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The Covenant - a New Open Source Strategy

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the a-modest-proposal dept.

Open Source 108

Bruce Perens writes "Lexis Nexis has Open Sourced HPCC, the parallel software that they use for handling extremely large data. Databases that, for example, hold records for every consumer in the U.S. can be processed with this software and its task-specific language. As Strategic Consultant for the company while they decided to participate in Open Source, Open Source co-founder Bruce Perens designed a new Covenant between Lexis Nexis and the Open Source community that makes dual-licensing more fair to the Open Source developer."

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108 comments

*SIGH* Another Slashvertisement (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37377342)

Same stuff, 'nother day.

The license-back question (1)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 2 years ago | (#37383336)

Note this text from the covenant:

This license protects You as a contributor as well as the HPCC Systems platform and its users; it does not change your rights to use your own contributions for any other purpose.

That sounds like a license-back to me. I'll get that clarified.

Re:The license-back question (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 2 years ago | (#37386340)

So let's get this straight - you don't even know what your own license means?

Oh, that's right - their lawyer wrote it, not you. [lwn.net]

When you are working with a company as large as that (LN is a big division of huge Elsevier) with as many separate stake-holders in legal, management, etc., it's always a negotiation. That's what I could get.

...

The lawyer involved wrote the license to be as brief as possible and understandable by non-attorneys. Perhaps this is what bothers you about clause 2?

BTW: The license doesn't change any of your rights - the separate copyright assignment to your masters does.

And as you pointed out elsewhere here, they want to be able to list the copyrights as an asset, so this goes far beyond them just wanting to "protect their commercial code" and why they won't just accept the individual authors giving them a non-exclusive right to use the code in commercial products.

This whole thing is ridiculous. If you're going to push a license on people, don't you think you should understand it first?

I'm here :-) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37377364)

I'm online, if you'd like to discuss this story with the source.

Re:I'm here :-) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37377462)

So you are the source... but are you the open source?

Re:I'm here :-) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37377548)

So you are the source... but are you the open source?

Eeewww! That would mean he's the goatse guy...

Bruce Perens dissing Free Software (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37377512)

It might seem ironic that the GPL, a license designed to give everyone the freedom to use, modify, and redistribute software without charge, becomes an effective capitalist tool when used in the context of dual licensing. Companies will pay to avoid granting the GPL's freedoms. (from Perens's HPCC "white paper")

So this is fuel on the old discussion between "Open Source" (Bruce Perens et al) and Free Software (RMS et al)? This is about choosing sides, and Perens has sided with the devil (Lexis Nexis). No thanks.

Re:Bruce Perens dissing Free Software (4, Informative)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 2 years ago | (#37377578)

So this is fuel on the old discussion between "Open Source" (Bruce Perens et al) and Free Software (RMS et al)?

Hi AC,

Since I did advise Lexis Nexis to use the Affero GPL 3.0, a license of the Free Software Foundation, and they have done so, I think this should not be considered as "dissing free software" :-)

And yes, it really is ironic that GPL can be used to drive commercial development and that people will pay you for the right to not be under the GPL terms. But this is not dissing free software, it's commenting on the economic paths that it creates.

Re:Bruce Perens dissing Free Software (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 2 years ago | (#37377982)

Wouldn't it protect the authors' rights more if the author:
1. kept his or her copyright;
2. granted a dual license right to the company that terminates if the conditions are not respected.

The company still gets to use the code, provided they respect the conditions, and the author has the right to make the same deal with competing projects, rather than see the code "captured" for commercial use by only one project.

The author would also retain the right, at any point, to relicense his or her code under a less restrictive license at some future date (eg: bsd, public domain) if they wish.

Re:Bruce Perens dissing Free Software (2)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 2 years ago | (#37378146)

In general, companies want to be able to enforce the copyright of the entire product. It is possible that a company could be convinced to join the scheme as you propose it, but the risk and legal load for the company are appreciably higher than what I have proposed, so the company would have to be expecting to get a lot from the community in order to justify that. I'm not sure the balance would work for the company.

Re:Bruce Perens dissing Free Software (2)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | more than 2 years ago | (#37378396)

In general, companies want to be able to enforce the copyright of the entire product. It is possible that a company could be convinced to join the scheme as you propose it, but the risk and legal load for the company are appreciably higher than what I have proposed, so the company would have to be expecting to get a lot from the community in order to justify that. I'm not sure the balance would work for the company.

I agree - having multiple dual licensing agreements to maintain and ensure you don't violate any terms would be a nightmare. Since Lexus - Nexus would not own all of the software it would make a sale of the company or rights to the product very complicated.

That said, would it be unreasonable for Lexus - Nexus to grant the developer an unlimited, non-exclusive license to use and resell his or her code? That way, L-N would retain ownership but the original author could still benefit from their contribution. While most code would probably be too specific to really be valuable on it's own, it would avoid the situation where someone creates something that has application elsewhere but now no longer owns it and thus can't use it. While they could use it in another OSS project under terms of the GPL, if they ever decided to commercialize their code in a proprietary manner they conceivably could not due to copyright law.

Re:Bruce Perens dissing Free Software (2)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 2 years ago | (#37378890)

Since Lexus - Nexus would not own all of the software it would make a sale of the company or rights to the product very complicated.

Look around outside the open-source world. Most software that you buy is written by businesses that don't own all the rights to the code - they license various code libraries, data, etc.

People distribute commercial Java products - they certainly don't own all the copyrights to Java. People distribute commercial programs that run under Windows - they certainly don't own all the copyrights to the redistributables that came with their compiler, or the class libraries they licensed from 3rd parties.

Here's a thought - try switching your argument around - "would it be unreasonable for Lexus-Nexus to get a grant from the developer for an unlimited, non-exclusive license to use and resell his or her code?"

Really, what is so "wrong" or "complicated" about that? What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Why, in the Open Source world, do people suggest we just bend over when someone asks for a copyright assignment? Are we *that* needy of validation that we'll just give it up for the asking?

^^^ MOD PARENT UP (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37378970)

I wish I had mod points.

Re:Bruce Perens dissing Free Software (1)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | more than 2 years ago | (#37379388)

Since Lexus - Nexus would not own all of the software it would make a sale of the company or rights to the product very complicated.

Look around outside the open-source world. Most software that you buy is written by businesses that don't own all the rights to the code - they license various code libraries, data, etc.

People distribute commercial Java products - they certainly don't own all the copyrights to Java. People distribute commercial programs that run under Windows - they certainly don't own all the copyrights to the redistributables that came with their compiler, or the class libraries they licensed from 3rd parties.

True, but in those cases there generally are several distinguishing features from the L-N example:

There is a limited set of licenses that need to be acquired from a small set of companies - not the potential hundreds that would arise from an OSS project - a license would be needed even for a minor bug fix.

The licensed code is often distinct from the original code although it may be distributed with it, whereas L-N would have one main codebase containing almost all of the licensed code.

Here's a thought - try switching your argument around - "would it be unreasonable for Lexus-Nexus to get a grant from the developer for an unlimited, non-exclusive license to use and resell his or her code?"

Really, what is so "wrong" or "complicated" about that? What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Why, in the Open Source world, do people suggest we just bend over when someone asks for a copyright assignment? Are we *that* needy of validation that we'll just give it up for the asking?

I don't think it is a workable solution - the added burden on L-N to try to manage all the licenses would probably make it easier to forgo open sourcing their codebase. Given two reasonable solutions, one which I think is achievable while the other is not makes me prefer the achievable one.

That's not to say your concept is unreasonable - I just don't think it is practical.

I don't think it's being needy - rather it is an opportunity to create a win-win situation *and* demonstrate that open source can be a viable commercial business model that benefits the community and the company.

Finally, anyone who doesn't like the convent is free to either not participate, or fork the code under the GPL; although in this case I think a fork would be rather useless since the L-N version is likely to be the preferred version.

Re:Bruce Perens dissing Free Software (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 2 years ago | (#37380212)

There is a limited set of licenses that need to be acquired from a small set of companies - not the potential hundreds that would arise from an OSS project - a license would be needed even for a minor bug fix.

A grant of right to dual-license the code from each contributor means they don't have to get a further license to do a bug fix (and they wouldn't need the permission from each contributor for each mod anyway - only the contributor whose file is being modified).

It's MUCH easier to convey such a license legally than it is to convey copyright - all copyright assignments MUST be in writing, whereas the license grants can be done by email. So, if you have 100 contributors, you only need 100 emails, not 100 written assignments.

Now if you look at things like the redistributables from Microsoft or Apple, there are WAY more than 100 licenses in there, and yet you don't see the problems you allude to. (The h.264 decoders are a good example - over 1,000 licensees, and yet this doesn't cause a problem for either company when they do a bug fix - they don't have to go to each licensor and say "please, pretty please, let me mod this file that you didn't write").

