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Update: The issues discussed on the page have been resolved with the latest release. -- MS - 19 Dec 2003

TWiki Licensing and Copyright Discussions

Please ask questions you have on licensing and copyright here. See also our LicensingAndCopyrightFAQ.

-- PeterThoeny - 06 Aug 2003

Well, I have a question smile . How do other projects who release GPLed software handle the copyright of contributions. I am looking for links to policies on that subject.

-- PeterThoeny - 06 Aug 2003

Basically, you state upfront that uploading in a specified way (that can be any: any wiki text or attachement to the TWiki.org) put the uploaded code under a GPL licence.

The legal issues of big projects are more about:

  • Stolen property: what if John Smith, IBM employee, uploads some code that he unconsciously include some lines of code licensed by IBM under another licence? You need some legalese in the conditions so that you can reject the responsability to John Smith (by uploading you state that this code is not covered by another licence...)
  • Patents: what is Gill Bates uploads some code that he has covered by a patent before, so that to sue TWiki users once distributed in a release? This is a difficult issue, that has generated a hot debate at the W3C recently. You can ask contributors to certify that the code they contribue has no attached patents, but this may be too frightening to people (who can be sure that some bozo has not copyrighted some trivial alogorithm in your code nowadays?)
  • Licence change: "Many GPL'ed projects require that you execute an assignment of rights for contributed code, so that they can change the license, if they so choose." in http://www.geocrawler.com/archives/3/146/2002/2/0/7961519/
A phrase such as "by clicking on save I put my uploaded data under a GPL licence" near the save button in the edit & attach views may be the trick.

On links:

  • JBoss went from GPL to LGPL because of some "virality" of the GPL that can prove too dangerous for people using the code on their closed intranet
  • http://pgplus.ewtoo.org/ If you contributed code, and do NOT wish your contributed code to be released under the GPL, please post an objection to pgplus@ewtooPLEASENOSPAM.org within 28 days. It will then be possible to remove that code which is obstructing the release....

-- ColasNahaboo - 06 Aug 2003

Just to make sure smile for anything that I upload, commit or write on Twiki.org I would like to assign the copyright to PeterThoney. I do this to simplify these rights, and the licensing of the code/system/data. It should be obvious from other discussions that Peter and I don't entirely agree on DownloadRegistration, or on some other issues, however, I prefer to think of my OpenSource work as a gift (good or bad smile ).

Please don't forget that some people might not like to loose their copyright, and that the bottom right copyright statement may make changeing this difficult to impossible (figuring out who wrote every statement, and then asking them.....)

  • Copyright 1999-2003 by the contributing authors. All material on this collaboration platform is the property of the contributing authors. Ideas, requests, problems regarding TWiki? Send feedback .

-- SvenDowideit - 06 Aug 2003

  • See MakeLicenceGPL for a detailed discussion as to how and why TWiki's license.txt file - not seen AFAICT by the FSF is in breach of the GPL - section 1. (Unintentionally I'm sure) The FSF appears to have only checked the TWikiAlphaRelease - which is a non-functional source tar ball that does not include this license.txt file. Whilst the full releases of TWiki can be used and redistributed (unmodified), the license.txt file imposes conditions on derivatives it has no right to do so, and furthermore has a notice that would prevent compliance with the GPL by derivatives (the copyright notice cannot be updated to be correct). Luckily the production releases can be considered derivatives of the CVS release and hence the notice that is in breach of the GPL can therefore be ignored. (Indeed must in order to comply with the terms of section 1 of the GPL). As noted above please see MakeLicenceGPL for a detailed discussion.

No changes to the packaging and licensing of the TWikiProductionReleases have been made since then.

  • This latter point is FALSE. (Unintentionally I'm sure) With the September 2001 release TWiki's packaging changed. (Compare the Dec 2000 production release with the Sept 2001 production release) The key difference is with the inclusion of the license.txt file. (For those who wish proof of this I still have the tar balls) This license file is:
    • a) self conflicting - it prevents modifications to the copyright statement - however section 1 of the GPL requires a correct copyright statement which by definition requires names of individuals or companies whose copyright work is included to be listed. Thereby you are required to have a correct copyright statement, but are disallowed to do so. Furthermore, the notice for example states that Peter Thoeny and the CoreTeam hold copyrights, however there are people no longer on the core team who were, and are therefore not credited in the copyright notice, and code is included from people who have never been on the core team, and must also be credited in the copyright notice as a result, but are not. These actions are in breach of the GPL - no matter how many topics are added to the "Main" web.
    • b) Irrelevant - the CVS TWiki releases do not include such license.txt file. Thus all statements in the license.txt file can be ignored since the Production & Beta releases are a derivative work of the CVS releases. Given the people writing the license.txt file are not the only people who have copyrights in the TWiki code, they do not have the authority to enforce such terms. The code only has to redistributed under the terms of the GPL - which means that license file may be changed to match reality. (Indeed, MUST be changed in order to comply with the GPL)

  • Please note that it is expected a reply from the CoreTeam regarding the problems with the license.txt file is expected shortly - since this concern was originally raised with them on Wed, 13 Aug 2003 (this was written Sun 17 Aug 2003).

