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Re: Why not contribute? (to GCC)

>    The big reason the copyright assignment.  I never even bothered to
>    read it, but as I don't get anything in return there's no point.
>    Why should put obligaitons on myself, open myself up to even
>    unlikely liabilities, just so my patches can merged into the
>    official source distribution?
> You are still open to liabilities for your own project, if you
> incorporate code that you do not have copyright over, the original
> copyright holder can still sue you.

That's a critical point, which almost everybody misses, so I want to
repeat it and expand on it.

There is ABSOLUTELY NO DIFFERENCE in your legal liability in contributing
patches to a program in the case where you assign copyright to the owner of
that program and in the case you don't.  The difference is who you're
liable TO and who'll defend you, not the amount or the conditions under
which you're liable.

In fact, for an individual, you're better off WITH the assignment, which
people also don't realize!

Let's look at two cases.  Suppose I contribute two patches, one to GCC
where I'm required to assign the patch to the FSF, and one to Linux where,
as I understand it, I can keep ownership of the patch and don't have to
assign it to anybody.

Now let's suppose some company claims my patches violate their copyright.
What happens?  In the GCC case, they can't come to me since I no longer own
that code.  They sue the FSF, who defends the case.  If they lose (because
I DID, in fact, violate somebody's copyright), the FSF now has a claim
against me for what they owe plus legal fees.  But if they WIN (because I
DIDN'T violate the copyright), I haven't had any responsibility beyond
possibly being a witness.

But now let's look at the case where there WASN'T an assignment.  Then the
company comes and sues ME.  It's now MY responsibility to find and hire
attorneys.  If I lose, I have pay both the judgement and the legal fees,
just like the assignment case.  But if I WIN, I may or may not recover my
legal fees, unlike the assignment case where I don't HAVE any legal fees.

Now, in the case of a large corporation submitting the patch, they DO have
the resources to hire attorneys, so in their case the advantage of the
assignment isn't there.

But the point to take away from this, which is worth emphasizing yet again,
is that the assignment does not affect your legal liability AT ALL!

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