The licensed code is often distinct from the original code although it may be distributed with it, whereas L-N would have one main codebase containing almost all of the licensed code.

Irrelevant. I'm sure it's not going to all be stuffed in one big source file. (and if they're that stupid, then why are we even discussing this, because in such a case you would know they're already doomed).

I don't think it is a workable solution - the added burden on L-N to try to manage all the licenses would probably make it easier to forgo open sourcing their codebase. Given two reasonable solutions, one which I think is achievable while the other is not makes me prefer the achievable one.

As I pointed out above, it's easier to get a license grant than to do a copyright assignment.

The licensed code is often distinct from the original code although it may be distributed with it, whereas L-N would have one main codebase containing almost all of the licensed code.

The licensed code is often compiled into the binary, rather than loaded in a dynamic library. This doesn't cause any problems for license grants - why would you think it would?

don't think it's being needy - rather it is an opportunity to create a win-win situation *and* demonstrate that open source can be a viable commercial business model that benefits the community and the company.

We don't need demonstrations that require us to accede to the law firm of Ben Dover and Phil McCavity. We have plenty of examples of win-win between business and open source. Apple continues to contribute to BSD. Google, Facebook, etc., continue to contribute to Linux. Redhat contributes to a LOT of projects. They're the face of the win-win model, not some obscure company that says "if you don't assign your copyrights to us, then it's not worth it to us."

Finally, anyone who doesn't like the convent is free to either not participate, or fork the code under the GPL; although in this case I think a fork would be rather useless since the L-N version is likely to be the preferred version.

Like OpenOffice is preferred over LibreOffice? Nah... Let's not forget how EGCS was so successful a fork of a stagnant GCC codebase that eventually it became GCC, or how Firefox was a fork of the Mozilla suite ... vi vs vim, emacs vs xemacs, the many MANY linux distro forks, rogue vs hack vs nethack, XFree86 vs Xorg, SSH vs OpenSSH, AT&T Unix to ... well, you get the point :-)

I'm not buying it, and judging from other people's comments, there are plenty of others who feel the same way. It has nothing to do with Lexus-Nexus, and everything to do with "this doesn't make sense." It's not an anti-business stance - just a "hey, e have no problems with you using it, but you don't own it." Also, what if the original authors wanted to contribute their code to a GPLv2 or BSD project? They can't, since they were stupid enough to lock themselves into the AGPL by assigning their copyrights.

Re:Bruce Perens dissing Free Software (1)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | more than 2 years ago | (#37385052)

Now if you look at things like the redistributables from Microsoft or Apple, there are WAY more than 100 licenses in there, and yet you don't see the problems you allude to. (The h.264 decoders are a good example - over 1,000 licensees, and yet this doesn't cause a problem for either company when they do a bug fix - they don't have to go to each licensor and say "please, pretty please, let me mod this file that you didn't write").

But if they mod a licensed file then it becomes an issue - which is what they want to avoid and exactly my point; with copyright assignment they don't have that.

We don't need demonstrations that require us to accede to the law firm of Ben Dover and Phil McCavity. We have plenty of examples of win-win between business and open source. Apple continues to contribute to BSD. Google, Facebook, etc., continue to contribute to Linux. Redhat contributes to a LOT of projects. They're the face of the win-win model, not some obscure company that says "if you don't assign your copyrights to us, then it's not worth it to us."

Like OpenOffice is preferred over LibreOffice? Nah... Let's not forget how EGCS was so successful a fork of a stagnant GCC codebase that eventually it became GCC, or how Firefox was a fork of the Mozilla suite ... vi vs vim, emacs vs xemacs, the many MANY linux distro forks, rogue vs hack vs nethack, XFree86 vs Xorg, SSH vs OpenSSH, AT&T Unix to ... well, you get the point :-)

OpenOffice did just fine with copyright assignment until Oracle bought Sun and, with the uncertainty around what they planned to do with it, the developers decided to fork it. Oracle's essentially killed their development of OO which helped LO as well. So, it seems the copyright assignment can work just fine.

As for Apple, BSD has a very different licensing structure - and that there are no viable alternatives to Apple's BSD/OSX combination shows that a well managed, even if it has OS roots, project is preferable to a hodgepodge of OS versions of the same thing.

Even Redhat has copyright assignment requirements for some projects.

Heck, even the FSF requires it.

I'm not buying it, and judging from other people's comments, there are plenty of others who feel the same way. It has nothing to do with Lexus-Nexus, and everything to do with "this doesn't make sense." It's not an anti-business stance - just a "hey, e have no problems with you using it, but you don't own it." Also, what if the original authors wanted to contribute their code to a GPLv2 or BSD project? They can't, since they were stupid enough to lock themselves into the AGPL by assigning their copyrights.

I guess we'll just have to disagree on wether it makes sense. I think it does in this situation, you clearly don't. As for your final comment, my suggestion if licensing back rights to use the code solves that issue while maintaining the goal of one entity to control the copyright.

Re:Bruce Perens dissing Free Software (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 2 years ago | (#37386174)

Unfortunately, we weren't given the whole story here. Over on lwn [lwn.net] , Perens was similarly taken to task over the terms, and here's his response:

When you are working with a company as large as that (LN is a big division of huge Elsevier) with as many separate stake-holders in legal, management, etc., it's always a negotiation. That's what I could get.

There are plenty of posts pointing out how one-sided and/or vague this "covenant" is, and how hard it will be to actually enforce. He also admits in one reply that their lawyer, not him, wrote the license, which explains a lot.

I can understand his position - after all, it creates a job for him, so he has to advocate for it. But the terms suck.

Re:Bruce Perens dissing Free Software (1)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | more than 2 years ago | (#37387670)

Unfortunately, we weren't given the whole story here. Over on lwn [lwn.net] , Perens was similarly taken to task over the terms, and here's his response:

When you are working with a company as large as that (LN is a big division of huge Elsevier) with as many separate stake-holders in legal, management, etc., it's always a negotiation. That's what I could get.

There are plenty of posts pointing out how one-sided and/or vague this "covenant" is, and how hard it will be to actually enforce. He also admits in one reply that their lawyer, not him, wrote the license, which explains a lot.

I can understand his position - after all, it creates a job for him, so he has to advocate for it. But the terms suck.

Interesting thread - do there also seems to be some support for his position.

As with any contract negotiation (and I've done a few although IANAL) you carve out a set of terms that is agreeable to all sides - no one generally gets everything they want. In this case, L-N has made an offer to the OOS community - which each individual developer can accept or reject.

No one really loses under that model - if they don't like the terms simply don't submit any code modifications. I'd say they'v even gained - they can modify the code for their own use without having to give up the copyright - something not available before.

As I said, an unlimited, non-exclusive irrevocable license to any code they submit allows them the freedom to do what they want to with their own code as well.

Re:Bruce Perens dissing Free Software (1)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 2 years ago | (#37378952)

I agree that licensing your contribution back to you is desirable. I'll include that in the feedback I'm sending them.

Re:Bruce Perens dissing Free Software (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 2 years ago | (#37383132)

And yet you reassure a poster on LWN who asked specifically about the problems that could be caused by assigning copyright [lwn.net]

"Actually, this isn't a problem because of a key feature of copyright law: A developer is always free to grant their own work to others under his/her own terms."

Copyright law doesn't work that way. Once you assign it to someone else, you don't have the right to make other grants w/o their permission.

So which is it - you "forgot to ask your masters", or "it's not a problem"?

Quoted further down in the thread, for those too lazy to go to lwn [slashdot.org] , along with a few choice comments as Perens tries to avoid giving a real response to the many legitimate questions that were raised here and on LWN.

Troll much, Perens? Because you really need more practice if you're not going to be caught out so easily.

Re:Bruce Perens dissing Free Software (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 2 years ago | (#37378534)

In general, companies want to be able to enforce the copyright of the entire product. It is possible that a company could be convinced to join the scheme as you propose it, but the risk and legal load for the company are appreciably higher than what I have proposed, so the company would have to be expecting to get a lot from the community in order to justify that. I'm not sure the balance would work for the company.

??? The Novell vs SCO trial should have ended that. You don't need ownership of ALL the copyrights to enforce your own rights. Of course they would still be able to enforce the copyright on the parts of their product to which they have copyright under such a scheme.

And of course, if they don't like it. let them write their own version. If they see dual-licensing something as valid, they should respect that authors have the same right to dual-license their code, instead of outright assignment.

The real motive is code capture. Once they get copyright assignment, they can dual-license it, but nobody else can approach the original author for the same right - their competition is limited to open-source licensing only. Your license proposal, like many code copyright assignments, goes directly against the interests of both the author and the general public, since other businesses won't be as willing to invest in improving code they can't themselves dual-license.

