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Ximian GNOME GUI

Evolution Bounty Stirs GPL Concerns 214

Posted by timothy
from the do-the-clauses-align dept.
Moochman writes "The recent Desktop Integration Bounty (funded by Novell) will surely please people who want Evolution to be part of GNOME. But the Ximian Evolution copyright assignment has stirred up concerns in the community about whether contributors will be able to maintain their Free Software mores. Essentially, contributors to Evolution must give Novell copyright over any code they submit; then Novell is allowed to include this code in a proprietary product. Is this a smart business move, or a violation of the GPL?" Since all contributions are only at the request of the contributing coder, and considering that the copyright assignment form says that "Ximian agrees to grant back to Developer, and does hereby grant, nonexclusive, royaltyfree and noncancelable rights to use the Works," and specifies that Novell/Ximian release the code under a license compatible with the Debian Free Software Guidelines (such as the GPL), it seems to protect the contributors rather well.
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Evolution Bounty Stirs GPL Concerns

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  • So..? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by iantri (687643) <iantri@gmx . n et> on Saturday August 07, 2004 @02:20PM (#9909624) Homepage
    Plenty of other open-source programs require you to sign over the copyright, especially when the program is maintained by an organization (Apache? Mozilla? Xfree? I don't know, but I think at least one of those three requires this).

    How is this any different? Because they are also going to sell a proprietary version? The developers will sign the rights over to Ximian, so how is this any different from dual-licensing like MySQLs? I mean, Ximian will own the code..

    • Re:So..? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 07, 2004 @02:32PM (#9909683)
      Another big one is GNU.
      • The gnu situation is different. You sign it over, and they will protect it. At any time you can ask for the copyright ownership back.
        • Re:So..? (Score:3, Informative)

          by jrumney (197329)
          At any time you can ask for the copyright ownership back.

          No, you can't. In fact the Evolution copyright assignment is an exact copy (with only the names of the organizations changed) of the GNU copyright assignment. The difference is that the FSF is a non-profit organization set up for the express purpose of protecting the freedom of software, while Novell is a company set up for the purpose of returning a profit to its shareholders, so people are more likely to see something sinister in the more loosely

      • Re:So..? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by marcello_dl (667940)

        From GNU page about the GPL [gnu.org]

        How to Apply These Terms to Your New Programs

        If you develop a new program, and you want it to be of the greatest possible use to the public, the best way to achieve this is to make it free software which everyone can redistribute and change under these terms.

        To do so, attach the following notices to the program. It is safest to attach them to the start of each source file to most effectively convey the exclusion of warranty; and each file should have at least the "copyright"

        • Re:So..? (Score:3, Informative)

          by Minna Kirai (624281)
          From GNU page about the GPL

          Irrelevant. The topic is not GPL'ed projects, but projects controlled by GNU. You are confused because the GPL is today more famous than GNU which spawned it.

          If you want to get a patch included into an actual GNU project [gnu.org], such as emacs or gcc, you must assign copyright to GNU. Otherwise they'll reject your patch (you're always free to fork, of course, but then don't get the benefit high-profile placement)
    • Re:So..? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by gujo-odori (473191) on Saturday August 07, 2004 @02:33PM (#9909691)
      Yes, the fact that they are going to sell a proprietary version is precisely what will make it different for some people (and MySQL would be different for those people, too).

      A developer who writes code and releases it under the GPL and only under the GPL and wants it to remain that way would not be likely to assign the copyright to Novell.

      If it were me, I would grant *them* a worldwide, perpetual, royalty-free license to use the code under the GPL. Maybe I would even grant them that license to use it in a proprietary program as well, as long as it was in the GPLed one too.

      But sign over my copyright and then have *them* give *me* a perpetual royalty-free license to use my own code? Umm, I don't think so. Not unless I work for Novell developing Evolution code, in which case they already own it and don't have to give me any license at all.
      • It's even worse: if you use that code in another program, you will be limited in how you can license that program. You're not the copyright owner of part of that program, so you cannot just assign a license to it without permission from the copyright owner. The GPL will work, sure, but if you want to use that code with some form of other license, you will be running into trouble.

