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Re: GPL (was: Re: Early XSLT's)

From: Joseph M. Reagle Jr. <reagle@w3.org>
Date: Wed, 20 Jun 2001 10:00:38 -0400
Message-Id: <>
To: David Brownell <david-b@pacbell.net>
Cc: www-dom-ts@w3.org, plh@w3.org
Hi David,

At 19:20 6/19/2001, David Brownell wrote:
> > Good point; as you can see, the text now specifies the W3C Software 
> License.
> > http://www.w3.org/Consortium/Legal/copyright-software-19980720
>... except that it doesn't specify a particular version (such as that one),
>so again, there's a loophole.  It shouldn't be mandatory to permit W3C
>to relicense other peoples' contributions at will, as I commented before.

The hypertext version links to the dated version, I've added /+(19980720)+/ 
next to the text to make this clear.

> >    All it does is permit the W3C to avoid
> > confused claims of conflicted or joint ownership. (Most software licenses
> > don't even speak of ownership and that whole issue remains rather murky 
> in
> > my reading of them.
>Introducing such new issues -- beyond issues of "who holds the copyrights"
>and "what license applies" seems to create even more problems.  What
>exactly is "ownership", as distinct from "copyright"??

See http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/201.html .

> >    Consequently, I believe the explicitness is useful after
> > seeing work at the IETF come to a stop when a contributor was upset at a
> > decision and tried to yank his contribution from something the whole
> > community had worked on.)
>Hmm, that presumes the original licence grant was in fact revocable.

In that scenario there was unfortunately not a sufficiently explicit 
understanding of the ownership or license of work done of the 
public/individuals at the IETF. For much of W3C work this has not been a 
problem since the work is done under the umbrella of the W3C membership 
agreements. In my public WGs, I make sure this understanding is explicit [1] 
and the IETF subsequently made it explicit in RFC2026 in and 10.4.c 
[2]. When the W3C accepts public contributions I think it's important that 
we are clear of that status of contributory or derived works.

[1] http://www.w3.org/Signature/Contributor.html
[2] http://www.ietf.org/rfc/rfc2026.txt

> > The intent is not an exchange of ownership on the original work, only for
> > the W3C to own the work it derived (and license them under the same W3C
> > Software License.)
>I guess I still don't see why that'd be perceived as an issue.  When the
>original non-revocable license was granted, W3C (like every other
>source licensee) received sufficient rights to evolve the software as it
>sees fit, in perpetuity.  Why does W3C want to be "more equal"?

The W3C wants to protect the investment of a whole community that 
contributes to a shared work. However, this has nothing to do with W3C 
intent, instead the sentence on ownership communicates what happens via law. 
17 U.S.C.  103 [3] means that the creator of the derivative work owns the 
copyright on the derivative and compilation of original works, but gains no 
extra rights over the original not provided by the contributing license.

[3] http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/unframed/17/103.html

Recently on the open source license list the question of the necessity of 
such text was mentioned [4] with differing opinions. Most open sources 
licenses don't speak on the ownership issue themselves (nor does the W3C's 
licences), but when it comes to the contributing license (I have the right, 
there's no trademark, there's no patent, etc.) I've found the explicitness 
to be very useful, as demonstrated by this thread itself!

[4] http://www.mail-archive.com/license-discuss@opensource.org/msg03044.html

Joseph Reagle Jr.                 http://www.w3.org/People/Reagle/
W3C Policy Analyst                mailto:reagle@w3.org
IETF/W3C XML-Signature Co-Chair   http://www.w3.org/Signature
W3C XML Encryption Chair          http://www.w3.org/Encryption/2001/
Received on Wednesday, 20 June 2001 10:00:50 UTC

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