribute. It makes me sad when some individuals with
something potentially good to contribute refuse to do so for whatever reason, but I defend their right to do so. They
will simply remain in the vast ranks of those who profit from my work without compensating me in any way.

Also, removing the CLA would kill the allegorical goose even faster.

Q: The CLA is discouraging people from using your software. Can't you just get rid of the CLA?

A: The vast, vast majority of people using my software have no idea what a CLA is. Getting rid of the CLA would not
change that. Getting rid of the CLA would not force me to accept more upstream contributions either.

Q: I am entitled to use your work for free and to be able to decide what you do to provide it to me, because I benefit
from it and I want it.

A: That's not a question.

Q: You're evil and you're leeching from the creators and users of Free software!

A: Well, I am a creator and user of Free software. You use my work for free and you seem to derive value from it
without giving anything back. What was your question again?

[1] http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.html#DeveloperViolate
Stephen M. Webb <stephen.webb@canonical.com>

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