After the last round of FUD from the FSF: FSF Uses Android FUD To Push GPLv3 [slashdot.org] , (debunked here [linuxinsider.com] ) anyone who asks for copyright assignment and says "trust me" is on my "do not trust further than I can throw/smell/sic my dogs on them" list.

Re:Bruce Perens dissing Free Software (1)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 2 years ago | (#37379344)

Generally, I code faster, and better, the second time around. Given that the re-use would in general be a port (or there'd be no reason not to use AGPL 3.0) it would be at least in part a rewrite. Nobody's keeping you from doing that.

Also, this objection would be mooted by license-back.

Re:Bruce Perens dissing Free Software (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 2 years ago | (#37379872)

First, it depends on the license-back. If the developer who wrote the code get the right to relicense it to everyone under any terms they wish, including the right to license it for closed-source projects, then what is the difference between that and the developer granting a similar license to the business instead, and not doing a copyright assignment?

If it doesn't contain the full set of rights, then it isn't really a full license back to the developer.

Second, the AGPL prevents the author, if all they got was an AGLP license back, from doing this. It also prevents them from licensing the code to GPLv2-only projects.

So no, it's not mooted by a license-back, unless it's, mutatis mutandis, the exact equivalent to the developer keeping copyright and only assigning the right to dual-license the code to the business.

You still haven't explained why having the developer grant a non-exclusive license to dual-license the code to the business for use in their pooducts is better than assigning copyright.

I can think of several obvious ones why my way is better -
1. it allows the original author to grant similar licenses to other businesses so that they have an incentive to actually use and improve the code;
2. it allows the original author to grant use of the code to GPLv2-only projects;
3. it allows the original author to grant use of the code to non-competing closed-source businesses, rather than giving that right to the business by assigning them the copyright;
4. it eliminates any uncertainty about "if the company doesn't do X by such-and-such a date", goes belly-up, or splits into multiple businesses (only the unit that keeps the product gets the license).

Look at #3 carefully - why should a company that didn't write the code deprive the author of a potential source of revenue? Code can live for a long time (I have code that was written ~20 years ago for DOS that still runs fine on the latest Windows systems with no modifications).

There's no legal impediment to the company just accepting a limited dual-use license grant for their products from the original author. They still have the right to enforce their own copyrights to protect their products.

Re:Bruce Perens dissing Free Software (2)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 2 years ago | (#37380146)

You still haven't explained why having the developer grant a non-exclusive license to dual-license the code to the business for use in their pooducts is better than assigning copyright.

Someone else explained that. But I'll give it a try as well. There are no doubt a number of strategies that would be even better for the Open Source developer. The problem with those strategies is: what motivates a company to participate in those strategies? Especially a company that has invested a significant fraction of a Billion on the product, and we have so far invested nothing?

Re:Bruce Perens dissing Free Software (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 2 years ago | (#37380394)

Someone else explained that. But I'll give it a try as well. There are no doubt a number of strategies that would be even better for the Open Source developer. The problem with those strategies is: what motivates a company to participate in those strategies? Especially a company that has invested a significant fraction of a Billion on the product, and we have so far invested nothing?

How much they have invested in their product is irrelevant to the question at hand, because the outside code writers have no financial or other interest in Lexus-Nexus. Are they getting shares in the completed product? Some of the revenue stream? No. So who cares about how much or how little L-N has spent so far (and to go further down that line - they've made their money back several times over, so I would put that argument in the "cry me a river of crocodile tears" bucket).

Really, I'm disappointed that you would even think that means anything in this context.

If the code has a perceived value, then they should either:
1. Offer to buy it outright;
2. Offer to take a license to it from the author sufficient to meet their needs, again perhaps with financial compensation to the author, depending on the code and the license terms;

Saying "either assign copyright to us, or we're not interested in your code" is what losers and bullies say. They end up crying to their mommies that nobody wants to play with them.

[flamebait mode=more_than_half_serious]

They're a business - maybe they should act like one?

[/flamebait]

Seriously, who cares? It's not like they're offering to open-source their DATA.

Re:Bruce Perens dissing Free Software (1)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 2 years ago | (#37380532)

Maybe you should discuss how MySQL operated with Monty. They, purportedly, worked pretty much in the way you propose. It made him very unhappy.

Re:Bruce Perens dissing Free Software (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 2 years ago | (#37380974)

Maybe you should discuss how MySQL operated with Monty. They, purportedly, worked pretty much in the way you propose. It made him very unhappy.

A billion dollars unhappy I can take ANY day.

Seriously, the people who wrote code in exchange for money for MySQL got more than Lexy-Flexy-Nexy is offering, so they really had no grounds to complain. As for Monty, he ultimately came across as a cry-baby. Nobody forced him to sell to Sun.

No wonder that businesses look at us like we're a bunch of crazies. On the other hand, no wonder businesses think they can pull a "code capture" like this - after all, we're just a bunch of crazies, right?

The more I think about it, the more I believe the F/LOSS movement needs to grow up.

1. Lose the dirty smelly booger-eating neckbeard loons image - for some, that means literally "drop the bong and pick up a bar of soap";
2. Stop being misogynists - or at least have the courtesy to degrade yourself in private; Same with homophobes, racists, gun-nuts, conspiracy theorists, crunchies, fundies, tea-party "nuke-the-AYE-rabs", all-closed-source-is-evil, etc.;
3. Everything is negotiable;
4. Demand quid pro quos from businesses - TANSTAAFL applies to them as well; See Rule # 3.
5. Consider that "one size does not fit all" applies to licenses as much as it does to editors - sometimes the only way to get something funded is to keep it closed for a while, "how long" is always negotiable (see Rule # 3);
6. Either do it for free because YOU want to, or charge full price - make them put their money where their mouth is;
7. Keep in mind that they might respect you if you apply #1 - #6. They certainly won't if you don't.

I'm sure others will come up with more ideas ...

Re:Bruce Perens dissing Free Software (1)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 2 years ago | (#37381046)

I'm entertained that you tell us that we need to grow up, and then call us dirty smelly booger-eating neckbeard loons :-)

You seriously think we're not being respected when a company takes a project of this value and invites us on board? I've been with their executive committee, and never heard any neckbeard loon stuff from them.

Give the project some time to develop.

Re:Bruce Perens dissing Free Software (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 2 years ago | (#37381242)

We both know who I was referring to as the archetype ;-)

And I'm glad I got a smile out of you - ultimately, I think we both want the same thing, more or less. I just don't believe that we're heading down the right road nowadays ... and it may already be too late to undo the damage done - it seems to have gotten institutionalized to a certain extent.

Why not ask them why they won't respect the authors rights enough to accept just a license grant? Point out their benefits:
1. No paperwork needed
2. Keeps the original authors in the loop and engaged
3. Gives the original authors less motivation to fork - even unsuccessful forks cause damage
4. Makes their project more attractive to potential contributors
5. The can get rid of the whole "if in 3 years ..." bit as well as the questions surrounding how it would be monitored and enforced
6. Doesn't prevent individual authors licensing their code to GPLv2 projects, so less of a disincentive to participate
7. They will receive sufficient rights to legally protect their commercial product.

If you go through the thread, I think you can find a few more benefits.

If they dig their heels in and insist on copyright assignment, then you'll know that it's about code capture and not about creating a relationship among equals. Or you could just point them to this article and ask THEM to respond to the individual criticisms.

Re:Bruce Perens dissing Free Software (1)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 2 years ago | (#37381904)

I'm the main designer of the strategy, so you can explain this to me.

1. No paperwork needed.

Um, not really. You now have a large collection of copyright holders to keep satisfied perpetually - not for just three years - and you do indeed have to keep track of them enough to know what work is your own property and what is not. And whose work is what blurs with each additional edit until the ownership of your system is undeterminable. I believe that this would be demotivating for the company.

2. Keeps the original authors in the loop and engaged.

Well, let's look at the Linux kernel. Certainly there are a lot of folks in the loop and engaged, but even with that project it is very much a revolving door. Developers stay engaged long enough to get their work done and then go on to other things, leaving us to maintain their work. Or leave unintentionally. I knew one who had the entire SCSI subsystem at the time of his passing, and one who had a major filesystem when he was incarcerated. What I am trying to do is engineer a cooperation that works better than the others I know of. A really big problem is taking on the janitorial function, which the community is not able to handle on a volunteer basis. We are really lucky that we get to pay people to do that on Linux, but that is rare. I want to pay those guys reliably. I want to generate income to do that.

3. Gives the original authors less motivation to fork - even unsuccessful forks cause damage

Actually, I don't believe that forks cause damage. My experience is otherwise. If the partnership with LN doesn't work, there will be a healthy fork and that is fair. But my experience is that forks happen when the technical folks aren't allowed to do their work, and rarely for any other reason.