        In other words: Novell will be the only one able to use _your_ code in a program where they get to decide the license. You can us
        • by miguel (7116) on Saturday August 07, 2004 @06:03PM (#9910660) Homepage
          Before you make comments like this, please read
          the copyright assignment form, which clearly
          states that Novell agrees to grant back to the
          developer all the rights over the code that they
          contributed.

          So you can effectively do whatever you want with
          your code (unless it is a derivative works, in
          which case, you are subject to the GPL anyways).

          Miguel.
          • So effectively you are granting Novell the ability to you your code in a propritery way, but the rest of the world see's it as GPL'd. It's basically a way for Novell to avoid inserting GPL'd code into their comercial apps without GPLing them? If that's the case I'd imagine that it is going bother a few developers. I'm no RMS by any strech of the imagination, and this bothers me. I don't think you will get quite the developer response that you've gotten in the past. On the flipside though, I guess I can see
      • Thank you.

        All this is is Novell trying to institute an old-world, pre-GPL code-ownership model ... but without having to pay developers benefits or pricing.

        I reckon that there are some people that will do this, but there are much better gigs. Some places will let you do contract work and GPL that work (if there's no competitive disadvantage) and give it away to others. In that case, you get paid well for the code *and* the world gets a GPL-licensed piece of software (not this DFSG-compliant-and-maybe-GP
    • Re:So..? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Wesley Felter (138342) <wesley@felter.org> on Saturday August 07, 2004 @02:34PM (#9909694) Homepage
      You're right that this is not a new issue. It just keeps coming up. Some people are happy to assign their code as long as it will only be licensed as open source (e.g. FSF, ASF), and those people are whining about how they won't contribute to Evolution. I think Evolution can live without them.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 07, 2004 @02:47PM (#9909738)
      Most of these, such as apache or GNU, require the code signover for reasons of ease of legal bookkeeping, or as a way of absolutely ensuring they have the right to use the code.. GNU requires this because part of their function is to police GPL violations, but they can't effectively take legal action concerning code they don't own. People rarely have trouble with signing over their code copyright in such instances because the projects in question have no form of greed or self-interest in asking for the copyright.

      This Evolution thing meanwhile you're being required to hand over the copyright so that Novell can turn around and sell it in a proprietary product. This is slightly different. Rather than being asked to hand over the copyright for the good of the community and users, you're being asked to hand over the copyright for the good of Novell.

      This is actually exactly like MySQL and a lot of people do hesitate before contributing code to MySQL for exactly this same reason.
      • Bruce Perens explains this problem here [userlinux.com]


        "Red Hat has already proposed an answer to this problem, but I think it's the wrong answer. Their Fedora project is obviously intended to look like Debian. But unlike Debian, Fedora is an extremely unequal partnership. "Fedora" is where the community developers are supposed to build Red Hat's product, while the certifications and vendor endorsements are held back for the high-priced "Red Hat Enterprise Linux" brand. This is especially obvious in recent certificatio

        • I think it makes sense to make Fedora packages for your own software - that way, you have some assurance that it will be packaged correctly. Beyond that, because of the vastly unequal partnership, I fear that a volunteer developer would be making himself an unpaid employee of Red Hat rather than a member of a real community.

          So make your own derivative distro from Fedora like Enterprise Edition. Red Hat won't stop you, and hasn't stopped a number of people that has done exactly that. Red Hat is probably
          • Yes, that can be done. It's just that, like the quoted text says, for a person not interested in any particular distribution but rather in the app they work on, it's probably simpler to contribute to Debian instead.
            I think that was the idea - while both ways are fine, Debian's is truer to idea of free/OSS.
          • At which point you are not developing for Fedora, and you have taken Bruce's advice. That was not very helpful...
        • by JoeBuck (7947)
          Red Hat has a very good record of putting out everything they produce as free software; even the few exceptions to this they have generally fixed as time went on. Given their track record, I see no risk in contributing patches to them. Should they do something that they have never done in their entire corporate history and take a free program proprietary, the free software community can fork the program, starting from the last GPL release. But with Red Hat, all the movement has been in the other directio
          • There's also the situation where you have a product which is both proprietary and GPL. The equilibrium state is where the GPL stuff is playing with the cutting edge and the proprietary stuff is holding back awaiting developments. The situation looks a bit screwey, but consider that the people paying for the proprietary version not only want stability but want someone around who can and will fix any problems that arise. If the advanced GPL version kills most of the bugs before the code is also the proprietar
      • No form of greed or self-interest? Surely you must be kidding! Selling a proprietary product is not the only form of greed / self-interest.

