Monday, 5 January 2015

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

On 2015-01-05 05:08 AM, David Henningsson wrote:
> On 2015-01-05 05:51, Marc Deslauriers wrote:
>> On 2015-01-04 08:27 PM, Michael Hall wrote:
>>> On 01/04/2015 07:40 PM, Stephen M. Webb wrote:
>>>> On 01/04/2015 06:44 PM, Scott Kitterman wrote:
>>>>>> So you think your 100 line patch should give you the same rights as the
>>>>>>> copyright holder of the 200k line project? Honestly, this argument is
>>>>>>> completely ridiculous.
>>>>> I think I should have the same rights over my 100 lines. Personally, I find
>>>>> the argument that because someone else has made a greater contribution, they
>>>>> get control over my work to be ridiculous (I didn't sign any CLAs either).
>>>> You do have the same rights over your 100 lines. You can always take your
>>>> 100 lines and license it to whomever you
>>>> want under whatever terms tickle your fancy. Canonical could take their
>>>> 200k lines and do the same. That's the right
>>>> copyright grants you, the CLA never takes that away and the GPL is
>>>> irrelevant to that.
>>>> If your 100 line contribution is included in the project and you do not give
>>>> permission for Canonical to exercise its
>>>> rights over its 200k lines, you have denied Canonical their rights and you
>>>> have established (potentially malicious)
>>>> control over their work.
>>> No, Canonical still retains all rights over it's 200k lines, all that we
>>> would be prevented from doing is exercising those same rights over the
>>> additional 100 lines of code that we did not write.
>> Right, but 100 lines quickly turns into 2k lines by 20 different contributors
>> you now have to track down or replace.
> First; not all lines carry the same weight IMO. Somewhat overgeneralising now,
> but when developing new features, you tend to write a lot of lines fairly
> quickly. When the code is stable or near-stable, you spend a lot of time
> integrating, testing and debugging, and the result might end up in just a one or
> two line fix.
> My gut feeling is that the newbie contributors, at least initially, fall mostly
> in the second category. Their contributions are pure quality improvements, and
> should be recognised and valued as such.
> Second; if you contribute just a one or two line fix, then probably the biggest
> issue with the CLA is the paperwork. And as long as your contributions are tiny
> compared to the total project, sure. One can just give the code away.

Yes, the paperwork involved is an issue. I'd say it's perhaps the biggest issue.

> It's when your contributions are larger, that things become complicated. With
> all code belonging to the company, that imposes a soft limit of how far you can
> rise in ranks of a project. Because you know that the final say about the
> direction of the project is controlled by the company.

I'm not sure how this is different than any other project. The final say is
determined by whoever runs the project and/or has commit rights.

> Also, what if an external contributor sees a business opportunity that Canonical
> would not be interested in pursuing? That would require significant refactoring
> and maintenance of the product, and a big chunk of new code, so maybe Canonical
> and the external party have contributed 50% of the code each? Now it is directly
> unfair that all code belongs to Canonical, when Canonical and the external party
> could be partners on equal footing, sharing maintainership, leading to a win-win
> for both.

If that business deal doesn't require re-licensing, then there is no issue, it
can be done with the existing license. Canonical doesn't have any advantage.

If that business deal does require re-licensing, then there is a great advantage
to having the CLA. If the software was simply under GPL with no CLA, then it
wouldn't be possible for that external contributor to pursue the business
opportunity at all. With the CLA, a deal can be negotiated with Canonical.


ps- In case it's not clear to everyone reading this thread: I am not a Canonical
spokesperson, my opinions are my own, I have absolutely no insider knowledge of
licensing. So don't bother reporting this as news.

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