Starting a new Open Source Project

John Cowan jcowan at
Mon Nov 4 23:21:18 UTC 2002

David Johnson scripsit:

> 1) Each author retains copyright for their non-trivial contribution. Since we 
> will probably use the BSD license, this does not create a huge problem. But 
> would the package as-a-whole need a distinct copyright holder? Would a 
> generic "Ogham Development Team" suffice, or is something much more formal 
> needed?

If the package-as-a-whole is made up of separately copyrighted modules,
then it could only get a thin "compilation copyright" controlling selection
(and ordering, irrelevant for software).  So with this copyright you could
prevent people from putting *exactly the same* set of modules together.
This is kinda pointless.  Don't worry about it.

> 2) Once person is copyright holder, and everyone else needs to assign 
> contributions to him or her. This is what GNU does. One problem with this is 
> deciding who gets to be the copyright holder. Another problem is the 
> administrative hassle of assigning the copyrights over. We want to make 
> contributing as painless as possible.

Any document in writing saying "I assign all my copyright interest in <project>
to <recipient>" is probably sufficient, assuming you are not going to sue
one another.   IANAL, TINLA.

> 3) Create an umbrella group to hold the copyright. Does this need to be a 
> formal foundation or non-profit? Do contributions still need their copyrights 
> assigned over, or could the group act as the "compiler" of the compilation?

I think it pretty much needs to be a corporation (legal person).  Probably
not worth doing for just one small project.  When you have lots of projects
like FSF or Apache, then it's worthwhile.

> I've done a quick survey of some OSS projects, and their all either seem to 
> the second since they were initially started by a single individual, or the 
> third since they grew considerably in size.

Linux is the best-known example of the first case: the parts are under varying
copyright ownership and with varying (though all GPL-compatible) licenses.

What is the sound of Perl?  Is it not the       John Cowan
sound of a [Ww]all that people have stopped     jcowan at
banging their head against?  --Larry  
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