        RMS and the GPL are certainly driven by self-interest---interest in maximizing the volume of software available to them in source form. RMS doesn't care that you have access to his source. He wants access to yours.
        • You are right that there are other forms of self-interest, however this here is not true:

          RMS doesn't care that you have access to his source. He wants access to yours.

          What he wants is that everybody should have access to the source. That includes him, but is not restricted to him. I'm not a big fan of RMS, but the way you describe his motives is a bit unfair.

  • A no issue. (Score:5, Informative)

    by saden1 (581102) on Saturday August 07, 2004 @02:23PM (#9909638)
    Developers are getting paid for their work. Essentially they are contract workers for Novell.
  • This gives me an overwhelming feeling of "I don't give a crap"

    I think myself, like the majority of people that use software could give a flying fsck about the license some software is using.

    Gnu / BSD / X11 / Sell Grandmother into slavery - I don't care.

    Evolution is a perfectly acceptable replacement for Outlook, so long as it continues being like that i'll use it. If some better software comes along that runs on my PC i'll switch.
    • Evolution is a perfectly acceptable replacement for Outlook, so long as it continues being like that i'll use it.
      Software doesn't exist without developers. If enough developers get up-in-arms about the loss of copyright to their code to stop collaborating with Novell, or fork the project completely, there's going to be some conceivable difficulty keeping pace with Outlook.
      • by reallocate (142797) on Saturday August 07, 2004 @03:16PM (#9909836)
        You've exposed an underlying fallacy of open source and the GPL: No direct link exists between source availability and innovation.

        In this particular case, the open source community is using a widely loathed proprietary program -- Outlook -- as both model and yardstick for one of it's premier offerings, Evolution. Ditto OpenOffice.

        If the GPL does foster the creation of new and innovative applications, why has the community not already brought forth an email client and an office client that are so convincingly innovative, useful and attractive that people will happily abandon the Outlook/MSOffice paradigms in order to adopt them?

        Granted, source availability does spread innovative ideas once they occur in the mind of a given developer. But, it seems clear that a developer working in a closed, proprietary environment can be just as innovative as one working in an free and open environment. Financial reward can, in fact, be a wonderful spur to creativity.

        It could be argued, as well, that the availability of code works against innovation because developers often use existing code as a model rather than strike out into new territory.

        The GPL and open source represent many good things, but they are no better or no worse at fostering creativity than the proprietary model.

        • In this particular case, the open source community is using a widely loathed proprietary program -- Outlook

          Outlook is by far the best email client ever. And I say this as a free software bigot who hasn't run Windows at home since 3.0 and is the only person at a company of thousands without a Windows workstation at my desk. Outlook is the only Windows program I use.

          I started using it becasue I had no choice but to use Outlook to be able to use all of the Exchange features. I'm not sure if Evolution has

          • I didn't comment on the quality of Outlook. I said it is widely loathed, which is true, at least in the open source community.

            However, are you arguing that the open source community can't do something better? That Outlook is, to all intents and purposes, the last email client?
            • I didn't comment on the quality of Outlook. I said it is widely loathed, which is true, at least in the open source community.

              Why would the open source community loathe an application which is clearly the best in its space?

              However, are you arguing that the open source community can't do something better? That Outlook is, to all intents and purposes, the last email client?

              No, just that it is by far the best email client, therefore it is not widely loathed.

        • The GPL and open source represent many good things, but they are no better or no worse at fostering creativity than the proprietary model.
          Let's hear that same logic applied to software patents.
        • We have two: emacs, and mutt. The rest is just (very attractive) eye candy. Sure, "sexy-good-looking" is a force to be reckoned with...but *good* cooking lasts forever! You want to learn to cook? Or you want to suck on a lollipop?
          • If emacs and mutt are so good, why isn't everyone already using them?