4. Makes their project more attractive to potential contributors

Obviously this is something I am trying to balance so that it is sufficiently attractive to contributors while motivating the company.

5. The can get rid of the whole "if in 3 years ..." bit as well as the questions surrounding how it would be monitored and enforced

Look at all of the questions around enforcing the license on the kernel (along with the wild press like on LinuxInsider yesterday.) I think what would happen is that we would trade one set of questions for another. We would definitely trade a 3-year partnership per patch for a forever partnership with legal terms attached and interpreted forever.

Doesn't prevent individual authors licensing their code to GPLv2 projects, so less of a disincentive to participate

I am not yet sure that the prospective developers for this project care at all about contributing to GPL2 projects. At this point I would rather have GPL3 or AGPL3, as I don't want to have Google take my work inside and modify it heavily, never releasing it once, and I don't want to have Tivo marrying it to DRM.

7. They will receive sufficient rights to legally protect their commercial product.

I think we have been OK with having a collective work in Open Source because we want compliance more than we want damages or enforcement. Having multiple owners does reduce the potential to enforce with the prospect of large damages. If you look at what Software Freedom Conservancy wants for a settlement, it's really a token amount, so that they never have to deal with the question of whether their client is the damaged party.

Re:Bruce Perens dissing Free Software (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 2 years ago | (#37382322)

I'm the main designer of the strategy, so you can explain this to me.

1. No paperwork needed.

Um, not really. You now have a large collection of copyright holders to keep satisfied perpetually - not for just three years - and you do indeed have to keep track of them enough to know what work is your own property and what is not. And whose work is what blurs with each additional edit until the ownership of your system is undeterminable. I believe that this would be demotivating for the company.

If they're just giving a grant of use, rather than copyright assignment, then the whole "3 years" thing is redundant to keeping both parties engaged.

As for keeping track of whose property is whose, everyone else manages to do it. If they can't, they're not even amateurs, never mind professionals. The same applies to tracking edits, which are derivative works. However, if you look at who you're dealing with, they most certainly CAN track all this - parent company Reed-Elsevier has plenty of experience tracking copyrights in all their paywall and print publication properties, not just LexisNexis.

2. Keeps the original authors in the loop and engaged.

Well, let's look at the Linux kernel. Certainly there are a lot of folks in the loop and engaged, but even with that project it is very much a revolving door. Developers stay engaged long enough to get their work done and then go on to other things, leaving us to maintain their work. Or leave unintentionally. I knew one who had the entire SCSI subsystem at the time of his passing, and one who had a major filesystem when he was incarcerated. What I am trying to do is engineer a cooperation that works better than the others I know of. A really big problem is taking on the janitorial function, which the community is not able to handle on a volunteer basis. We are really lucky that we get to pay people to do that on Linux, but that is rare. I want to pay those guys reliably. I want to generate income to do that.

Reed-Elsevier already generates bundles of $$$ - they've got money to burn. They would have no reason not to pay people to handle license grants as opposed to copyright assignments, especially since the costs would be amortized among all their paywall operations, not just LexisNexis.

3. Gives the original authors less motivation to fork - even unsuccessful forks cause damage

Actually, I don't believe that forks cause damage. My experience is otherwise. If the partnership with LN doesn't work, there will be a healthy fork and that is fair. But my experience is that forks happen when the technical folks aren't allowed to do their work, and rarely for any other reason.

The fork won't be able to look for prospects to generate the same revenues by approaching other paywall operators and offering them the same licensing deal. This is what I meant by "code capture." LexisNexis, and by the same token, their parent company, Reed-Elsevier, essentially gets a monopoly on the code even after a fork because funding opportunities dry up.

4. Makes their project more attractive to potential contributors

Obviously this is something I am trying to balance so that it is sufficiently attractive to contributors while motivating the company.

The company already has the motivation - quality code and code reviews. They operate a LOT of paywalls, so the benefits to them are much more substantial than it first appears, since the cost savings are across their whole system, and not just LexisNexis.

5. The can get rid of the whole "if in 3 years ..." bit as well as the questions surrounding how it would be monitored and enforced

Look at all of the questions around enforcing the license on the kernel (along with the wild press like on LinuxInsider yesterday.) I think what would happen is that we would trade one set of questions for another. We would definitely trade a 3-year partnership per patch for a forever partnership with legal terms attached and interpreted forever.

The "wild press on LinuxInsider yesterday" was directly due to the FSF engaging in anti-linux and anti-android FUD, as reported here on slashdot. It's been 3 weeks, and Brett Smith still hasn't answered my second email. The FSF (and to a certain extent, the SFLC) have egg on their faces, and the only thing they're going to succeed in doing with such silliness is getting manufacturers to consider Android running on BSD. Or do you endorse the FSF's position, as outlined here [fsf.org] that

Companies that sell products that use Android can help out by encouraging the developers of Linux to make the switch to GPLv3.

... because we all know that's not going to happen. (okay, it was a rhetorical question :-)

Doesn't prevent individual authors licensing their code to GPLv2 projects, so less of a disincentive to participate

I am not yet sure that the prospective developers for this project care at all about contributing to GPL2 projects. At this point I would rather have GPL3 or AGPL3, as I don't want to have Google take my work inside and modify it heavily, never releasing it once, and I don't want to have Tivo marrying it to DRM.

You're overlooking the reverse - people who have licensed their code under the GPLv2 might be sufficiently motivated to also give a license grant under the GPLv3 to an interesting project, freeing the code to be used in a wider range of projects. On the other hand, seeing as it's Reed-Elsevier who is the parent company, I really don't see that happening much, but you never know.

7. They will receive sufficient rights to legally protect their commercial product.

I think we have been OK with having a collective work in Open Source because we want compliance more than we want damages or enforcement. Having multiple owners does reduce the potential to enforce with the prospect of large damages. If you look at what Software Freedom Conservancy wants for a settlement, it's really a token amount, so that they never have to deal with the question of whether their client is the damaged party.

All this is beside the fact that if they have a license from each of the authors, they have enough rights to protect their product.

However, everyone giving them copyright assignments instead means that everyone is willfully sticking their neck out to be nailed for copyright infringement if they ever write similar code. Who needs the hassle? It's not like LexisNexis will indemnify them. "It would be bad for our stockholders to do that."

As you pointed out in another post, they want to list copyrights as business assets, so it's not just about "protecting their product", but inflating the book value of their business.

The value proposition behind open source is that, by working together, everyone gets back many more hours of value than they put in. If they're not willing to settle for that, that's their problem - open source isn't for them. Qu'ils mangent du gateau, for all we should care.

If they balk, go to their #1 competitor, show them that LexisNexis/Reed-Elsevier wanted to work with the community but got greedy (a simple link to this thread should suffice), and you're looking for a company to sponsor the work they want done, that will respect the rights of the individual developers, in return for non-exclusive commercial use and distribution rights to the business.

And if Reed-Elsevier complains, tell them it's nothing personal, just business.

Re:Bruce Perens dissing Free Software (1)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 2 years ago | (#37382384)

they most certainly CAN track all this

You can't mean that.

No, you really can't mean that.

You want a company to track ownership of their product per character through an ever increasing string of edits.

I get the feeling I'm wasting my time here.

ReedElsevier/how to tell you're swimming w. sharks (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 2 years ago | (#37382656)

they most certainly CAN track all this

You can't mean that.

No, you really can't mean that.

You want a company to track ownership of their product per character through an ever increasing string of edits.

I get the feeling I'm wasting my time here.

You know very well that any version control system can do that. Heck, a wiki can do that. It's not that hard with derivative works (which is what edits are to existing lines) to track who checked in what. And for all-new code, you just have to look at who did the original check-in. If everyone who checks in code has already signed off on an agreement that any check-in they do is covered by them granting a specific license, what is the problem? Oh, right - this looks like it isn't about tracking code changes and copyright ownership - its about code capture via copyright assignment by throwing up artificial roadblocks to any other sort of arrangement. You're swimming with sharks. BIG sharks, as in $9 Billion sharks.

Please do your research on Reed-Elsevier (the parent company). They track copyright ownership and do rights management for so many of their print and paywall properties that they cannot claim that they don't understand the concept. It's their core business. They understand it well enough to know that they should always try to grab as many rights as they can.

If LexisNexis was giving you a contrary impression, they've yanked your chain good and hard. Here, start on the HPCC TOS page [hpccsystems.com]

LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.

Who is Reed-Elsevier? Reed-Elsevier is worth over 9 billion [yahoo.com] .

