Subject: Re: Standing on multi-authored works
From: Brian Behlendorf <>
Date: Wed, 20 Apr 2005 12:24:14 -0700 (PDT)

On Wed, 20 Apr 2005, Ben Tilly wrote:
> On 4/20/05, cody koeninger <> wrote:
> [...]
>> So why does the FSF require assignments?  Are they
>> concerned about the situation where the only evidence
>> of infringement concerns a contribution, rather than
>> the whole?
> [...]
> I believe that they have many reasons.  One important one
> is that it can be very easy for a well-meaning author to not
> understand that what they wrote is a work for hire and is
> copyrighted by their employer.  (This can be true even if
> what you wrote had nothing to do with your job, and was
> written at home in your own time on your own computer.)
> The FSF is very careful when they get assignments to
> also make sure that the employer agrees.  If they had a
> less formal process it would be very easy for them to wind
> up with an accidental copyright infringement.

The ASF has that too, though, but with a non-exclusive license.  So it's a 
reason to require clear paperwork to establish provenance, but not 
necessarily assignment.

My sense is that in the myriad of court cases that have established the 
balances and proper behavior between contributor, aggregator, and licensee 
in collective work issues, the courts have simply not considered 
situations comparable to the kinds of deeply interwoven collective works 
that Open Source projects are.  An anthology of poems is not like a Linux 

I looked all-too-quickly at Groklaw to try and see where there's been 
cases in the U.S. involving the establishment of provenance with an Open 
Source project, and didn't quickly see one.  Perhaps SCO can become one, 
though it may not be our best test case.