            It's a bit arrogant to argue that the only reason that the vast majority of users -- on any platform -- don't use eamcs or mutt is because they are attracted to eye candy. Most people, including myself, believe computers should make life easier. Software, therefore, is better when it offers more fnctionality combined with a flatter learning curve. That's where emacs, mutt and similar applications fall down: a lot of functionality comb
        • If the GPL does foster the creation of new and innovative applications, why has the community not already brought forth an email client and an office client that are so convincingly innovative, useful and attractive that people will happily abandon the Outlook/MSOffice paradigms in order to adopt them?

          OpenOffice and Evolution are fighting in product segments where Microsoft has had a virtual stranglehold for the last 10 years. Compatibility with them is absolutely necessary to drive a wedge for more F/O
          • All true, but "fighting" in Microsoft's product segments is one agenda, and creating innovative software is another. Down the road, Evolution and OpenOffice may add their own unique features, but they have already cast their lot with the Microsoft model.

            If someone's goal is to displace Microsoft products with F/OSS products, then mimicing MS software makes sense. If the goal, however, is to deliver innovative software, it doesn't make sense.

        • Granted, source availability does spread innovative ideas once they occur in the mind of a given developer

          Isn't that choosing to quote the other end of the animal, because it suits your purpose?

          Proprietary code permits the owner of the code to determine what features are included in a product, and that's deemed to be a detriment to creativity, since you don't have the code, you can't add them yourself.

          Having to target the features of Outlook, because that's what the users of a product you want to replace

    • Perhaps that should be amended to read "the majority of people that use software on Win, Mac, and other non-free operating systems." Of them, it is certainly true that most of them don't give a flying fsck about the license, and a good number of them are quiet willing to use warez, from which we can reasonably assume they don't care about compliance with the license either.

      Among Linux users (and BSD users as well, although Linux users tend to be more "excitable" on this point), however, there are a great
    • I think myself, like the majority of people that use software could give a flying fsck about the license some software is using.

      And so, I see a clear picture of a large, pink flamingo, with beautiful plumage, with its head in the sand.

      I know, it's a myth - they really don't bury their heads in the sand, but that's not true of humans. People bury their heads in intellectual sand all the time.

      Software licenses mirror politics in this respect. If anybody EVER begins to complain about the "damn gubmint" my
      • Flamingos don't bury there head in the sand, it's Ostriches you are thinking about.

        Whats complaining about the "damn gubmint" got to do with voting? Democracy is arguably a myth propogated to make people beleive they are in control of a country. The fact that in a succesful democracy, such as the UK only 30-40% of people bother to vote for the candidates presented, that have identical policies is sort of damning isn't it?

        Btw, using unlicensed software isn't a criminal offence, it's a civil offence. There
        • As far as I know, in Canada (and the US IIRC, but I'm sure it's that way in Canada, else we'd have provincial copyright laws and different punishment by province) copyright transgress is a criminal offense.
          If the trend continues, countries like the UK, where the copyright law makes sense, will become even more of a minority, since almost every recent change to copyright law I've seen has been to reduce the burden on copyright owners(unless they were also creators) to actually get those rights protected.
    • The licensing of the software does matter in general, as it can effect its availability to the masses, including yourself.

      Get a license too far whacked, and it becomes effectively un-distributable, ( or commercial ) and effects everyone...

      Does that happen in this case? I don't know, but the general concept of what is happen should be of concern to you as a user of 'free' software.

      As a side note, I do agree though that it has all gotten out of hand with all the license/ip/patents/copyright issues, but all
    • Gnu / BSD / X11 / Sell Grandmother into slavery - I don't care.

      Ever use another popular email program named pine? You know why it's increasingly dead? Because it has a *bad license*. You ever hear people complaining about the problems with djbdns's license, or qmail's license?

      Just because a license doesn't directly impact you at the moment doesn't mean that it won't in the future, or won't do so indirectly (and possibly just as significantly).
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 07, 2004 @02:33PM (#9909686)
    The Free Software Foundation [gnu.org] also asks programmers to sign over the copyright of any code they contribute. Ditto with the OpenOffice people. This is a perfectly normal request; having code licensed under both the GPL and some other license is quite common (OpenOffice, etc.).

    Nothing to see here, move along.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      The FSF copyright assignment contract says that the FSF will always keep the software free however. The Novell one says that Novell has the right to release the software under a non-free license. That's a huge difference.

      Personally I would only sign a copyright assignment when the copyright assignment says the software isn't allowed to be released under a non-free software.
    • "Nothing to see here, move along."