Their profile [yahoo.com]

Reed Elsevier PLC provides information solutions in the areas of science, medical, legal, risk, and business sectors primarily in North America and Europe. The company's Elsevier division publishes scientific information books and journals in print and electronic forms for scientists, academic institutions, research leaders and administrators, corporations, and governments; bibliographic data, indexes, and abstracts, as well as review and reference works; and provides abstract and citation database of research literature. This division also publishes medical journals, books, major reference works, databases, and online information solutions to health professionals and healthcare facilities; and offers marketing services to the pharmaceutical industry. The company's LexisNexis division provides data, analytics, and software services to property and casualty personal and commercial insurance carriers; and offers investigative solutions, as well as focuses on employment-related, resident, and volunteer screening solutions. This division also provides legal, tax, regulatory, and business information to law firms, corporations, and government principally through electronic services and workflow tools. The company's Reed Exhibitions division organizes exhibitions and conferences that encompass various sectors, including broadcasting, TV, music, and entertainment; building and construction; electronics and electrical engineering; engineering, manufacturing, and processing; jewellery; interior design; life sciences/pharmaceuticals; marketing; property and real estate; energy; sports and recreation; and travel. Its Reed Business Information division provides data services, and information and marketing solutions to business professionals; produces industry critical data services, lead generation tools, and online community and job sites; and publishes business magazines in various sectors. The company was founded in 1894 and is based in London, the United Kingdom.

They know how to track this sort of stuff. Really, they have people whose only job is to live and breathe that sort of stuff. Why not ask them, if it seems like such a big problem to you?

Now, I'm all for getting programmers to earn money working on open source, but this is giving away the store, and for all the wrong reasons.

You can prove me and the rest of the skeptics wrong - get them to agree that they get a non-exclusive commercial license for any code, and that the code is also available to the rest of the world under the GPL. Just be careful - angry sharks bite :-)

Re:ReedElsevier/how to tell you're swimming w. sha (1)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 2 years ago | (#37382766)

You know very well that any version control system can do that.

Yes, but no business person would ever want to torture himself and destroy his business that way. If you don't understand that, I just can't help.

I am signing off of this conversation, further attempts from you will be ignored.

Re:ReedElsevier/how to tell you're swimming w. sha (0)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 2 years ago | (#37382904)

Guess who can't stand the heat and wants to leave the kitchen?

It doesn't work that way, Bruce. You're telling one story here, and I just checked on lwn.com, and you're saying something completely different there there.

http://lwn.net/Articles/458515/ [lwn.net]

More specifically

Posted Sep 12, 2011 15:51 UTC (Mon) by iabervon (subscriber, #722)[Link] [url]
It seems to me that this is missing an important motivation for developers: many developers want to implement a particular feature so they themselves can use that feature. Consider, for example, a developer who has added a redundancy feature to a database so that the web site they run has better availability; their primary goal is to run the site with a database with this feature. To the extent that these developers expect to get a benefit from contributing the code to the upstream project, it is to reduce the maintenance burden (ultimately by developers considering that to be normal functionality and simply not introducing conflicts). In this situation, the covenant would ensure the worst of all possibilities in the situation where the company took the project proprietary: not only would the developer not have access to the source of future versions, but these future versions would not work for the developer, since the feature would have to be removed. Furthermore, there is a danger in the company then owning the copyright on the implementation of this feature, if the developer decides to add the feature to a different project (particularly if the other projects that it would make sense to add the feature to require copyright assignment, so simply having a license to the original implementation is not sufficient).

And your reply:

Posted Sep 12, 2011 16:11 UTC (Mon) by BrucePerens (subscriber, #2510) [Link] [Link] [lwn.net]
Actually, this isn't a problem because of a key feature of copyright law: A developer is always free to grant their own work to others under his/her own terms. The covenant doesn't make you promise not to do so.

Here, you've been arguing that they will only accept contributions if the copyright is assigned to them. On LWN, you gloss over the implications of that, expressed by the poster on LWN, by saying that the developer is free to grant their own work to others. They cannot if they have assigned the copyright to someone else, and you d*** well know that.

This is pretty disgusting behavior on your part.

Bruce Perens telling 2 different stories (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 2 years ago | (#37383292)

Since you've bailed on answering the hard questions here [slashdot.org] let's see how you're misleading people on LWN.

A poster asked you about the implications of assigning copyrights for their code [lwn.net] .

More specifically

Posted Sep 12, 2011 15:51 UTC (Mon) by iabervon (subscriber, #722) [Link] [lwn.net]
It seems to me that this is missing an important motivation for developers: many developers want to implement a particular feature so they themselves can use that feature. Consider, for example, a developer who has added a redundancy feature to a database so that the web site they run has better availability; their primary goal is to run the site with a database with this feature. To the extent that these developers expect to get a benefit from contributing the code to the upstream project, it is to reduce the maintenance burden (ultimately by developers considering that to be normal functionality and simply not introducing conflicts). In this situation, the covenant would ensure the worst of all possibilities in the situation where the company took the project proprietary: not only would the developer not have access to the source of future versions, but these future versions would not work for the developer, since the feature would have to be removed. Furthermore, there is a danger in the company then owning the copyright on the implementation of this feature, if the developer decides to add the feature to a different project (particularly if the other projects that it would make sense to add the feature to require copyright assignment, so simply having a license to the original implementation is not sufficient). (emphasis added)

And your reply:

Posted Sep 12, 2011 16:11 UTC (Mon) by BrucePerens (subscriber, #2510) [Link] [lwn.net]
Actually, this isn't a problem because of a key feature of copyright law: A developer is always free to grant their own work to others under his/her own terms. The covenant doesn't make you promise not to do so.

Of course the covenant doesn't "make you promise not to" - because it doesn't need to. Copyright law "makes you promise not to do so" because doing so would be against the law once you've assigned copyright to someone else (doh!).

Remember, here you've been arguing that they will only accept contributions if the copyright is assigned to them. And worse, you've admitted that you forgot to ask about the author getting a grant-back for other uses. You negotiated with their lawyer, and their lawyer got the better of you. Not much of a surprise there, I guess, after seeing the rest of your responses here and at LWN.

And you're surprised that you're getting raked over the coals for it on both sites? Really? So much so that you have to run away? [slashdot.org]

Sloppy, half-baked, uninspiring. You come up with all sorts of "excuses" for why LexisNexis and their owner, Reed-Elsevier, the paywall people (you know, the poor poor $9 billion market cap business needs your code to list as a business asset or they'll have big problems!!!OMG!!!), should be trusted, and *need* copyright assignment, such as "they want to be able to list the copyrights as assets" .... gee, maybe we should be as generous to Rupert Murdoch, ya think?

Perens is right, and you're just flaming (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37383370)

Read the license, as Perens pointed out in his own posting:

This license protects You as a contributor as well as the HPCC Systems platform and its users; it does not change your rights to use
your own contributions for any other purpose.

When last I checked, Perens was a licensing professional - and the person who had designed the rules for Open Source licensing.

And your credentials are?

Re:Perens is right, and you're just flaming (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 2 years ago | (#37383494)

Perens has stated here that LexisNexis requires copyright assignment. Once you assign copyright, that's it - you have to abide by their rules.

Also, there's this [lwn.net]

When you are working with a company as large as that (LN is a big division of huge Elsevier) with as many separate stake-holders in legal, management, etc., it's always a negotiation. That's what I could get.

In other words, he got p0wned, as many of the commenters over on LWN pointed out. When you can't negotiate a good deal, get up and leave. Don't settle for a bad deal and then try to sell it to everyone - we're not stupid.

He also admitted here that he forgot to ask their lawyer about license-back provisions to people who assign their copyrights. Sloppy, sloppy work, and since this was "all he could get", don't hold your breath.

If this is your idea of the work of a "licensing professional", here's a news flash - the real world works differently. This is already a fiasco and a joke, except nobody's laughing. Such a lop-sided "covenant" is a betrayal of the ideals of open source. But don't let me keep you from drinking the kook-aid.

We raised serious concerns - he dissimulated. We proposed alternatives - he made excuses for why they wouldn't work that were facile at best, and often better characterized as disingenuous.

Before today, I had no reason not to take everything Mr. Perens says at face value. That is gone - probably forever - at this point.

Danger, Will Robinson (1)

pem (1013437) | more than 2 years ago | (#37381434)

Generally, I code faster, and better, the second time around.

If you were the original author, there is some chance that a court would find that any second coding you do would be covered by the original copyright. You certainly wouldn't be able to claim "clean room" non-exposure to the original. And, whether the court would find that or not, that could still be an expensive proposition, if you coded something valuable enough for a post-bankruptcy assignee to decide that your second coding of it was interfering with their profits.

Small chance, you say? You're absolutely right. But OTOH, any company that wouldn't mind you using something that you yourself created the second time shouldn't really mind you using something you created the first time either.

