Licensing Model: Joint Copyright Assignments

Lawrence E. Rosen lrosen at
Tue Apr 15 02:01:14 UTC 2003

Hi Mitchell,

Why do you need a copyright assignment at all?  The OSAF's code tree is
a collective work.  The OSAF will own the copyright in that collective
work, which you can protect in a copyright infringement lawsuit.  Why
does OSAF care about the copyrights for the components in the tree as
long as you have a worldwide, perpetual, royalty-free license to use
those components, copy them, modify them and distribute them as part of
the OSAF tree or anything else?  

The license-back in the Sun copyright assignment is helpful so that the
author can continue to use his own work, but it would prevent the
original author from defending his copyright if the assignee did
something untoward (like bankruptcy, change of mission from open source
to proprietary, etc.).  Why should anyone trust Sun (or OSAF, or anyone
else) with ownership of, and right to defend, their intellectual

Potential contributors ought to consider carefully before assigning
copyright to anyone whose interests in protecting the copyright are
potentially different from their own.  I would advise any clients of
mine to avoid assigning their copyrights to anyone unless they intend to
relinquish all authority over their own work in perpetuity.  

As copyright assignments go, however, the Sun one is pretty clean.

/Larry Rosen

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Mitchell Baker [mailto:Mitchell at] 
> Sent: Monday, April 14, 2003 5:29 PM
> To: Mitchell Baker
> Cc: license-discuss at
> Subject: Re: Licensing Model: Joint Copyright Assignments
> As described in a previous message, the Open Source Applicaitons 
> Foundation is planning to use a licensing model similar to that of  
> MySQL.  We also plan to require copyright assignments for 
> code accepted 
> back into OSAF's tree.  I'm very interested in the Joint Copyright 
> Assignment that is used with the OpenOffice project.  (See 
> and 
> Does anyone hae experience with this model?  Or know of 
> reasons why this 
> Joint Copyright ownership would be a problem?  I like it because the 
> original creator of submissions maintains the ability to use 
> it as he or 
> she wishes, which seems a good thing.  But I have little direct 
> experience, so don't know if I am missing difficulties with this plan.
> Thanks for your time,
> Mitchell
> Mitchell Baker wrote:
> > The Open Source Applications Foundation 
> (
> > is planning the 0.1 release 
> of Chandler (a personal information 
> > manager) shortly, hopefully by the end of April.  OSAF's plan of 
> > record for licensing is to follow the model used by MySQL:  
> recipients 
> > must either (a) make their entire application available 
> under the GPL 
> > or other approved open source license, or (b) get a 
> commercial license 
> > from OSAF.  I'm very interested in the thinking of this group about 
> > this model.  The plan is reasonably firm but not set in 
> stone, so I'd 
> > appreciate hearing about potential pitfalls as well as benefits.
> >
> > Mitchell
> >
> >
> --
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