      Crap, I'm confused now. Who'm I supposed to aim my pitchfork at?
  • That means that external contributions WILL BE MADE AVAILABLE UNDER A FREE LICENSE. It doesn't say "in perpetuity", which is interesting, and I'd have to ask a lawyer what that implies.

    No one will believe it here. The system is working looking for exploits ... erm ... exploitation.

    CC.
  • Slashdot food? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dot-magnon (730521) <.co. .at. .auralvision.no.> on Saturday August 07, 2004 @02:35PM (#9909696) Homepage
    As far as I can see it, this really is an internal debate. The complaints have been made, and resolutions are starting to take place, and THEN it ends up on Slashdot? Where's the BS filter gone? This is completely irrelevant for someone outside of the community to solve, and it's the community that will eventually resolve this. In addition, there are multiple discussions that have been mistaken for one here: The bounties are not directly involved with the copyright assignment debate at all.

    Just leave it already. Seems that this passes pretty unseen amongst outsiders anyway.
  • GPL concerns? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by erroneus (253617) on Saturday August 07, 2004 @02:35PM (#9909697) Homepage
    I don't pretend to know the GPL but I think I know the spirit of it pretty well.

    I think that so long as the code remains free, I have no problem with an organization being enabled to use the code in their own commercial product. I think it would be ridiculous for them not to be able to gain benefit from the activity they sponsor.

    I guess what they are trying to do is say "okay, anything you give is ours first and then we give it back... but we want to be able to use it in proprietary code but you still get to keep the code too..."
  • KDE Integration (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SpooForBrains (771537) on Saturday August 07, 2004 @02:36PM (#9909699)
    Desktop Integration Bounty


    Hopefully it will integrate with KDE a little better. Little things like sound would be nice - or being able to configure it without having to fire up Gnome Control Centre.

    It's probably never going to happen, because Evolution is Gnome through and through, but it would be nice to be able to run it without all those Gnome libraries eating up memory. The performance hit since upgrading to SuSE 9.1 has been really noticeable. ... and before someone mentions KMail, I've tried it, I hate it, and it crashes. Which is annoying since I use all the other elements of Kontact.
    • by harvalen (524793) on Saturday August 07, 2004 @03:50PM (#9910004)
      Maybe we need to start KDE project as answer to Evolution?

      Let's call it Kreationism ;)
    • Kmail crashes on you? I am on several active mailing lists and get hundreds of emails a day, plus I regularly send stuff with huge attachments and coordinate stuff with Korganizer, etc. And I never get crashes. So maybe there's something weird about your KDE install...?

      Overall, I like it way more than I like Evolution.
    • Sorry but there almost has to be something wrong with your installation. I have never seen a crash of a 3.x kmail. Almost every other program I use crashed in that time (one kernel panic, XFree crashes galore, even a tetex segfault once) only kmail always worked as it should.

      Have you tried to remove your old configuration files before using a current version, if they're really old they sometimes do weird things

  • by benmhall (9092) on Saturday August 07, 2004 @02:39PM (#9909709) Homepage Journal
    So does my project. [sf.net]

    As I mentioned on the linked page: "Also, the FSF makes all contributors attribute copyrights to the FSF. They do this for legal reasons. Mozilla did not, and when they decided to re-license, they had to contact every contributor. Because of this, we too require that any contributors attribute the copyrights to the jasabe project. Of course, you are still free to fork the project and keep your changes under your copyright, but we cannot accept your changes into the main jasabe tree."

    Don't believe me? More info can be found on the FSF page [gnu.org] as well as on their FAQ. [gnu.org]

    Not that it matters much for our project. It's only important if you have contributors. ;-)
    • The question is who you trust, either Novell which has a history of making tightly controlled proprietary software, or the FSF which is potentially more trustworthy, at least in my opinion.

      I wouldn't want to contribute my copyright because I wouldn't want the license to be changed without my permission, so I wouldn't contribute to something like this, but then I have little to offer it anyway so in this case it's a moot point.

