[Python-mode] FSF assignment policy

Andreas Roehler andreas.roehler at online.de
Tue Jan 27 18:44:01 CET 2009

Stephen J. Turnbull wrote:
> I am not a lawyer, and I don't speak for the FSF or the Emacs Project.
> I do speak for the XEmacs Project until such time as someone feels
> like complaining about it. :-)
> Andreas Roehler writes:
>  > as FSF assignment policy was raised again at
>  > python-mode at python.org, please permit to ask you a
>  > thing I never understood:
>  > 
>  > AFAIS every Emacs-file is inspired by many, many others
>  > from the very beginning. We see almost always a plenty
>  > of revisions with a lot of people involved.
> AIUI, this is one of the motivations for the free software movement:
> each program created is a joint creation of the apparent author(s),
> and of the community around them.  (I'm pretty sure Richard would say
> it's not the most important motivation, but I suppose he will
> acknowledge it.)
> Nevertheless, software *also* exists in a legal environment, and the
> assignment policy (like the GPL) is a compromise between the *goal* of
> software freedom and the *limited means* provided[1] by that legal
> system for implementing software freedom.
>  > So how a single developer could ever declare what the
>  > assignment formula demands? How could any person
>  > declare, he _owns_ the rights at the code, thus
>  > assigning it.
> For starters, he doesn't make such a declaration about "the" code.  He
> makes that declaration about his own contribution.  The way he
> acquires that power is simple: he writes some code down.  That's all
> it takes!  Whether he publishes or not.  Then, according to the Berne
> Convention and other applicable treaties, he is automatically awarded
> such copyright privileges as are created by the law of each
> jurisdiction in which the software is available.
> Exactly what privileges he is awarded are determined by the local
> laws, and which parts of the software are "his" are determined in
> principle by the law, and in practice by a court if his claims are
> contested.  In other words, the question you are asking is not posed
> by the assignment policy, but rather by the very existence of
> copyright itself.  The assignment policy, then, is one of an array of
> policies (including advocacy of copyleft licenses, for example)
> adopted by the free software movement to preserve software freedom, in
> the context of such a legal system.
>  > Isn't that assignment policy driving developers in a
>  > kind of forgery? Making them false declarations,
>  > thus having rights about them, being everyday able to
>  > sue them for these false declarations?
> No.  There is no forgery, assuming you make the claim in good faith.
> You may still be liable for infringement if you are mistaken about the
> extent of your rights, just as you may be liable for an automobile
> accident if the car in front of you stops without warning for no
> apparent reason and you run into it.
>  > Or am I simply dreaming a bad dream?
> There is no law in the U.S. or Japan about "making declarations", I
> don't know about Europe.  That is, the fact that you assign what you
> believe to be your code to another party does not increase your risk,
> per se.  What matters is if you make or enable copies, or the assignee
> does.  But for free software, the risk imposed by assignee-made copies
> is precisely the same as the risk imposed by GPL-licensee-made copies.
> In other words, if the risk involved in assigning your code bothers
> you, what are you doing participating in free software at all?
> However, the idemnity clause of the standard FSF assignment contract
> may increase your risk, since you're required to defend the FSF as
> well as yourself.  Ask a lawyer if that bothers you.
> Note: I personally am not particularly a fan of the assignment policy,
> though the recent trend in many projects to adopt such a policy may
> force me to reconsider that position.  However, the objections you
> seem to have in mind really apply to copyright itself, and the
> assignment policy is just shadowing it.


The question already touched so far is, if or how copyright might declared with
respect to programs.

Is copyright a useful term with respect to computer programs?

I say: no. You, Steve, knows that very well. Some days ago we discussed

Reflection was: maybe implement it differently then GNU function.

Why not, no matter.

Now, can you implement a poem from --say-- Allan Ginsberg differently
then Ginsberg did?

You can't. And that's the different between the realm, where copyright
makes some sense and where it's nonsense.

You may be condemed for nonsense, wars are declared for nonsense, yes.
Nonsense is a real existing force.

But let's consider another aspect of dangers I see coming:

Copyright always was and is a weapon to witheld things.
It might turn into a terrible weapon with computers, if people
depend on them.

That's why giving it free is ok and best. Then copyright is no longer a danger.

So why collect, harbour and even monopolize things, you want to be

AFAIS the reason is the gain of power. To do some other things then distribution
 with this power.

The will to do the best, certainly. I don't question this will as far it concerns Richard
or majority of code contributors.

However, things have their own dynamic. We will see it.
Because power has it's own dynamic. FSF is already a remarkable power and will be a
 really big one.

IMHO FSF will outweight on the long run all other known powers.
Others will be nothing in comparison.

As all power is misused, the misuse will happen.

Simply want to say already now: not in my name.

In contrast freedom lives from the distribution of power,
not in collection them in form of copyrights or otherwise.

The way to freedom is to assist each other to defend or gain them,
best on a truly personal level - even through the line.

Thanks all

Andreas Röhler

> Regards,
> Steve
> Footnotes: 
> [1]  Or barriers presented, if you will.

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