[linux-elitists] Re: Silly SCO Scenarios

Karsten M. Self kmself@ix.netcom.com
Mon Aug 11 18:37:57 PDT 2003

on Sun, Aug 10, 2003 at 01:02:00PM -0700, Nick Popoff (cryptic-elitists@bloodletting.com) wrote:
> On 10 Aug 2003, Phil Gengler wrote:
> > To allow SCO exclusive distribution is to give SCO effective ownership
> > of the code written by every other kernel developer.
> The whole issue of copyright ownership of kernel code is almost a
> "poison pill" defence for Linux.  Who do you take to court?  Who do
> you talk to?  If you succeed in voiding the GPL in your case, you've
> lost the ability to distribute Linux, because that was the only
> context in which the thousands of contributors had licensed you to use
> their code.
> It's interesting to contrast this with some GNU software where all
> code must have copyright assigned to the FSF.  I can imagine a judge
> seeing copyright as something that can be transfered from one party to
> another if the FSF somehow lost a case regarding proprietary code
> being misappropriated into an FSF project.  But if one party is
> actually thousands of contributors from around the world, many of them
> outside of her jurisdiction, what can the judge do but void the
> license?  You can only win if your goal was to destroy the project.

This is definitely a two (or three, or more...) edged sword WRT the
kernel.  I've heard several statements from people close to GNU/Linux
over the past week (LWE) saying that they'd really like to see GNU/Linux
kernel source contribution management tightened up.  OTOH, I also see
the benefits of the cloud of ownership approach.

The benefit, as I see it, is that joint authorship tends to do away with
most of the ability to wield the work as a whole in an abusive manner,
while empowering each of the authors to seek legal bars on distribution
of infringing works, and/or seeking criminal (and some limited civil)
penalties.  Meaning upwards of 200 potential lawsuits.

Both the EFF and Linus approaches have their potential benefits.

> This chaos can also be really annoying when it means nobody can
> legally make decisions about the project.  I've had to write closed
> source kernel modules as part of my job, and I wish someone had the
> power to definitively say whether this was acceptable or not.

Think of it as a healthy degree of inertia coalescing around the current
version of the GPL.   I don't see this as all bad.


Karsten M. Self <kmself@ix.netcom.com>        http://kmself.home.netcom.com/
 What Part of "Gestalt" don't you understand?
   If spam is the question, Spamassassin is the answer.
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