  • by william_lorenz (703263) on Saturday August 07, 2004 @02:39PM (#9909710) Homepage
    We were able to recently bring Jeremy Cole of MySQL in to talk with our group [clevelandlug.net], and he explained that MySQL has a very similar dual-licensing methodology. This allows MySQL to sell their software commercially for those who want to include it in their products (I understand MySQL is used in telecom lots), and the companies that purchase it don't have to distribute the source with their products (which would be a hardship for them and possibly prevent them from using MySQL as a result). Additionally, MySQL AB is able to release the open version of MySQL for those who want to modify the source and tinker to their hearts contents. All contributors to the MySQL codebase have to sign-off on their code and the dual licensing, and this seems to be working well around the board, with a win-win for everyone. This way of doing things seems to support the company and a great database!
    • by Alan Cox (27532) on Saturday August 07, 2004 @04:36PM (#9910209) Homepage
      I think the big difference in the debate is that up until now the core Gnome apps haven't had such policies and people are worried about them getting everywhere.

      From day one mysql and open office have had clear policies about how they work. Their communities are built of people who accepted that when they joined while the people who didnt went elsewhere

      In the Gnome case it is making a change later on than the beginning, which makes it more divisive although the thread is probsbly larger and more acrimonious than its importance in the big picture actually is 8)
  • Its easy to be anti-Big.biz in the US, unless you are Big.biz

    I may even be on the ani-B.b side myself, but I think its a mistake to mix the FOSS (anti-proprietary software) movements too closely with an anti-corporate mentality. Not as a question of right/wrong but as a question of tactics and achievable goals.

    Open Source will win, the paradigm shift is happening, but open source will not change those nature of the Big.biz economy.

    Free Software requires going further than open source, and I think its wa
  • Makes sense... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Novell is giving you money and you have to give them the copyright.

    Whoever want pure GPL can fork Evolution....
  • It's a damn good thing to have these bounty hunts. It really involves a lot of people but at the same time it repays the people who have worked so hard to get some of the things done.

    As far as the licences goes, does it matter? I mean if i wrote something got $1000 for it and decided it was worth selling my code, I'd have no problem with it. It seems that there are people out there who would like you to have a choice on what to do with the code as long as you let everyone see and use your code as they
  • by LibrePensador (668335) on Saturday August 07, 2004 @03:10PM (#9909811) Journal
    This is not a legal issue but a moral one. The GPL is intended to create an ecosystem of free software and to discourage the creation of proprietary code, because proprietary code makes it illegal for me to help my neighbor.

    What Novell is asking people to do is to sign over the copyright to their code so that they can produce both proprietary and GPL software based on that code.

    Well, what happens when all the nice bells and whistles are only added to the proprietary version of evolution? This version becomes much more appealing. As a result, there is a demand for it and users begin to leave the GPL version in drones.

    In the end, the bulk of the app's code is only released to lower maintenance costs, while the nice bells are proprietary and you can no longer share the software freely. In philosophical terms, Novell's decision is purely utalitarian, rather than based on the conviction that Free Sofware is the morally correct choice.

    In essence, Novell's request for copyright respects the letter but violates the spirit of the GPL.

    By signing your copyright over to Novell, you are saying that you do not care all that much about creating communities that share free software, because you are implicitly allowing your code to be contributed to a non-free application. The only way I would sign my code over is if Novell agrees to distribute ALL OF evolution under the GPL at PERPETUITY.
    • Well, what happens when all the nice bells and whistles are only added to the proprietary version of evolution? This version becomes much more appealing. As a result, there is a demand for it and users begin to leave the GPL version in drones.

      Yes, because everyone chooses to use StarOffice over OpenOffice and Crossover over Wine.

      ... pratt.

    • Well, what happens when all the nice bells and whistles are only added to the proprietary version of evolution? This version becomes much more appealing. As a result, there is a demand for it and users begin to leave the GPL version in drones.

      What happens? I can't remember exactly, but I think it has to do with cutlery. Spoon, knife, ???

      This is not an issue with the GPL at all, this is an issue with theoretical people not contributing to Evolution because their patches could someday potentially be used
      • Because Evolution is licensed under the GPL there is zero concern about the software itself. The issue is not "does this violate the GPL", this issue is "will people contribute patches if they (a) have a problem with the licensing, or (B) have to go through the hassle of signing Novell's forms".

        The license specifies DFSG-compliant, not GPLed. That's less innocent.
    • In a nutshell: "The GPL is intended to create an ecosystem of free software and to discourage the creation of proprietary code, because proprietary code makes it illegal for me to help my neighbor."

