Subject: Re: Ransom (long) (was: Mandatory donations...)
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <turnbull@sk.tsukuba.ac.jp>
Date: Tue, 16 Oct 2001 09:44:50 +0900

>>>>> "Norbert" == Norbert Bollow <nb@thinkcoach.com> writes:

    Norbert> That is outside the scope of copyright law.  You *can*
    Norbert> publish a legally binding statement and make a contract
    Norbert> with a company like PriceWaterhouseCoopers that together
    Norbert> make your pomise legally enforcable.  (A company like

Within certain limits.

    Norbert> Microsoft probably would have to do something like this,
    Norbert> or they won't be trusted.)  Alternatively, you can just

Not just Microsoft.  Although as an economist I have a pathological
dislike of lawyers, I have to concede that there is no reasonable
alternative to having them.  People _do_ differ over what contracts
mean, and in those cases you need to have the option of going to court
to enforce serious negotiation to compromise those differences.  Case
in point...

    Norbert> make the promise "when I have sold a 100 copies of this,
    Norbert> then I will post a notice on my website and to xyz
    Norbert> mailing list stating that this code is now free".  If
    Norbert> you're a well-respected Free Software developer with good
    Norbert> reputation, you'll probably not need to do anything else.

Who could be more respected with better reputation than the Free
Software Foundation itself?  Yet there is controversy over the meaning
of the "you can use your own code as you wish" clause.  I (and a
lawyer formerly qualified at the California Bar in an unofficial
opinion) believe that it is meaningless; the assignment means that all
of the interesting uses are either already allowed by the GPL or
reserved to the FSF.  But some people think they can base a dual
licensing strategy on that clause.  I suspect that RMS's intent was
that, but that if push comes to shove his lawyer will tell him that
it contradicts the "all copies redistributed under the authority of
the FSF will be free (after all, that is the poison pill that makes a
Microsoft hostile takeover of the FSF unlikely ;-).

I think probably an assignment to the FSF, perhaps postdated, would be
the cheapest way to get the kind of credibility you want.

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