No, I have to agree with the assessment of others that copyright assignment is a non-starter. There is a continuum of potential contributions, but at one end you have small bugfixes that are useless for any other piece of software, so nobody should care who owns the copyright. At the other end, you have major pieces of work that might contain large libraries of independently-useful functions. If you want to attract developers to create and contribute those then you shouldn't limit their ability to reuse their own creations.

Furthermore, if it's merely a license grant rather than a copyright assignment, then the damage that a wayward bankruptcy judge can do (think what happened to Novell's revenue stream in SCO) becomes quite limited.

Re:Bruce Perens dissing Free Software (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37378410)

(facepalm) The whole purpose is for the company to have control of all copyrights, that's the only viable way for it to work. From my reading this attempts to balance the needs of the developer. How much incentive will be tested in the marketplace.

RTFA next time, numbnuts.

Re:Bruce Perens dissing Free Software (2)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 2 years ago | (#37378774)

(facepalm) The whole purpose is for the company to have control of all copyrights, that's the only viable way for it to work. From my reading this attempts to balance the needs of the developer. How much incentive will be tested in the marketplace.

That's VERY suspicious, because the vast majority of commercial products out there do NOT have control of all the copyrights used in their products.

The whole "oh we need copyright assignment because otherwise we can't create a viable commercial product" argument is baloney.

Maybe, in their particular case, they can't, because of the aforementioned inability to capture the code so that only they can exploit it commercially (they want a "monopoly" on dual-use licensing). Or maybe they're just over-reaching, just like all the others who demand copyright assignment when the author granting permission to use the code commercially is more than sufficient.

Re:Bruce Perens dissing Free Software (1)

Ukab the Great (87152) | more than 2 years ago | (#37379312)

I think that Free Software is hurt more by having RMS as an advocate than by having Bruce Perens as a detractor.

It ain't no covenant (0)

cultiv8 (1660093) | more than 2 years ago | (#37377558)

It's the White Witch offering Turkish Delight.

The goals of this plan are to capitalize on the innovation and new ideas that come with an Open Source community [...] and collect direct revenue from the product – not just revenue from ancillary products like support and training.

Agree: not needed (1)

Roger W Moore (538166) | more than 2 years ago | (#37379918)

I agree. I fail to understand the need to assign copyright. Surely the developer can just give HPCC a license to the code which includes the right to relicense the code under any commercial license they wish so long as they continue to support and release an open source version. Call this the HPCC Turkish Delight license and then just say that you are releasing your code under this license instead of GPL/.... By assigning copyright HPCC could use the code in a different, closed source product without compensating the developer in anyway.

Re:Agree: not needed (1)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 2 years ago | (#37380680)

Surely the developer can just give HPCC a license to the code which includes the right to relicense the code under any commercial license they wish so long as they continue to support and release an open source version.

In building a balance that will motivate multiple parties to participate, you have to consider all of their needs. In the case of HPCC's needs, this allows them to continue to own their entire product, and to list their entire product as an asset.

I don't really expect them to act like some character from the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (I had to look it up). But I will bring to their attention the concern about multiple products and see what they think.

Re:Agree: not needed (1, Informative)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 2 years ago | (#37381854)

In the case of HPCC's needs, this allows them to continue to own their entire product, and to list their entire product as an asset.

Whoa, cowboy. I smell a rat. A BIG FAT JUICY RAT!

The breed of rat that thinks "Let's get a portfolio of copyright assignments so we can list these as assets" rat that wants to be able to own other people's code so they can do an IPO or a spin-off to attract investors or inflate their balance sheet.

Looks more and more like this is not (just) about them selling their commercial product after all, and why they say that a license to use the code commercially specifically for their project is a non-starter.

Look behind the curtain - who owns LexisNexis?

Oh-oh ... LexisNexis is owned by paywall god Reed-Elsevier (frequent slashdot readers will recognize - and mostly hate - the parent company). This goes way beyond LexisNexis. What sort of reaction do you think you would have gotten if you had proposed that coders just hand over their copyrights to Elsevier and Co? Maybe the same as if you had proposed they give them to Rupert Murdoch?

BTW - In 2009 employee reviews surveyed by glassdoor.com lead to LexisNexis being ranked "11th worst place to work in America".

This is so a non-starter ...

Re:Agree: not needed (1)

Urkki (668283) | more than 2 years ago | (#37383864)

In building a balance that will motivate multiple parties to participate, you have to consider all of their needs. In the case of HPCC's needs, this allows them to continue to own their entire product, and to list their entire product as an asset.

And you seriously thing that is going to motivate multiple parties to participate? They're free to suggest what ever licensing or copyright deals, and everybody else is free accept it, but also free to laugh at their face.

Complicated (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37377576)

the product is to be dual-licensed under the Affero GPL 3.06 and a commercial license. In exchange for each copyright assignment from an Open Source developer, the company will covenant to continue to support and maintain the Open Source version of their product for a period of three years – they won't take it private during that time. The three-year clock will start anew every time there's another copyright contribution. If the company cannot continue to support and maintain the product as Open Source, HPCC systems promises either to contribute the product to a non-profit under permissive licensing like BSD, or to remove the developer's contribution, and all others for which the three-year clock is still running, from the product.

Unnecessarily complicated. If it's already under Affero GPL then people can already build on it-"contributing the product to a non-profit" doesn't add anything to that and there's no reason to assume that people who choose to contribute to a GPL project want to have their code licensed under BSD anyway (and vice versa) - some will be happy with this but others won't. On balance, what's the point?

Re:Complicated (4, Insightful)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 2 years ago | (#37377618)

Unnecessarily complicated. If it's already under Affero GPL then people can already build on it-"contributing the product to a non-profit" doesn't add anything to that and there's no reason to assume that people who choose to contribute to a GPL project want to have their code licensed under BSD anyway (and vice versa) - some will be happy with this but others won't. On balance, what's the point?

Consider why people want to have their work accepted by the project, rather than just maintain their modification independently. Consider the hoops that companies jump through just to get Linus to accept their patches. Now, consider that LN will maintain your modification for you with paid employees, if they accept it. Yes, there is value in that.

Re:Complicated (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37378006)

Consider why people want to have their work accepted by the project, rather than just maintain their modification independently. Consider the hoops that companies jump through just to get Linus to accept their patches. Now, consider that LN will maintain your modification for you with paid employees, if they accept it. Yes, there is value in that.

What has any of that got to do with this "covenant"? I can perfectly understand why people might choose to contribute to a GPL project. What I don't understand is why a promise that if they don't "maintain and support" the open source version (is there an objective way of telling whether they're doing that, I'm guessing that support doesn't mean the same as what you get under a support contract but maybe I'm wrong) then it'll be released under a permissive license "like" the BSD (how much "like"?) would help particularly. Is this aimed at BSD fans specifically? (nothing wrong with that if it is, I'm just trying to understand).

Re:Complicated (1)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 2 years ago | (#37378166)

It's aimed at keeping the company from going private with the contributions of the community. For a company that wants to have a paid commercial-licensed version, a promise to BSD license their product is a poison pill. They would probably go far to avoid activating it.

Re:Complicated (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37378664)

But then again, for open source devs wanting to support one particular project but not give everyone a free proprietisation waiver to their code, a promise to BSD license their product is also a poison pill. Now what do?

Re:Complicated (1)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 2 years ago | (#37379518)

If my AGPL 3.0 code gets BSD licensed, it's not the end of the world. It's still Free Software. If a company's product gets BSD licensed, it might be the end of the world for them.

Re:Complicated (1)

agbinfo (186523) | more than 2 years ago | (#37381890)

I don't it's the end of the world either way but only the individuals that made the contribution should be the judge of how bad it is.

I also agree with most others here that this is way too complicated. Developers have already been caught in schemes like this. The company wants to have a low quality version that is GPL'd and hopefully get some software contributions back and they want to have a nicely packaged application with proprietary features. Since anybody else that wants to fork the software would need to do so under the AGPL L-N would get these contributions through the AGPL but they wouldn't need to share their proprietary additions. It's not what the GPL was intended for.

It's complicated and I think people are wise to this SugarCRM way of doing business.

Honestly, if they are looking for bug fixes, they can just open source their software - no redistribution rights required. People who use the software will gladly contribute bug fixes. For new features development, just continue paying for them.

Or better yet, go GPL all the way. Competition might actually be a good thing and when you start with most of the domain knowledge and brains that created it, I like the odds.

The scheme you propose makes these guys look like another SugarCRM. In a few years people will be complaining about L-N and L-N will be wondering why after open sourcing their code, nobody likes them.

Re:Complicated (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 2 years ago | (#37382776)

If my AGPL 3.0 code gets BSD licensed, it's not the end of the world. It's still Free Software. If a company's product gets BSD licensed, it might be the end of the world for them.

