Why so few Python jobs? (and licenses)

Paul Rubin phr-n2001d at nightsong.com
Tue Oct 9 21:00:44 CEST 2001

Mark <mmealman at tarsis.org> writes:

> In article <7xd73x1cgf.fsf at ruckus.brouhaha.com>, Paul Rubin wrote:
> > Gerhard Häring <gh_pythonlist at gmx.de> writes:
> > of people's hands in them (that's the whole point of the GPL).  If I
> > write a GPL'd module and users start sending me fixes and
> > improvements, I have to think of them as contributors who worked on
> > the program with the understanding that it was free.  If someone else
> > then wants to pay me for the right to use the improved module in a
> > closed product, I have to get the permission of everyone else who
> > contributed, which may mean they all have to also get paid.
> IMHO submitting patches to a program does not give you any copyright hold
> over that program, although I don't think it's been legally tested yet.

If it hasn't been legally tested, then it's a matter of opinion, and
if you claim ownership of the results without getting all the
contributors to sign off, you're possibly putting yourself at risk.  I
would certainly feel obligated to check with the contributors, and if
I contribute to a GPL'd program that the author later wants to un-GPL,
I'd expect him to get my approval.  

I've actually been in that situation.  I made substantial
contributions to someone else's program expecting it to be GPL'd.
Some company then approached the original author about a commercial
deal, and I made it clear that if the deal happened (it ultimately
didn't), then I wanted some of the money.  I feel that is only fair.
I don't see why I should do someone else's commercial product
development with no compensation.

> The spirit of the GPL is not about placing restrictions on the origional
> copyright holder of a program, it's a means for him or her to place his
> software into the public domain and insure that no one "steals" it without
> giving back.

I like that spirit, but I hope it's for the all the authors, not just
the original one ;-).  If someone else contributes to a GPL'd program
which the original author then re-licenses commercially to some
company without compensating the later contributor, I think in your
terminology, the original author has "stolen" from the later
contributor without giving back.  Does that really seem fair to you?

In my view, if I GPL something, I'm announcing to the community that
I've written a free program for community participation.  Nobody has
made me GPL it and nobody else is putting restrictions on me.  But to
some extent, I'm putting restrictions on MYSELF, by my own choice, and
I'm obliged to abide by them.  If I don't want those restrictions, I
don't GPL it.

I'll say also that the legal and ethical conclusions on a given
example might not match.  If I write a major component of a program
(like the one I mentioned above), I feel my legal and ethical claims
to partial ownership are both pretty good.  If I submit a 2-line bug
fix rather than a major component, my legal claim is probably close to
worthless.  But ethically, if the fix represents a day of intense
debugging that I was forced to do during a critical phase of some
other project that depended on the program, the author has gotten
valuable free labor out of me when I really couldn't spare the time.
Example: I once had to spend a frantic all-nighter chasing an Apache
module bug that was crashing my employer's development web site during
a holiday rush.  Apache isn't GPL'd, but if that happened with a GPL'd
program and the author then commercialized it, I'd feel steamed even
though I probably couldn't do anything legally.  It's the same
principle: I'm happy to debug your commercial program for you, as long
as we set up a consulting contract first!  Just don't expect me to do
it for free.

Anyway I'm not trying to rant or argue, just trying to explain what it
can feel like from a volunteer developer's side.  "Commercial by
stealth" is no better than "GPL by stealth".

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