      So the real question is can we devise methods for proprietary code development, so that proprietary code can exist while not making it illegal for us to help our neighbor?
      • Well, there are very bad proprietary licenses and worse proprietary licenses, but all of them are bad in my book.

        For instance, among the more reasonable ones, is I believe, although I could be mistaken, the one that ships with OS-X that allows you to install in up to five computers in your household.

        But by definition, a proprietary license does not give you any rights to share or modify the code or re-release it and sell it.
      • No, that's the definition of "proprietary."
  • Gallery [menalto.com] requires this as well, it isn't a big deal.
  • by Qwavel (733416) on Saturday August 07, 2004 @03:29PM (#9909891)

    This is not a violation of the GPL.

    But this is a reason to not make Evolution an integral part of Gnome.

    There is nothing wrong with Novell doing this, but please don't compare it to situations where developers are asked to assign their code to a foundation. The wxWidgets, Mozilla, Gnome, Apache, Python, etc. foundations have mandates to help their users and contributors. Novell is a corporation, and it is ultimately only responsible to its shareholders.

    Novell with Evolution and Sun with OpenOffice - these are like TrollTech with Qt. Better than closed source, but not as good as software which is guided by the interests of its users and developers.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      But this is a reason to not make Evolution an integral part of Gnome.

      Sorry, but that is complete and utter bullshit.

      So what if Novell holds the copyrights? What difference does that make with the typical scenario of a private individual holding the copyrights? As long as it is made available to the GNOME project under a suitable Free Software license, what difference does it make who holds the copyright?

  • Well, lets see.. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by T-Ranger (10520) <jeffw@chebuct o . n s .ca> on Saturday August 07, 2004 @03:31PM (#9909905) Homepage
    I think the worst that could happen is that you get screwed out of a days work - work that you intended to be GPLd. Let me explain: Evolution is in a public CVS repository. I dont know if they have ever given non-staffers +w permissions, but lets say for the sake of argument, that even if they do, you are not one of them. Thus your code has to be review by a staffer. Lets say that that takes 24 hours.

    As soon as your code is accepted and put into CVS, you can check it back out, under the GPL. The GPL is non-revokeable. Now having GPL rights to the code is not exactly the same as having ownership of it. Legally it is very different. Pragmaticly, as soon as it is in the public CVS your goal of submitting code the public good has happened. If you are very paranoid, only give them small chunks at a time, making sure that you can checkout your work before you give them more.

    What you have lost is the right to take that part of Evolution and close it, sell it as closed code. Now, since you dont own the rights to the other 99% of Evolution, not much lost. Furthermore, Evolution is a fairly large and complex beast so unless you are working on it full time, I think it is unlikely that you could possibly contribute anything that would be usefull outside of Evolution. That is, your doing bugfixes, implementing minor features.

    But what if your work is generic stuff that could be used outside Evolution? Do this: write it up as a library. Release the library under whatever license you want - retaining the ownership, and the right to sell it as closed code - and then only give Novell patches to Evolution such that it takes advantage of your library.

    • As soon as your code is accepted and put into CVS, you can check it back out, under the GPL.

      Nope. Re-read the license. It says "DFSG compliant", not "GPLed". I dunno what licenses fit the DFSG, though.
  • by mmurphy000 (556983) on Saturday August 07, 2004 @03:32PM (#9909912)

    OpenOffice.org addressed this via a joint copyright assignment. In fact, IIRC, they started with a copyright assignment akin to Novell/Ximian's, but then eventually decided to do a joint copyright assignment in the interest of spurring more contributions.

    IANAL, NDIPOOTV (Nor Do I Play One On TV), but a joint copyright assignment means that the original author retains all their original rights, and can license their code however they wish, but that the other signatory (in the case of Oo.org, Sun) also can license it how they choose.

  • by ravi_n (175591) on Saturday August 07, 2004 @03:50PM (#9910002)
    I really don't understand what people are unhappy about. Novell is offering to pay people to add certain features to Evolution and Gnome. In return for that payment, Novell wants to own the copyright of the resulting code (so they can also use it in their proprietary products), but they promise to also make sure the code is released under a free license (not unreasonable since they are making the offer to a community of free software developers). If you don't like those terms, feel free to not send your code to Novell and not collect any bounty. If other people do like those terms, that is their business.
    • The worst possible light you can put on this is that Ximian is forking Evolution to be non-GPL. That does nothing to the current coebase. If people are interested in maintaining Evolution, they're certainly free to produce their own "true, GPLed forever" fork. Look at XFree86 and xorg.