Not if they have some hot new code to add that they don't want to share. Then, it's certainly to their advantage to breech the covenant and let the AGPL version be re-released under a BSD license.

The other problem is that the covenant doesn't bind 3rd parties. The parent company's other divisions are free to develop, maintain, and sell a closed version with all sorts of enhancements when LexisNexis grants them a license to do so. The open version will never see those. So the open version will be the red-headed stepchild, because for Reed-Elsevier, money does more than talk. It buys lawyers who will point out that they're in full compliance with the letter of the covenant and that you really should be grateful for that knife in the back.

Re:Complicated, and probably flawed (2)

AliasMarlowe (1042386) | more than 2 years ago | (#37378100)

In exchange for each copyright assignment from an Open Source developer, the company will covenant to continue to support and maintain the Open Source version of their product for a period of three years – they won't take it private during that time. The three-year clock will start anew every time there's another copyright contribution.

Now, consider that LN will maintain your modification for you with paid employees, if they accept it. Yes, there is value in that.

Indeed there is, for both parties. But there is a legal asymmetry, since one party actually owns the code, and it's not the coder.

One consequence is how bankruptcy affects ownership, control, and related duties. Exactly how that covenant could be gutted during bankruptcy proceedings is likely to be of considerable interest to any coder who submits to this license. At present, the covenant [hpccsystems.com] is silent on the issue of bankruptcy, but includes the text:
"You assign to HPCC Systems all copyright rights, title, and interest to the Source Code."
Unless the contract were to explicitly state that the company entering bankruptcy would immediately cause all rights to revert to the coder, we can expect that the code and copyright will be treated like just another asset. Contract terms limiting disposal of assets can be arbitrarily modified or thrown out by a bankruptcy court and the code rendered immediately closed source by court fiat. Since the copyright has been assigned, the AFPL could be canceled to further boost the disposal value of the asset.

bankruptcy (1)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 2 years ago | (#37378256)

Well, I'll discuss with their attorney whether there is a need for a change in terms specific to bankruptcy. But if the company goes bankrupt, they didn't benefit from the Open Source cooperation sufficiently anyway. So, I'm not sure how much we need to flog that horse. It seems unlikely that Oracle is going to pick up such a product in an asset sale and suddenly make a smash hit out of it.

Re:bankruptcy (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 2 years ago | (#37379132)

Well, I'll discuss with their attorney whether there is a need for a change in terms specific to bankruptcy. But if the company goes bankrupt, they didn't benefit from the Open Source cooperation sufficiently anyway. So, I'm not sure how much we need to flog that horse. It seems unlikely that Oracle is going to pick up such a product in an asset sale and suddenly make a smash hit out of it.

A company can have a smash hit and still go bankrupt and be picked up by Oracle. Or is Java not a "smash hit" any more?

If the author is the one granting the dual license, instead of assigning copyright, they don't lose their rights if the company goes bankrupt - and they can write in the assignment that it is terminated on a filing of bankruptcy, so that solves the problem nice and simple. If the trustee wants to sell the product, they can always ask for a new license and throw some money at the author as an incentive :-)

Re:bankruptcy (1)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 2 years ago | (#37379296)

Sun didn't go into a "chapter" proceeding, they were sold.

Re:bankruptcy (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 2 years ago | (#37379690)

Sun was bleeding money hand over fist and wasn't long for this world - we all know that. They were picked up at bankruptcy prices, not some insane dot-com-multiple of their value.

Re:bankruptcy (0)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 2 years ago | (#37380066)

Well, sure. But they were picked up in a way that left Sun stockholders with $9.50/share, which was a lot better than $0, and too bad for the folks who bought it at $250. Bankruptcy is what happens if you can't have the fire sale because your indebtedness is too large for anyone to be interested.

Re:bankruptcy (1)

idontgno (624372) | more than 2 years ago | (#37380912)

And, if your imagination is sufficiently paranoid, you'd argue that the "let them burn and mine the ashes" approach would fit Oracle's approach to intellectual property just fine.

Allowing bankruptcy to launder the obligations without disgorging the property would have been a fine way for Oracle to get out of the Java community burden. Just imagine the rich per-CPU license fees they could have been sucking down if it weren't for those pesky Open Source kids.

Yes, you're right. That's wildly paranoid. Still, the phrase "perverse incentive" comes to mind over and over with this idea. You no longer encourage white knights to save companies like Sun; you draw vultures. You make companies worth more dead than alive.

Re:Complicated (1)

Neil_Brown (1568845) | more than 2 years ago | (#37377644)

On balance, what's the point?

If nothing else, vesting the copyright (bearing in mind that it is assigned, and so ownership is transferred, rather than merely being licensed) in an entity other than the company which has decided not to support and maintain the product, and which exists to hold and potentially make ongoing decisions about its codebase, might increase the chances of both (a) active management of the project, rather than just code floating around, and (b) an increased likelihood of compliace activities (although, in the case of BSD-licensed code, perhaps fewer enforcement actions would be necessary).

Re:Complicated (3, Interesting)

Ixokai (443555) | more than 2 years ago | (#37377718)

People can already "build on it", yes -- but they would have to fork it to do so, and there's a LOT of reasons why you may want to contribute upstream and not fork your own.

For one thing, if you care about whatever your project is that is using the software, you want to stay as close to the main line of development is as possible -- since its being actively developed and maintained by a paid group of people, in addition to whatever the community contributes.

For another, if you /don't/ get your change to the upstream, then that is a burden on you forever -- you will have to maintain that change as the main line evolves. Your patches won't apply cleanly forever. Now, you may just dump out a patch and move on and never upgrade, and if that's what you wanna do.. okay, fine.

There's lots and lots more. If you can't see why wanting to get your changes integrated instead of just forking your own isn't desirable, well... okay whatever :)

The "covenant" here means that the company is promising something to you in exchange for requiring you assign copyright. Its up to you to decide if the value proposition there is worth it to you -- most other contributor agreements I've seen in the past I thought were kinda greedy (unless it was to a neutral/Open-Source organization such as Python or Apache which I could rely on to not go private), since it was always one-way. This is at least something, and I'm not sure what want more of if I were negotiating -- they couldn't realistically promise my lines be open forever, as code evolves a lot more organically then that.

A promise to either release it all permissively, so /anyone/ who contributed -- be they commercial interests (remember, some of these "contributors" aren't Open Source people per se, who care about GPL or BSD or whatever, but are companies who may use that software and are contributing to the platform) or open source users can use it how they like.... or to support and maintain it for three years after their last accepted contribution (during which you're free to fork), seems a pretty decent compromise to me.

Re:Complicated (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37378200)

support and maintain it for three years after their last accepted contribution (during which you're free to fork), seems a pretty decent compromise to me

So if that's a good compromise then what does their side of it actually mean? Suppose I report a bug in the product and six months later it hasn't been fixed. Has it stopped being maintained and they have to release as BSD? If not then suppose it takes two years, stopped being maintained now?

Suppose they release a proprietary version with new features that aren't added to the open source version within a year. Does that mean they've stopped maintaining the open source version?

Suppose I email a list of questions and I don't get a useful answer. Does that mean it's stopped being supported?

Do I have to go to court to answer any of those questions? How much should I be budgeting for that?

LexisNexis (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37377594)

I worked on LX's HPCC project. Good luck to them!

It's better than nothing... (2)

jopsen (885607) | more than 2 years ago | (#37377608)

If I were contributor to a dual licensed project, I wouldn't mind having a promise that the product is kept alive and open sourced for 3 years after my latest contribution. I don't know if it's enough to justify copyright assignment, but at least it's an acknowledgement and not a bad one...

Re:It's better than nothing... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37387598)

I still wouldn't sign away my copyright, though. It's still a skewed relationship: 3 years of promised stewardship vs 70+ years of ownership? No thanks, I'll take my chances with another project.

I'd be perfectly happy to grant any open source company a complete and irrevocable license to my contributions. I have contributed to MIT-style licensed projects, which is effectively that. But distancing myself from my contributions? I'm not even willing to do that for the FSF.

Per product or per version? (2)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#37377732)

The three-year clock will start anew every time there's another copyright contribution.

Per product, or per version? How about forks?

What happens to the covenant in a bankruptcy hearing? Bankruptcy judges have relatively free reign... Could it be bad?

If starting anew, isn't it simpler / cleaner to have a non-profit that owns the open source code, and a private for-profit that applies the code? If not starting anew then you've got some pretty confusing balance sheet issues with transferring ownership, in which case the covenant makes sense.

Thus, the Open Source developer is assured that the work won't be taken private for a significant amount of time

Should I care? If version 7.4 is GPL, and they close 7.5 and above, can't I just fork off 7.4 and run it myself aside from any trademark problems?

