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Re: Why not contribute? (to GCC)

On 04/25/2010 06:27 PM, Richard Kenner wrote:
I couldn't see somebody suing me (my bank account hovers pretty low
most of the time). Companies are not going to sue nobodies such as
myself because there is no money in it. So, in practice, is there a
difference or not?
No, because then the FSF wouldn't sue you EITHER! There's NO
DIFFERENCE in theory or in practice as to your liability whether there's
an assignment or not and whether it's GCC or some other project.

Obviously there is a difference, otherwise FSF wouldn't be requesting copyright assignment. The difference is that the FSF "owns" the entire project. Does this affect liability in theory or in practice? You say no. I say it might. Consolidated ownership means an easy target for a greedy company and a lazy judge (neither of which are in poor abundance). Under such a model, this "easy target", if successfully sued and if damages are awarded, would pull up the copyright assignment agreement and hold me liable for the amount. Distributed ownership provides a difficult target and a less likely candidate for either a law suit in the first place, or a high $$$ amount once they figure out that they can only really sue me (and not a well funded organization). The ultimate in free, for me, is if every single person in the world contributed at least one line of code to the project, and retains ownership to their piece. Each person is then liable to each other person, and a true community owned project exists. Consolidated ownership can't do this.

The real reason for FSF copyright assignment is control. The FSF wants to control GCC. This presents a chore for potential contributors with very little value (if any) in return for their efforts. The published explanation (why-assign.html) states clearly that the FSF believes it is easier to defend the software and all derived software as being "free" (as defined by the FSF) using a consolidated ownership mode. I don't see how this benefits me in any way. If I'm giving software that I write to the community for "free", why do I care what they will do with it? If I control how they can use it - it's not free. It's limited use.

In some ways, I wish a group did fork GCC under GPL and drop the copyright assignment requirement. In other ways, this entire issue is just so minor to me that it isn't worth going beyond this thread. GCC works, but so do other compilers (Intel CC, LLVM, ...). GCC is distributed under the GPL, so if the FSF ever becomes a real problem (as opposed to merely having a political agenda), it can be forked at this later time.

All in all, pretty minor. GCC wants FSF copyright assignment and employer disclaimers? GCC will not have as many contributors. Your choice.

There are plenty of projects that we (lurkers / non contributors) can contribute to other projects that are not as mature and require more attention, or even other compilers (LLVM?).

Referring to the people and employees who have gone through the copyright assigment and employer disclaimers in the past and saying ("they didn't have a problem signing") isn't evidence that the process is practical, efficient, or acceptable. These people probably just felt they had no other choice. If given the option of NOT doing this process, I'm sure most of them would happily have chosen option B.


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