Granting permission.

Angelo Schneider angelo.schneider at
Wed Nov 7 17:21:14 UTC 2001

Hi all!

> Yonas Jongkind[SMTP:YONASJ at SMARTT.COM] wrote:
> I have been lurking on this list for a while.
> We would like to use the LGPL, and GPL licenses.  However we also want
> the flexibility to switch to a less restrictive license such as the MIT
> license later.  The GPL also prevents certain commercial uses.  For

The authors of a software can dual or even multiple license the

You can e.g. distribute the exactly same sources under GPL or LGPL and
also under a commercial license.

See e.g.:
An very interesting interview, about a company doing that, recvently
reffered to on

> people who find this to be a problem, we would like to be able to offer
> them a different license whereby we can allow them to do what they want
> on a case by case basis.
> Some people currently ask you to grant ownership of your source to them,

Suppose people use your software under the GPL license, their
changes/contributions fall under the GPL as well.

If you like to incorporate those changes into the fork wich is
distributed under a commercial lisence they need to assign the copyright
for their changes/additions to you.

In other words: if oyu lie to avoid forking into a GPL "version" and a
commercial/properietary "varsion" you need a way to distribute theri
additions legaly.

> so that they can relicense it if they want.  Here things seems to get
> tricky because it is not always clear when someone really has the right
> to assign this copyright.  On the GCC project it is actually quite

If some one has written it, he has the copyright and in general he can
transfer or assign it to someone else.

> difficult to get your changes accepted.  At my previous company we spent
> more than one year trying to get changes accepted -- shiny dollars and
> everything.
> I would like  to use a simple agreement for the assignment of copyright
> where we can give back the changes.  On this surface this does not

This will be realy simple agreement in countries like the US or likely
canada, its nearly impossible in countries like germany (to make a
simple agreement).

> appear to make sense, but I believe that there is an analogy here. 

A line like: "with herein I assign the copyright of my changes to the
files of project XYZ to the organization BLA. In no event I shal be
liable .... etc." should be enough.

However such a line is void in germany .... and IMHO in most european
countries as well. Copyright is the strongest right in our law, same
level as the right to be not hurt or prissioned by anyone. 

You can not give up such a right!

You can only transfer rights to *use* your copyright. And assignment of
use is not possible without a kind of refunding.

So you would need a full fledged contract in germany with the content:
"We grant you the right to use our software, and you grant us the right
to use your software"

The problem will be: we grant you the right to use our software under
the GPL and we like to use your additions under GPL *AND* under a
proprietary license.

> But could I make a straight forward assignment of copyright agreement
> for this project?  What pitfalls could there be surrounding "giving
> back" intellectual property?
> Are there lawyers who specialize in this?  Our lawyer feels that he can
> figure it out, as he feels that is just more contract/copyright law, but
> to me these intellectual property and copyright issues seem to have some
> extra dimensions.
> -- Yonas.

I hope its not to confusing if I sometimes refer to the german situation
and the european situation in general.

And to point it out again: I'm not a lawer but a Software Engineer.

IMHO we as authors should know the basics of the laws involved on which
our work is grounded ...


Angelo Schneider         OOAD/UML         Angelo.Schneider at
Putlitzstr. 24       Patterns/FrameWorks          Fon: +49 721 9812465
76137 Karlsruhe           C++/JAVA                Fax: +49 721 9812467
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