Subject: Re: Who holds the copyright? (was Re: The merger: a user's perspective)
From: Stan Shebs <shebs@cygnus.com>
Date: 17 Nov 1999 12:34:43 -0800

bkuhn@ebb.org (Bradley M. Kuhn) writes:

> There is no guarantee nor requirement that they ever release the software as
> free again if they hold the copyright.

True, but it doesn't hinder parallel development of new versions based
on the already-freed sources, which I thought was your original
concern about hostile takeovers.

It really depends on level of interest in the two versions.  There are
plenty of open source programs out there that have only one or two
developers, even though there are lots of users.  In such a case, if
the couple of developers were, or worked for, the copyright owner,
then the software can effectively be lost to the free world.  But then
if the copyright owner were to try to sell the proprietary version for
big bucks, then the users have a choice to pay the big bucks, or to
continue to use the old free version, or to get programmers to enhance
the free version in the ways that they need.  The existence of the
last two options limits the price one can charge, so there's little
return on one's investment in converting something free into something
proprietary.

There are some examples of forked free/proprietary versions of
programs, such as BSD vs SunOS, but I can't think of any where the two
were contemporaneous, and a company tried to sell a proprietary
version directly against a free version.  Does anybody know of such
cases?

								Stan