Why not contribute? (to GCC)

Ian Lance Taylor iant@google.com
Sat Apr 24 01:32:00 GMT 2010

Basile Starynkevitch <basile@starynkevitch.net> writes:

> Perhaps someone made a mistake, and it could be me (because I don't
> understand lawyer language). Apparently, the sensitive sentence in the
> document is something like "Developer will indemnify FSF for all
> losses if the claim is not spurious".

That is not unlimited liability.  That clause says that if you
contribute code which you do not own to the FSF, and the correct owner
of the code sues the FSF, and wins the court case, and the FSF is
forced to pay damages to the true owner, then you are legally
responsible to cover the FSF's costs, both the costs of damages and
the cost of litigation.

Note that this is *not* a patent clause.  This clause only refers to
you contributing code for which you are not the copyright holder.
This clause does not make you legally liable for violating any
patents, only for violating copyright law.

In a lawsuit for the violation of copyright law, the true owner can
ask for penalties of the actual losses sustained by the owner, and in
some cases can ask for triple that amount of money.

So when considering the potential liability of this clause, you need
to consider 1) you must somehow contribute code that you copied from
somebody else, rather than writing yourself; 2) the actual owner must
discover that and must decide to sue the FSF; 3) the actual owner must
show that the distribution by the FSF somehow caused them to lose
money; 4) you may be liable for three times the amount of the money
that they lost; 5) if the FSF chooses to fight this in court, which of
course they would not do if they were in the wrong, then you would
have to pay their legal fees.

So, if you screw up badly, there is liability, yes.  Unlimited
liability, no.


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