how much right do I have on my project, if there are patches by others?

Ben Tilly btilly at
Fri Jul 6 12:59:58 UTC 2007

On 7/6/07, Joseph Hick <leet16y at> wrote:
> Yes, I actually meant a proprietary license. thanks
> for correcting me.
> why does FSF want the copyright to be them? they don't
> want to sell their product under any proprietary
> license. they just want to share their product with
> the open source community.

See  Not stated there,
but very important, is the fact that in trying to assign copyrights
you often clarify whether you have the copyrights that you thought you
had.  Which can avoid problems down the road.

Let me give a concrete example.  Suppose we have two programmers, A
and B.  Both are professional programmers, and have been employed for
some time by companies that produce proprietary software.  Both
contribute to open source projects from home.  Neither has discussed
this with their employer.  Both signed typical employment contracts.
They are in all respects similar except that A lives in New York and B
lives in California.

Because of differing state laws, chances are that B owns the copyright
to his work and A does not.  The declarations that A writes that his
code is open source are meaningless because he has no authority to
give that permission on code that is legally a work for hire belonging
to his employer.  Similar declarations from B mean exactly what B
expects.  Furthermore odds are good that neither has a clue that this
distinction exists.

If both try to donate code to the FSF, this distinction will be
discovered and the FSF is freed from worries about nasty surprises
when an employer discovers what an employee has been doing in what he
thought was his spare time.

> so having a copyright over the complete software or
> sharing the copyright with other contributors should
> not matter to FSF.

They occasionally might want to, for instance, turn GPLed code into
LGPLed code.  So it matters a little bit.  But knowing that you have a
*clean* copyright is a much bigger deal for them.

> please correct me I am wrong and help me understand
> better, since I am new to this world of software
> licenses.


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