Subject: Re: brands, trademarks, and the GPL
From: Paul Rohr <>
Date: Wed, 29 Sep 1999 15:33:44 -0700

At 05:38 AM 9/29/99 +0000, Crispin Cowan wrote:
>All of this is true.  HOWEVER, because of the "2000 authors mutual
agreement problem",
>not only can Linus not take all copies proprietary, he cannot even fork a
>version.   Contrast this with the AbiSoft situation, where AbiSoft could
>produce a proprietary fork of their GPL'd word processor, if they can
>identify all of the contributors to their code base.

Two points.  

1.  We're AbiSource.  There's a small company out there called ABiSoft and 
we take pains to make sure nobody in the community ever says anything bad 
about them.  :-)

2.  Crispin is highlighting a difference in degree here, not a difference in 
kind.  In theory, Linus *could* fork a proprietary version using only his 
code, but Linux has had so many contributors that after stripping them all 
out he'd have precious little left.  That's a testimony to the success of 
community development under the GPL. 

Likewise, we could, in theory, strip out all the work from AbiWord's 40+ 
contributors (to date) who don't meet a "work for hire" criterion, and fork 
the remainder to make a proprietary version.  In theory.  And perhaps 
there'd be circumstances where we'd be willing to give up all of the 
following GPL-licensed contributions:

  - James Clark's XML parser (expat),
  - Caolan McNamara's importers for Word 97, 95, 6 (wv),
  - importer for RTF,
  - a pretty complete native BeOS port, 
  - translations for 8 European languages,
  - makefiles and packages for approximately 10 Unix flavors, and
  - lots and lots of other stuff I'm forgetting.  

Perhaps if we never got another contribution, and did all of the remaining 
development by ourselves, we might be tempted to hire someone uncontaminated 
by that code to replace it all so that we could make that proprietary 
"threat" real.  (If we did, would anyone blame us?)

Sounds pretty hypothetical to me, and there's one sure-fire way for the Open 
Source community to guarantee that we never succumb to such a moment of 
weakness, namely:

  Drown us in code!  :-)

who'd love to have a few of Linus' "problems", especially this one