-- MichaelSparks - 17 Aug 2003

I moved Michael's comments from the FAQ page to above. It was clearly indicated to use the discussion page for discussions or questions. Thank you for your cooperation.

-- PeterThoeny - 17 Aug 2003

I've copied them back again(*), since the comments actually answer the question in hand, and when placed as above, they are out of context (your minor refactor does not put it back in context unfortunately). After all the FAQ you wrote is also factually inaccurate - packaging and licensing changed after the FSF reviewed TWiki, despite your statement to the opposite.

  • (*) Now they're on this page I recognise that I'm not allowed to delete them.

I've put my comments back to repair the damage you've made, which paints a false picture to those reading your FAQ. (Given you've made it clear that such acts cannot be tolerated ! )

-- MichaelSparks - 18 Aug 2003

I do have a question - in the spirit of co-operation smile :

  • Since the TWiki tar ball is clearly intended to be GPL - does this mean a TWiki clone may include the default webs with such a clone? That is if your system is derived from the CVS releases, which are released under a different license from the full release (that is true GPL, rather than a self-conflicting, GPL incompatible file), are you allowed to include the default webs as GPL? (since this would involve relicensing from slightly-GPL-incompatible to GPL)
    • Bear in mind that compliance with the UNMODIFIED clause of the license.tst is not possible for a derivative due to section 1 of the GPL requiring update of the copyright notice. (removal of copyright is obviously NOT desired, nor legal, and would insult people, and so on.)
    • Or is it your opinion that such derivatives must either use the default webs from before the GPL-incompatible license.txt file was included (ie from the tar ball the FSF saw (december 2000 release)) ?

-- MichaelSparks - 18 Aug 2003

I undid Michaels changes to the FAQ page since they are posted on this page with context. No information is lost, so I do not understand Michael's point about "damage". I understand that Michael is eagerly waiting for an answer, the licensing questions will be addressed in order of priority (see my note in CoffeeBreak).

-- PeterThoeny - 18 Aug 2003

Whilst I realise that the problem is not deliberate - indeed I am sure you mean TWiki to be GPL - you've made this desire MORE than obvious more than once, the damage I mean is simply this: currently the license.txt say the following essentially:

  • You may not modify this file. (The "unmodified" clause)
  • You must modify the copyright statement - section 1 of the GPL. (Which is in the same file)
    • This means that you must both modify and not modify the file in order to redistribute a derivative - say a FriendlyFork

This can be sidestepped by deriving from the CVS release, but that's more an action of an UnfriendlyFork than friendly one.

IMO the damage was that

  • The FAQ was changed back to state that TWiki is GPL - but it's license file prevents redistribution of derivatives. (There are no invariant sections in the GPL after all) This means that it might be in spirit GPL, it isn't in practice GPL compliant.)
  • It was changed back to stating that the packaging for production releases had not been changed since Feb 13 2001, despite the fact that the Dec 2000 release did NOT include that license.txt file, whereas the next production release (Sept 2001 unless my mind is playing tricks - a distinct possibility) included the license.txt file for (AFAICT form my tars/zips) for the first time.

As a result in the Wiki Spirit - if I saw a problem with the text, I did the thing you're supposed to do - I corrected it. After all is not TWiki supposed to not eliminate the OneWebMasterSyndrome... </rhetorical>

> I do not understand Michael's point about "damage".

This is IMO damaging since whilst the comments are made in good faith, they are in fact unfortunately false. That's the only reason I moved the comments back in. Since you seem to disagree with it being an issue someone reading the FAQ (especially nascent developers) should be aware of I'll leave it up to you to put back. Playing TopicPingPong seems pointless, so I'll leave my point at that.

In case anyone is wondering why I'm going through this now:

  • Whilst Peter & I don't see eye to eye on everything at the moment I am doing this simply because I do respect Peter - I trust that he does truly believe TWiki should be FreeSoftware (hence the note about GPL not LGPL in the docs), and that he like me wants TWiki to move forward and attract more developers smile
  • I believe one way of doing this is through a FriendlyFork (or a FriendlyDistribution) and I've stated a goal of opening my tree. No-one might be interested, but I would like to do that - since like many I've got some VisionsOfTwiki that I'd like to see happen. Code is TWiki's genes. A FriendlyFork increases the gene pool.
    • I want this to be able to be done to the letter of the license file, not the spirit. (If I went by the spirit, I could release today I understand fully Peter's intent (I hope - I am assuming good intent after all smile ) )

I might be wrong. It does happen. Sometimes I'm right. That also happens too.

