Subject: Re: What should Sun do?
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <>
Date: Thu, 17 Feb 2005 20:56:43 +0900

Sorry to screw up the threading, but Norbert's posts seem to regularly
disappear into the ether.

At 05:07 AM 2/3/2005, Norbert Bollow wrote:

    >> Stephen J. Turnbull <> wrote:

    >>> What good do the FSF covenants of incorporation and the
    >>> assignment papers we've signed do in that case, anybody know?

    >> The assignment papers are a contract which imposes onto the FSF
    >> obligations which are essentially equivalent to keeping the
    >> software publicly available as Free Software.

Incautious phrasing.  The FSF is under no obligation to distribute the
software it owns.

    >> Hence even if the software copyrights [...] are "inherited" by
    >> a legal successor-of-interest who isn't bound by the FSF's
    >> covenants of incorporation, this successor-of-interest cannot
    >> make use of the copyrights without honoring the obligations of
    >> the assignment contract.

Ah, OK.  Of course, you'd need somebody willing to sue them if they
violated the assignment contract.

    Marshall> Question: but suppose they don't intend to *use* the
    Marshall> copyrights?

They can't bury the code itself as long as somebody willing to
distribute copies has a copy, but rms has acknowledged that any such
successor to the FSF could put the software into the public domain,
which keeps the software itself free but vitiates the copyleft
properties of the GPL.  That would allow anyone (including the
successor) to create a new proprietary copyright in derivatives.

Institute of Policy and Planning Sciences
University of Tsukuba                    Tennodai 1-1-1 Tsukuba 305-8573 JAPAN
               Ask not how you can "do" free software business;
              ask what your business can "do for" free software.