Implications for switching licenses mid-stream

Rick Moen rick at
Wed Apr 23 08:01:55 UTC 2008

Quoting Chuck Swiger (chuck at

> We've had this discussion several times before.  :-)  

Fruitlessly, it appears.

> More importantly, altering a copyright without explicit permission  
> would likely be considered a violation of USC 17 section 506c - e, or  
> equivalent.  

To quote Niven and Pournelle's Rod Blaine, "That turns out not to be 
the case."  You are assuming that the project leader changing the
licence terms on a collective work constitutes willful copyright
infringement -- and, in your hypothetical, it seems doubtful to assert
that it's necessarily copyright infringement of _any_ sort, for reasons
cited by Catherine and Eric Raymond in the cited HOWTO.  As those
authors point out, the project leader needs only to prevent causing
actual (monetary) damages to collective-work contributors.

(Said project leader _would_ be guilty of being a fool and a jerk if
he/she didn't secure consensus, and would likely cause an immediate
fork, but I cannot see a tort in the picture.  IANAL.  TINLA.  YADA.)

Cheers,           "I don't like country music, but I don't mean to denigrate
Rick Moen         those who do.  And, for the people who like country music,
rick at         denigrate means 'put down'."      -- Bob Newhart

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