-- MichaelSparks - 18 Aug 2003

IMHO Twiki is in slight discrepancy (and IMHO not intentionally) with GPL. See Comments about licenses at GNU web site, Daniel Bernstein's licenses towards the very end: These licenses are not free software licenses because they do not permit publication of modified versions. Twiki prohibits distribution of modified license.txt file, what IMHO violates GPL. See also MakeLicenceGPL. Just one file, license.txt, is not GPL-compliant.

-- PeterMasiar - 19 Aug 2003

Let's be very clear about copyright, which exists independently of whatever license or its implementation. In Australia, copyright is automatic and does not require registration nor any explicit copyright statement. Copyright bestowed in this manner under Australian law is upheld internationally by the Berne Convention. My point is that you have to be careful treading on the edges of copyright in an international setting, and not make localised assumptions about any freedoms to appropriate the copyright of the work of others.

Further clarification, while not required, is indeed present in the copyright statement on every page of TWiki.org. Anything I or anyone else puts here is copyright to them. That is totally unambiguous. No amount of to and fro about GPL intentions or philosophy or any other license scheme has any bearing on one's copyright.

Copyright exists independent of how the material is used or whatever license is applied. For example, if I were to say "anyone can do whatever they like with this" and nothing else, I would still hold copyright. Anyone could use it as they wished, just that nobody could claim their own copyright over it. But it would not be possible, for example, for anyone to state "I'm going to take copyright on anything you put here" and make it stick under law. In fact such an approach may be seen as a questionable action itself under copyright law. Assignment of copyright is a deliberate written instruction for an explicit instance, to be freely and mindfully declared by the original copyright holder. It happens rarely, and does not need to happen at all in open source and free software endeavours.

To present one person's creation or writing as being copyrighted by another would be clearly dangerous anywhere. All it takes to make this mistake is to stop thinking about it. Please don't become so license-focused that the danger of misrepresentation of copyright, i.e. unintentional infringement, is overlooked. If the two issues are not kept somewhat separate in the mind during these discussions, that could easily happen.

-- SueBlake - 20 Aug 2003

We are talking about two different issues and it is not helpful. I propose to have separate page to talk about copyright, and yet another for license. I.e. keep this page and rename it to CopyrightDiscussion, and (I can do it) move licensing to MakeLicenceGPL. Does it make sense?

-- PeterMasiar - 20 Aug 2003

PeterMasiar : I don't think it does - SueBlake has made my point clearer than I have to date. The GPL requires the copyright license to be updated for the specific reasons Sue points out - the copyrights subsist with the originator. TWiki's license.txt file however requires any derivatives to state that all the copyrights on the derivative is owned by PeterThoeny, the CoreTeam, and no-one else - you have no choice in the matter.

This effectively states that derivatives may only be redistrtibuted IF they assign copyright back to that group. That goes against the spirit of the GPL, and is probably duress with regard to copyright law. (There is as I say, as sidestep, but it's better to do things nicely) This also means that where code has been taken under the GPL from contributors to TWiki.org copyrights have been misappropriated by this statement. (Which breaches copyright law - in quite a nasty way I believe in the US - and the GPL, and more importantly, dag-nagget, breaches common properness! wink )

I for one have not assigned any copyrights to included code to them. (BSD licensed it to them retroactively & for all future TWiki work, but not assigned copyright)

After all, the license file as it is at present prevents anyone in Germany redistributing a modified installation since copyrights cannot be assigned in Germany (if what I've heard about copyright in Germany is correct), thereby preventing agreement to the clause.

This is the reason why the licensing and copyright statements are normally kept separate!

It's clearly not intended to cause this problem and resolving this issue is trivial: simply remove the UNMODIFIED clause from the file - after all the GPL requires the text of the license not to change, and copyrights MUST be attributed where due - compliance is then trivial (Assuming the default webs are GPL as well - which is only possible if they're viewed as part of the source...)

-- MichaelSparks - 20 Aug 2003

I have a question along licensing & copyright. Why is TWiki still capitalized like that and called that, when TWiki isn't a wikiword and isn't a user friendly brand? This discussion is rather old, and I thought the "team wiki" transition idea was a rather good one. Is there some perception that modifying the name & relevant sources will change the intellectual property ownership and/or licensing/copyright?

-- JonathanCline - 23 Aug 2003

My users also noticed strange capitalization of TWiki as trademarked by PeterThoeny. I asked to change it to Twiki in BetterDefaults#Change_TWiki_to_Twiki and was said "no way". And because for named Twiki will be too close and probably infringing, completely different name is needed (for a fork under GNU GPL). There are not too many good names left... frown

-- PeterMasiar - 25 Aug 2003

Update: The issues discussed on the page have been resolved.

  • APPLAUSE

-- MS - 19 Dec 2003

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Topic revision: r16 - 2006-05-22 - MeredithLesly
 
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