Sounds good: Re: Request opinion on proposed license

John Cowan cowan at
Sun Aug 1 16:06:47 UTC 2004

Kevin Halle scripsit:

> Here's my understanding, do I have it close?:
> [snip]
> is that it?

All correct.

> If so, that means that the copyright must be protected in all
> the source files released under GPL and otherwise, yes?  

Yes.  This is achieved by having a copyright notice saying 
"Copyright <name of holder> <date>".  You don't actually need
this to put the file in copyright, but it helps a lot with enforcement.

> --> this is, in many ways, the case with Linux distributions.. a
> binary often runs only on specific releases of, say, Red Hat.. 
> rarely does a single binary run on all Linux distributions

Actually, the problems have more to do with what shared libraries
are available and, sometimes, the standard layout of the file
system (though that problem is much better than it used to be).

> my next step will be transferring the current work to
> SourceForge, what should I do so that the copyright rights are
> preserved, and that they are transferred to the CodeSteward, and
> that all who join the project assign copyrights to the work they
> contribute to the CodeSteward?

You're probably going to have to incorporate CodeSteward so that it's
a legal person for the purpose of holding copyrights.  This is where
you get a lawyer with both general and IP experience, preferably
one who understands open-source issues, too.  (Larry Rosen's listening.)

> -- What Boilerplate wording is needed to ensure that the
> contributors own the copyright and patent rights to all the work
> they are contributing, and that they assign those rights to the
> CodeSteward.  

The FSF has such boilerplate; if you ask nicely, they may let you
use it, I don't know.

> -- What steps have to be done to not inadvertently lose any
> rights by not putting the right language in, etc?.. for example,
> does every single source file released have to have a copyright
> notice?  Does that notice have to name the CodeSteward?  Or, is
> it sufficient to name the contributor, who then assigns to the
> CodeSteward?  Any pitfalls to be aware of?  Examples of the
> right wording?

Copyright notices are trivial: see above.  Your right to sue is
maximally preserved if every file bears notice.  Note that
exclusive assignments of copyright, which is what you want here,
must be in writing, but no form is prescribed.  Ask your lawyer
(see above).

> -- Do the contributors have to sign actual paper documents in
> order to assign copyright to the CodeSteward?  

That's the safe, conservative option.  I recommend it.

> -- How to form the CodeSteward?  Must it be a corporation?  Must
> it exist at the time code is placed onto SourceForge?  Can it
> just be a name, for now, and be given more complete legal status
> later?  What things can/have to be done to make the CodeSteward
> a legal entity?  Bank account?  Retail business licence?  Stated
> place of business?  Fictitious Business Name notice?  What's the
> minimum, for now, so don't lose any rights?

These are all questions for your lawyer.

I am not a lawyer; this is not legal advice.  Anything you see on this list,
even though some of it comes from lawyers, is not legal advice either.

John Cowan  cowan at
Dievas dave dantis; Dievas duos duonos          --Lithuanian proverb
Deus dedit dentes; deus dabit panem             --Latin version thereof
Deity donated dentition;
  deity'll donate doughnuts                     --English version by Muke Tever
God gave gums; God'll give granary              --Version by Mat McVeagh

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