Subject: Re: Successful FSBs
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <>
Date: Tue, 01 Oct 2002 16:58:25 +0900

>>>>> "Benjamin" == Benjamin J Tilly <" <>> writes:

    Benjamin> Bills like the DMCA and the proposed CBDTPA, along with
    Benjamin> technologies like Palladium, are objected to because the
    Benjamin> cost of the coercion needed to enforce copyright
    Benjamin> surpasses the general benefit of the same.  (IMHO of
    Benjamin> course.)

That may be why you object to them.  I object to coercion (strictly
defined) and invasion of privacy in principle.  I accept them only
with due process and in the interest of resolving conflicts with
principles of similar status.  "General benefit" is not an excuse.

Of course as an economist I often appeal to the calculus of "general
benefit" as a convenient tool.  But this is justified because in
general there are many liberal institutions that enable improvements
in general benefit as an outcome, and we may want to choose "good"
ones.  I don't justify liberal institutions on the grounds that they
maximize general benefit (although for a remarkable share of common
situations they do, under a variety of definitions of general benefit).

    >> This is actually plausible in that there is no obligation for
    >> the FSF to distribute your code, and therefore you may have no
    >> rights to it at all in the absence of explicit FSF permission,
    >> unless you have previously distributed it under a free license!
    >> This is of practical significance for those who have, as I
    >> have, signed assign.future.

    Benjamin> Given that one no longer owns copyright, it is no
    Benjamin> surprise that you would afterwards have no more rights
    Benjamin> than any member of the general public.

Oh?  You don't find the implication that "XEmacs may not distribute
Steve Turnbull's contributions without explicit FSF permission"
disconcerting?  What is surprising is that I may have _fewer_ rights
than a member of the general public.  Clearly, any of them can derive
and distribute a work.  It is not clear that I can distribute (in the
absence of the license-back clause), because my code has not been
licensed by the FSF and therefore is NOT covered by XEmacs's GPL.
They are not otherwise required to license the code at all, although
if they do distribute it must be covered by a free license.  It's a
Catch-22, a curiosum, but that's how lawyers earn their keep.

    Benjamin> I am kind of curious about this.  Suppose that I offer a
    Benjamin> copyright license.  And then I sell my copyright.  Who
    Benjamin> do users have that license with now?  Me?  The current
    Benjamin> owner?

That depends on the terms of the license and of the transfer of
copyright.  By default, still you.  That's the way contracts work.

    Benjamin> And if it is the current owner, then are they bound by
    Benjamin> my previous license?

That depends on the terms of the license and the terms of the
copyright assignment, and what you mean by "bound".  By default, they
cannot revoke it, but do not have any obligations under it.

    Benjamin> Do I have a responsibility to disclose this?

Moral, yes (IMHO).  Legal, ask a lawyer.

    Benjamin> What would happen if, for instance, someone released
    Benjamin> code under a BSD license, then later moved to the GPL,
    Benjamin> then assigned copyright to the FSF?

There would be three sets of licensees.  A set of BSD licensees from
you (including transitive licenses via your direct BSD licensees[1]),
a set of GPL licensees from you (ditto), and a set of (presumably) GPL
licensees from the FSF.

    Benjamin> What would be the status of a proprietary company who
    Benjamin> was using code derived from the BSD codebase?

Unchanged, except they would have the option of switching to GPL in
order to take advantage of the improvements, if any, in your GPL and
the FSF's GPL code bases.

[1]  You can withdraw your BSD license if you like, but in practice to
make that effective you either have to (a) buy back all copies or (b)
write a new version so good that everybody will take the new version
under the new conditions.

Institute of Policy and Planning Sciences
University of Tsukuba                    Tennodai 1-1-1 Tsukuba 305-8573 JAPAN
 My nostalgia for Icon makes me forget about any of the bad things.  I don't
have much nostalgia for Perl, so its faults I remember.  Scott Gilbert