[License-review] For Approval: Convertible Free Software License, Version 1.3 (C-FSL v1.3)

Rob Landley rob at landley.net
Fri Jan 11 21:33:36 UTC 2019

On 1/11/19 7:19 AM, Elmar Stellnberger wrote:> On 09.01.19 02:29, Rob Landley wrote:
>> Or do you literally just mean "we're special, we get extra rights nobody else
>> gets, in perpetuity" and you want to call that open source?
>> Rob
> Well if someone publishes code under C-FSL he needs to be a (/one of the)
> copyright holder(/s) in order to have the right to re-license under C-FSL.

Every contributor is a copyright holder. That's how copyright works.

> If so then he is perfectly fine to do so. In this case it is likely that the elder
> authors could publish under C-FSL without crypto support and those who have
> added crypto support as well because they have contributed a major part of the
> code (assumed that the previous product was already C-FSL or open source).

Any license without a termination clause means you can continue to publish under
the old license, and create new derived works if you used to be able to. Forks
don't affect the original.

Each contributor has a separate copyright to their own contributions, and
joining together the contributions creates a "derived work" which needs a
license agreed to by all the copyright holders in order to legally create new
copies of the result.

A license doesn't say who is and isn't a copyright holder, a license says what
the copyright holders have agreed _other_ people may or may not do with the
copyrighted work, specifically what subset of the rights reserved by copyright
they may exercise and under which conditions. Each copyright holder is "other"
to the copyrights they don't own, so the copyright holders also need the license
when it is a derived work incorporating the work of multiple authors. (I'm
glossing over "joint authorship" because we don't do that here, see
if you're curious, but open source is careful not to go there.)

Without a mutually agreed-on license, ANY copyright holder in a multiply derived
work can veto creating new copies, which is necessary for digital distribution.
The only way for the "original author(s)" to be "the" copyright holder(s) is to
either not accept any external contributions ever, or to do copyright assignment.

This isn't a software thing, this was an active issue in music and TV and books
and so on long before computers were invented...


Heck, software's handling of copyright was more or less modeled on player pianos
circa 1910, at least initially. Jon Hall gave talks about this at a couple Linux
conferences I attended:


This is why filming stage plays is so hard; they don't get everybody to sign the
right paperwork up front and doing it after is a huge pain and if you _miss_ one
they can sue for pretty much all the profits (and there's union contracts
involved and musicians and...) It's also why the Star Trek actors improvising
the "nuclear wessels" scene on the street had to run after the lady walking her
dog right after the cameras stopped rolling and ask her to sign a release to be
able to use her "across the bay, in Alameda" response... This is why many of the
original MST3K episodes aren't officially available, because they created
derived works of something they only got limited rights to, which expired and
now their derived work can't be shown because the original thing they made a
derived copy of wants a _lot_ more money...

These sort of right squabbles are what lawyers _do_. You want some weird corner
cases, I'm still waiting for somebody to try to apply:


To software licenses. (35 years ago was 1984, we're getting into some serious
classic unix territory there and it's mostly abandonware and thus "out of print"...)

You're trying to give some copyright holders more rights than other copyright
holders. You're trying to create a magic category of copyright holders which can
relicense everyone _else's_ copyrights. Even the FSF didn't do that in GPLv2
(which is why Linux is still GPLv2 only when Stallman very much wanted it to go


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