Friday, 2 January 2015

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

On 2015-01-02 04:09 PM, Scott Kitterman wrote:
> On Friday, January 02, 2015 01:45:48 PM Stephen M. Webb wrote:
> ...
>> Argument: The CLA grants more rights to Canonical than the contributor
>> gets.
>> Response: No, it definitely does not. It grants to Canonical a clearly
>> defined subset of the rights the contributor has, yet the contributor keeps
>> all his or her original rights. The contributor loses nothing save maybe
>> the ability to personally control what Canonical can do with its
>> investment, and that's not a right but an unintended consequence that the
>> unethical can use to their advantage. The premise is invalid.
> ...
> Snipped the rest, since it doesn't, IMO, need further discussion.
> Here you're wrong. If Canonical releases GPL code, the GPL constrains what I
> can do with that code. Since Canonical is the copyright owner, they are not
> constrained. If I contribute code under the CLA, Canonical is not constrained
> to the GPL like I am regarding the code in that project. They have the same
> rights over my code as if they had written it.

Exactly, so as a contributor, you can't remove rights that Canonical already has
over the code they've developed.

If there was no CLA, you could prevent Canonical from relicensing the software
to something possibly even better or free-er than the GPL in the future.

> It doesn't matter for you, since your contributions are a work made for hire
> and Canonical owns it regardless, but for people in the broader community who
> are doing this for free in the interest of improving free software the
> distinction matters a lot.

I don't understand this. How does giving Canonical the right to relicense your
contribution conflict with the goal of improving free software? This only
matters to people who exclusively contribute to GPL licensed projects, right? I
mean, if you contribute to something BSD or MIT licensed, you're basically
allowing anyone to make it proprietary. Do BSD and MIT licensed projects
conflict with your goal of improving free software?

I do agree that if you're a contributor who exclusively contributes to GPL
licensed projects, you may have an issue with Canonical relicensing your code.
In which case, just don't sign the CLA and fork the project, like the GPL allows
you to do.

Honestly, I can probably count on my fingers the number of people who had an
actual desire to contribute to Canonical projects but were prevented by the CLA.
If this was as big an issue as some Canonical competitors have made it out to
be, all Canonical's software would already be forked in various PPAs and

> I get that it doesn't matter to you, but that doesn't make it invalid. I know
> a lot of reasonable people at Canonical that believe that the broader
> community shouldn't be so concerned about the CLA as it is today (which is -
> for the record - a vast improvement on the first iteration), but many people
> are.
> I guess if I look at your reply as meaning Canonical funded projects aren't
> really free software projects, just corporate software development that
> happens to be done largely in the open and that currently has free licensing,
> I can see the point, but I hope that's not the way I should be looking at what
> Canonical is doing.

Canonical projects are free software projects. Perhaps you have some special
definition of free that excludes CLAs.


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