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To: gentoo-nfp@g.o
From: Colonel Panic <cp@...>
Subject: Re: Foundation
Date: Thu, 29 May 2008 09:22:02 +1200
Hi Roy,

> On 2008.05.28 19:48, Colonel Panic wrote:
> > Re:http://www.gentoo.org/foundation/en/
> > 
> > "In order to sustain the current quality and development swiftness 
> > the
> > Gentoo project needs a framework for intellectual property protection
> > and financial contributions while limiting the contributors' legal
> > exposure."
> > 
> > Such a framework should be an ethical one, in that it should be fair
> > and just and not misleading in any way. Ideally reference to the
> > misnomer of intellectual property should replaced by recognition of
> > the ongoing benefit which arises from constructive input, whether it
> > be a bug report or a complete software management system.
> > 
> [snip]
> 
> Now there is a minefield for the ethics project.
> There is no universal standard of ethics.

The closest approximation to a universal standard is the common law, which is a set of principles which derive from reason. These principles are described as maxims of the common law, and can be used to construct an argument which is difficult to refute.

> Standards vary from region to 
> region and time to time. They are all 'right' of course, in that they 
> suit their subscribers.

Some standards result in a culture that flourishes, other standards result in anarchy. The Greeks described the quality which sets a set of standards apart as the virtues of courage, moderation, wisdom and justice. Ethics is sometimes described as what is fair and just, and it is this description that I am referring to.

> 
> The Gentoo Foundation has very little intellectual property and its 
> growing slowly if at all. Some history is probably in order.
> Gentoo under Daniel Robbins was quite different that it is today. 
> Developers were asked to sign over copyright in their contributions to 
> Gentoo Technologies Inc, which was a company set up by Daniel.
> When Daniel left Gentoo and set up the Gentoo Foundation, the 
> intellectual property belonging to  Gentoo Technologies Inc was signed 
> over to the Foundation. That's a simplification but is a high level 
> overview of how we got to where we are today.
> Around the same time as Daniel leaving, the copyright assignment 
> stopped happening. Perhaps devs who have been around longer than me can 
> clarify.

There is a doctrine of law called estoppel which (roughly) says that no advantage flows from a falsehood. If the developers were unaware of the role of the state regarding copyright and the state presented an inaccurate view of the nature of copyright, then any contract pertaining to the falsehood would be void. Also, if the agreement did not specify what the developers would get in return for their work then the contract would be naked and therefore unenforceable.

> 
> Reinstating copyright assignment (to the Foundation) has been touched 
> on but is very complex as laws relating to copyright vary around the 
> world. e.g. In Germany, you cannot assign your copyright to another 
> party. In the UK, draconian employment laws mean the copyright in 
> anything you do in your own time on your own equipment may belong to
> your 
> employer, so its not yours to assign in the first place.
> 
> Thus the Gentoo Foundation only has what it inherited from Gentoo 
> Technologies Inc and any contributions made since by devs that have 
> signed over copyright.
> 
> The idea of centrally held copyright for open source at least, is that 
> it is easier to enforce. When everyone keeps their own copyright, 
> enforcement has to be done by all the copyright holders acting 
> together.

A common factor of open source licences is that they rely upon inter-governmental agreements for enforcement of copyright. As you have said, standards vary and some governments have draconian laws. Any developer that publishes copyright licence terms implicitly endorses this state of affairs.

An alternative strategy for protection of a developer's interests is what has been called "Truth law". Truth law is relevent here because truth is sovereign in commerce, and commerce includes the exchange of intangibles like ideas and creative works such as software. It relies on the fact that those who act badly don't like being seen as having a guilty mind. A group of developers could cooperate to inform interested parties of acts such as plagiarism which unfairly affected their interests. The interested parties would typically be those who had commercial dealings with the plagiarist.

> 
> There is lots there to discuss, so I have snipped the rest for now.

Fine, I'll endeavour to keep track of the original issues so that our discussion doesn't go off on too much of a tangent.

Regards,
CP
-- 
gentoo-nfp@g.o mailing list


References:
Foundation
-- Colonel Panic
Re: Foundation
-- Roy Bamford
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