[opensource-dev] Can you legally agree to incomprehensible conditions

Michael Dickson mike.dickson at hp.com
Sat Apr 3 07:24:09 PDT 2010

Excellent summary by Rob. I was going to write a follow up but Rob's
post was pretty complete.  The short of it is that because of the
contributor agreements LL owns the copyright on all contributions
including their own and can use them pretty much how they see fit,
including in commercial code that may never be released opensource.
They can't remove the GPL from contributions that are accepted into the
opensource tree or on their own GPL'd sources. Those remain available
under the GPL.

You can argue they shouldn't do that but as the article Rob did suggests
software is valued as and deals like MySQL and such depend on the
ability to sell something as IP possibly as a closed source offering.
IMO, its that ability that funds much of the large project opensource
thats done.


On Sat, 2010-04-03 at 14:12 +0000, Jesse Barnett wrote:
> On Sat, Apr 3, 2010 at 8:30 AM, Carlo Wood <carlo at alinoe.com> wrote:
>         Ok, IANAL as well, but here's what I understood (somewhere in
>         the past):
>         LL is a single legal entity, "distributing" sources internally
>         is
>         not considered to be distribution and using binaries on
>         multiple
>         PC's within the company is also not considered distribution
>         (it
>         doesn't change owner).
>         Therefore, they can link GPL-ed code with non-GPL-ed code (ie
>         the server).
>         The result would not be something that they can legally
>         distribute, but
>         that is not being done when they keep it strictly internal.
>         If however they would sell (or even give) the server binary to
>         another
>         company, that is something entirely different. In that case
>         they may
>         not link with any GPL code, not even GPL shared libraries
>         unless that
>         binary is GPL-ed, meaning that the receiving company also
>         needs to get
>         source code, fully GPL-ed, which gives that company the right
>         to
>         distribute it on the internet as well. If LL wouldd sell that
>         binary and
>         give the source code but created an NDA for it; then they'd
>         break
>         the law and could be sued by the copyright holder of the
>         GPL-ed part
>         of their server (mostly like the FSF).
> Not sure if that assessment is entirely correct. Rob Linden's greatest
> strength (besides his extraordinary patience) was the ability to
> explain things in a way so that anyone could understand. He did an
> excellent blog post last month about dual licensing and contribution
> agreements that should be required reading for everyone:
> http://blog.robla.net/2010/thoughts-on-dual-licensing-and-contrib-agreements/
> Jesse Barnett

More information about the opensource-dev mailing list