Monday, 5 January 2015

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

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.

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.

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.

David Henningsson, Canonical Ltd.

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