|Matthew Garrett (mjg59) wrote,|
@ 2011-07-25 12:44 pm UTC
|Entry tags:||advogato, fedora|
Having said that:
I'm looking at the Canonical Individual Contributor License Agreement (pdf here). In contrast to the previous copyright assignment, it merely grants a broad set of rights to Canonical, including the right to relicense the work under any license they choose. Notably, it does not transfer copyright to Canonical. The contributor retains copyright.
So here's a thought experiment. Canonical release a project under the GPLv3. I produce a significant modification to it. It's now clearly a derived work of Canonical's project, so I have to distribute it under the GPLv3. I have no right to distribute it under a proprietary license. I sign the CLA and provide my modification to Canonical. The grant I give them includes giving them permission to relicense my work under any license they choose. As copyright holders to the original work, they may also change the license of that work. But, notably, I have not granted them copyright to my work. I continue to hold that.
Now someone else decides to extend the functionality that I added. By doing so they are creating a work that's both a derivative work of Canonical's code and also a derivative work of my code. How can they sign the CLA? I granted Canonical the right to grant extra permissions on my work. I didn't grant anyone else that right.
This wasn't a problem with the copyright assignment case, because as copyright holders Canonical could simply grant that permission to all downstream recipients. But Canonical aren't the copyright holder, and unless they explicitly relicense my work I don't see any way that they can accept derivatives of it. The only way I can see this working is if all Canonical code is actually distributed under an implicit license that's slightly more permissive than the GPLv3. But there's nothing saying that it is at present.
Now, I'm obviously not a lawyer. I may be entirely wrong about the above. But asymmetric CLAs introduce an additional level of complexity into the entire process of contributing that make it even more difficult for a potential contributor to become involved. I've spent far more time than most worrying about licenses and even I don't understand exactly what I'm giving up, which is ironic given that a stated aim is usually that they increase certainty about licensing. Is the opportunity to relicense really worth alienating people who would otherwise be doing free work for you?