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

Matthew Flaschen matthew.flaschen at
Sun Jul 8 23:26:57 UTC 2007

Rick Moen wrote:
> Quoting Matthew Flaschen (matthew.flaschen at
>> It would seem that any interpretation except a series of independent
>> (i.e. neither joint nor collective) derivative works...
> [USA law assumed for present discussion.]
> A third-party patch in _separate_ form is indeed logically treated as
> commentary; thus, as an independent work.

What if a significant amount of code is removed in the patch?  Could
that exceed the limits of fair use?

  Merging it into the original
> work strikes me as very likely to create a derivative work -- which then
> necessarily falls into either the joint- or collective-work category.

Is this really correct?  If a derivative work wasn't coordinated at all
with the original, how could it be a joint or collective work?  Also,
some derivative works are illegal.  How does that fit in?

> (not that copyright law has a mandate to bolster copyleft).


>> If programs are collective works, the primary author can
>> relicense contributions (without explicit copyright assignment) to a
>> copyleft program under a proprietary license.
> If contributors prove that ye olde primary author has failed to
> safeguard their interests or has violated agreements with them, then
> nonetheless the primary author may find he/she lacks that option.
> Please note that courts tend to measure "interests" for civil-law
> purposes in economic terms: 

So if a contributor uses copyleft for non-pecuniary reasons, they have
no recourse, right?

> But, anyhow, in that hypothetical, any party (obviously) can fork
> rev. n-1, taking over maintenance under copyleft.

But that's hardly enough, if the primary author has created a
proprietary fork against a major contributor's wishes.

Matt Flaschen

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