Tuesday, 6 January 2015

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

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Marc Deslauriers wrote on 05/01/15 04:45:
> ...
> So you agree with me that if you don't want your code to be
> distributed as proprietary software, you shouldn't be contributing
> to BSD or GPL-with-CLA software?

If you think proprietary redistribution of the work you contribute to
is a bad idea, the CLA is suboptimal because it gives Canonical that

If you think proprietary redistribution of the work you contribute to
is a good idea, the CLA is suboptimal because it gives *only*
Canonical that option.

However, that inefficiency for individual contributors will sometimes
be less than the cost of developing/adopting a symmetrically-licensed
alternative. This is the case for Cups, for example (where only Apple
can redistribute proprietarily), but apparently has not been the case
for LightDM (where only Canonical can).

> Because big successful projects such as MySQL and Qt have _proven_
> that selling GPL exceptions is a valid model that advances the
> quality of open source software.

Similarly, it is apparently the case for the MySQL fork MariaDB (where
only the MariaDB Foundation can redistribute proprietarily), while the
contemporary MySQL fork Drizzle (where no-one can) seems to have died.

> Honestly, I wish more software was like that.
> I want the _default_ license when people write software to allow
> access to source code. I want every single application I run on my
> Android phone to come with source code. The only way to achieve
> that is to stop trying to prevent developers from having a revenue
> stream with their creation.
> For example, why isn't the Ghostscript model good enough for open
> source enthusiasts? I'd gladly give a timed GPL-exception in order
> to get high quality software that isn't developed in a basement,
> or with VC money. I'd gladly accept that a certain piece of
> software is used in some proprietary product as long as a contract
> is in place that assures me that every single improvement makes its
> way to the GPL version.
> As long as people criticize models that allow developers to invest
> money in an open source software project without being able to
> monetize their investment, we'll always live in a world where open
> source software is the exception rather than the norm. That is not
> why I have spent a large part of my life dedicated to open source
> software. I am of the opinion that free licensing is superior, but
> every time someone tries to come up with a business model that
> allows developers to actually get paid to develop it, it gets
> rejected by the very same community who want to see it thrive.

All that could be true, *and still* individual contributors would
rationally prefer, all else being equal, to contribute to a symmetric
project than an asymmetric one. It might be a tragedy of the commons:
collectively we're better off with asymmetric licenses, but individual
contributors are more effective contributing under symmetric ones.

Canonical recently released LXD under the Apache License, and
therefore without CLA. This will be an interesting data point for how
much the CLA is a real disincentive, and how much it is merely a
punching bag.

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