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List Archive: gentoo-trustees
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To: gentoo-trustees@g.o
From: Kurt Lieber <klieber@g.o>
Subject: our copyright assignment form has a number of problems
Date: Wed, 23 Jun 2004 16:37:47 +0000
Having never read (or signed) the copyright form[1], I was directed to it
based on a conversation in -dev today.  Taking a brief read through it,
it's likely the entire thing is unenforceable given the way we currently
develop.

The assignment states that anything which is "committed by Assignor to an
official Gentoo source code repository using a version control system such
as cvs, subversion or similar software;" has to have the copyright assigned
to Gentoo.  It further states that "Assignor warrants that Assignor's
rights in the Work have not been previously assigned, mortgaged or
otherwise encumbered, and Assignor has full right, power and authority to
assign all such rights to Gentoo."

It makes no provisions for things like patches, which are committed to CVS
all the time, but for which the committer has no claim on the copyright.
There are also a number of images committed to the gentoo repository which
are used on the web site and which we have no copyright ownership of. 

The best part is this phrase:

---------------------------------------------------------------------------
("Assignor") hereby releases and assigns to Gentoo all Assignor's copyrights,
ownership, and claims for the following items:

	source code, object code, screen displays, icons,
	documentation, user and developers manuals, authoring,
	editing, sound, photography, graphics, animation, musical
	composition or arrangement, design, artwork, or layout,
	including any advertising, brochures, video, photographs,
	films, or computer media relating to the Work.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

The last phrase is the kicker; "or computer media relating to the work".
As written, we're asserting ownership over all our developer's hard drives.

The problem with all this is, where parts of contracts are found to be
unenforceable and/or overly broad, the courts often throw the entire thing
out.  My IANAL opinion is that this copyright assignment form is
next-to-useless for us.

Additionally, given the way it's currently worded, there's no way I'm
agreeing to sign it and I certainly encourage everyone else to avoid
signing it as well.

Corey -- have you made any progress with the IU lawyers in getting them to
help us with our copyright/IP issues?  We need to see about getting
alternate counsel to review this document and shore up its weaknesses.

--kurt

[1] http://www.gentoo.org/proj/en/devrel/copyright/assignment.txt
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-- Nicholas Jones
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Updated Jun 17, 2009

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