Fabian Bastin Fabian.Bastin at
Thu Apr 14 09:23:42 UTC 2005

Brian Behlendorf wrote:

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> Doesn't the FSF require copyright assignment for contributions to 
> GNU-owned works, giving them the scary possibility of relicensing 
> under other licenses? No one seems to mind that "asymmetry".
> Are we really all out of other windmills to tilt against?
>     Brian
The FSF justifies its position at this page:
You can be agree or not with their position. If not, just do not 
contribute directly to their project, or make a fork ;-)

IMHO, such a copyright assignement requirement is not directly related 
to the GPL; you could ask this for any open-source project, but you then 
face the threat of forking if some contributors are not agree with this. 
A famous case is the emacs/xemacs fork:
Other interesting examples are presented in the page proposed on this 
list by Rick Moean (thanks for it... I was not aware about this page).

You can also reuse part of GNU projects code in independant project, as 
soon as you use the GPL, so the asymmetry is not too large. The main 
issue with copyright assignement is that only the copyright holder has 
the right to change the license (except is a clause is defined in the 
license to allow changes), but I would not fear that the FSF produce a 
proprietary version of GNU projects ;-) And even if they do, you can 
still use the previous code version and start a fork from it (just think 
about the xfree case, where the license was not GPL). I therefore 
think that copyright asymmetry increases in fact the possibility of fork...

You can also develop your code, use it with your own copyright, and then 
include it in a GNU project under the FSF copyright, while still using 
it with your name and/or other licenses in other softwares.  I am not a 
specialist in copyright regulations, so please be free to correct me if 
I wrong.

I personnally consider that the main asymmetry of the GPL and GNU 
projects comes from the strong copyleft, that assumes that simply 
linking with GPL code produces a derivative work (while this issue is 
disputed amongst lawyers), since that raises a lot of licence 
compatibility issues. But this is not the same issue as the copyright 

Best regards,


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