      I think that people should be using mutt, anyway. :-)
  • Expect to see more of this dual licensing stratergy, at least for now.

    You can already see this in OpenOffice.Org [openoffice.org] and in MySQL [mysql.org]. I am also attempting this in my EDL Language Project [edlsystems.com]. I do not think it is a bad thing and will in the long term enrich free/open software.

    Dual Licensing is a very good intermediatory from a proprietary to a free software environment.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    I will never contribute to OpenOffice or even take the time to familarize myself with the code. Those developers that contribute to the offical OpenOffice CVS must sign a Joint Copyright Assignment to Sun Microsystems, Inc. ("Sun") [openoffice.org]. In Jan. 2001, I voiced similar conserns about this practice as is now being voiced about Novell. Brian Behlendorf stated that assigning control to Sun (a company with a charter to do what is in the best interest of it's board) is similar to assigning control of copyright to
  • Digium, the company that maintains the source for the Asterisk PBX, makes you sign a disclaimer before you submit code. I had no problem with it when I submitted some stuff. The GPL'd code will always be there, even if Digium chooses to release the code under a proprietary license. People need to realise that open and closed code can coexist, even if they are the same codebase.

    I believe MySql does this also.
  • Cygnus (now Redhat) did this for open source projects that they created. Cygwin, gdbtk/insight, Source-Navigator, etc.. all required patch submitters to sign over the the copyrights before the patch is accepted into the source base. This is all very normal.
  • by Booker (6173) on Saturday August 07, 2004 @05:32PM (#9910512) Homepage
    ... and they don't have to accept your code.

    Nobody is restricting anyone's rights, I think. You're under no obligation to give them code, and they're under no obligation to take your code. IF you enter into this agreement, and especially with large sums of cash involved, it's simply two parties entering into an agreement. If you write the best thing in the world for Evolution, and want to hold onto your copyright, nobody will stop you. (Fork the project if you want, etc etc...)
  • by miguel (7116) on Saturday August 07, 2004 @05:59PM (#9910642) Homepage
    Notice that copyright assignment to Evolution has
    been the rule since its beginning, there is nothing
    new.

    So this is a three to four year old policy.

    Miguel.
  • Is this a smart business move, or a violation of the GPL?

    Uhm, how about neither.

    GPL is just a license. If Novell owns the copyright, they can release the work under as many different licenses as they please.

    But asking people to sign over their ownership to you, and later using it in a proprietary product defeats the purpose of the GPL (encouraging contributions) and is pretty horrible PR.

    The only good thing about this is that they are telling people in advance that they will do it, instead of surpr

  • Yawn. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by NotZed (19455) on Saturday August 07, 2004 @09:18PM (#9911387)

    Come on guys, this is OLD news. Ximian did this years ago, and nothing's changed except the name.

    It hasn't been a real problem with any of the few contributions we've had to the codebase; i think maybe one or two guys got upset about it. It's been more of a hinderance to us, limiting what extenal projects we can utilise for some of the chunkier features. Bigger deterrants to potential contributors is the rapid development pace, limited documentation, the size of the codebase, and our anally retarded quality requirements for patches.

    Some of the extensions people want to do aren't useful to the general community and would impact on the user experience for everyone else, or they had under-developed GUI interfaces which we couldn't include in the main product, or they were just poor code. In reality we're lucky if we've had 5% of the code from non-company contributors, and that is probably being generous. So much for Free Software. Often it's quicker and easier to write it ourselves than try to get someone's patch up to speed, unfortunately; but thats a non-technical and non-legal issue.

    In 2.2 we'll have an extension mechanism that will let anyone write extensions and release them separate to the main codebase. This will entirely negate most of the issues here since the code will no longer have to be accepted into the main codebase to extend Evolution, and hence wont require assignment. We'll have something like the kernel tainting mechanism to enforce valid combinations (and also to let us know if it isn't our bug).

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