If a company is planning on taking ye olde version 1.3 and going private with it in just 6 more months, perhaps because they're insane, regardless, wouldn't that encourage them to not accept security patches from the community? Not saying this "enforcement aspect" is good or bad, just saying it "is".

and the continued participation of Open Source developers provides a strong incentive for the company to never take the product private.

What if the management team intends to burn it to the ground to extract maximal profit for one quarter at the cost of permanent long term damage, in other words traditional American management style? Your design assumptions are both sides are perfectly informed, rational, and free actors, but they are not, which likely impacts the outcome.

Through the covenant, their use of dual-licensing, and their innovative software, HPCC Systems will gain broad acceptance of their product and will profit from its software and services.

Agreed, that is the most likely outcome. My criticisms are about using the new covenant in other "unlikely" situations. If everything's balloons and unicorns you don't need to worry about the downside, but if you're going to bother with the paperwork, you should be focusing intensely on the downside because that's when you most need the paperwork... Best case scenario you have a PR win. Worst case scenario is ... better but not entirely perfect either.

Re:Per product or per version? (1)

non-registered (639880) | more than 2 years ago | (#37377872)

Good comment. We should remember that the cumulative probability of the long tail of "unlikely" outcomes often outweighs the probability of the few most "likely" outcomes. In other words, the outcome will most likely be bad.

Re:Per product or per version? (1, Informative)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 2 years ago | (#37377944)

The three-year clock will start anew every time there's another copyright contribution.

Per product, or per version? How about forks?

I can't think of anything that could be used to exclude a version from the agreement, so it's every version of the work that has been contributed to (that could be more than one product) during the 3 year period. If someone other than LN forks the work they are restricted to AGPL 3.0 terms. LN, as the copyright holder, is the party with a right to issue a commercial license. We don't need a covenant with folks who can only use AGPL 3.0.

What happens to the covenant in a bankruptcy hearing? Bankruptcy judges have relatively free reign... Could it be bad?

The covenant should apply to assigns who acquire the work through a bankruptcy. Bankruptcy judges have sometimes revoked source code escrow clauses. Not sure if they could do that to us. Right now, the company is owned by Elsevier, no bankruptcy in sight.

If starting anew, isn't it simpler / cleaner to have a non-profit that owns the open source code, and a private for-profit that applies the code? If not starting anew then you've got some pretty confusing balance sheet issues with transferring ownership, in which case the covenant makes sense.

This is a 10-year-old product with an appreciable fraction of a Billion invested into it. Not a start anew. The owner wanted to stay the owner :-)

Should I care? If version 7.4 is GPL, and they close 7.5 and above, can't I just fork off 7.4 and run it myself aside from any trademark problems?

I would care if someone had a commercial version of my code that was closed, with no quid-pro-quo. Folks who don't care about that put BSD licensing on what they write. But not everyone does.

If a company is planning on taking ye olde version 1.3 and going private with it in just 6 more months, perhaps because they're insane, regardless, wouldn't that encourage them to not accept security patches from the community? Not saying this "enforcement aspect" is good or bad, just saying it "is".

Well, the purpose of the agreement is to keep the company in partnership with the community by making it sufficiently unpalatable for them to leave.

What if the management team intends to burn it to the ground to extract maximal profit for one quarter at the cost of permanent long term damage, in other words traditional American management style?

Then you get the BSD version eventually, and can go into business for yourself if you want to provide an alternative to them.

Re:Per product or per version? (1)

bobaferret (513897) | more than 2 years ago | (#37378180)

I haven't read the covenant yet, but plan to. As for the editorial and summary, thanks. This is a real help to the community. I only hope it's enough to take some of the edge off of the dual licensing issue. I spend a fair amount of sleepless nights debating with myself whether or not to dual license my software. It's the kind of thing would be good for the community to have and make lives better, as well pay some of my debit back to the OSS community. At the same time, I need to eat. It truly is a deep moral and ethical question for everyone writing software and wanting to use it to feed themselves; just how much do we owe the community and how much can we afford to pay without hurting ourselves. Is support and training income enough? My current philosophy has been to start at a dual license level and if it doesn't work out, then just a single OSS license.

Just wanted to say thanks for the hard work on these issues.

Re:Per product or per version? (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 2 years ago | (#37380600)

If someone other than LN forks the work they are restricted to AGPL 3.0 terms. LN, as the copyright holder, is the party with a right to issue a commercial license. We don't need a covenant with folks who can only use AGPL 3.0.

In other words, they've done the equivalent of Tivo-ising the code wrt commercial use. Sweet!

Hey everyone - assign ME your copyrights and I'll give you a grant-back to use all the copyrights in the pool under the AGPLv3. I'll go one further than Loopy-Noopy - I'll even give you a grant-back to use them under a separate GPLv2 or later license, so you can contribute to projects like Linux, which is GPLv2 only. What could possibly go wrong?

Yeah, right ... I didn't think so ...

Seriously, it's not even [tt] Tuesday yet ...

Re:Per product or per version? (1)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 2 years ago | (#37380756)

In other words, they've done the equivalent of Tivo-ising the code wrt commercial use.

Not sure you're really clear on this. When I release my own code under AGPL 3.0, you don't get to commercial license it. The only code you have a chance to commercial license in that case is your own. Now, maybe you're complaining because this doesn't license-back to you your own code in a way that you could commercially license. But it would still be a fragment of an overall AGPL 3.0 program, and you would not be able to commercial-license it unless you created some stand-alone version of your own code that didn't require any of the rest of the system. None of this has anything to do with tivo-izing.

Re:Per product or per version? (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 2 years ago | (#37381104)

My reference to "tivo-ization" was not that the code was no longer compilable - but that it would no longer be accessible for commercial use or use in many projects with different licenses even by the original author, who gets absolutely nothing in return for giving up his or her rights. The code has certain aspects that are now "fenced off" from the world.

THEY can issue a commercial license, while the original author no longer can. The reason they want to do this is because they see value in it. If you think this is such a great idea, assign all your copyrights to me, so that I can use them any way I choose, and I'll grant you a license back under the AGPL 3.0.

You really should take me up on this generous offer - after all, it's what you're advocating others do wrt Lucky-Nutty-Silly-Putty. So let me take the opportunity^Wburden of worrying about the commercialization of everything off you. And I promise I'll even have a script to automatically generate a new for-pay release every 2-3 years so that it will never revert to a BSDish license.

We can call it the "Hotel California License" - because you can check it out (under the AGPL) any time you like, but you can never leave ...

So, write up those copyright assignments and stick them in the mail TODAY, and I will include, at no extra cost, not one, not two, but THREE emails acknowledging that you have a reciprocal limited license under the AGPL.

Re:Per product or per version? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37384036)

Yeah... I reckon I'll keep the copyright to my own code...

hah (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37377756)

"Bruce Perens writes . . . Open Source co-founder Bruce Perens designed a new Covenant between Lexis Nexis and the Open Source community"

(a) why are you referring to yourself in the third person; and (b) you are not the co-founder of open source, and no, we don't care that your little group "coined the phrase" in 1999, that was decades after open source was invented.

So after Oracle buys the company (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37377804)

... they immediately declare a moratorium on external contributions to source, but otherwise continue business as usual, selling licenses and support contracts for the product. What was gained by Mr. Perens' covenant?

(plus L0ne Informative) (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37377818)

are 7000 users ReciprOcating Guests. Some pEople parts of you are

Why is "copyright assignment" required? (1)

vxir (668726) | more than 2 years ago | (#37378094)

What about a "contributor license agreement" that lets the main company release your stuff under a commercial license?

I WANNA BE A SPACEMAN!! SETTLE FOR WITCHY WOMAN N! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37378198)

Raven hair and ruby lips
Sparks fly from her finger tips
Echoed voices in the night
Sheâ(TM)s a restless spirit on an endless flight
Wooo hooo witchy woman, see how
High she flies
Woo hoo witchy woman she got
The moon in her eye
She held me spellbound in the night
Dancing shadows and firelight
Crazy laughter in another
Room and she drove herself to madness
With a silver spoon
Woo hoo witchy woman see how high she flies
Woo hoo witchy woman she got the moon in her eye
Well I know you want a lover,
Let me tell your brother, sheâ(TM)s been sleeping
In the devilâ(TM)s bed.
And thereâ(TM)s some rumors going round
Someoneâ(TM)s underground
She can rock you in the nighttime
â(TM)til your skin turns red
Woo hoo witchy woman
See how high she flies
Woo hoo witchy woman
She got the moon in her eye

Nobody should cooperate (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37378314)

Because it's Lexis Nexis, and they're grade-A, anti-human assholes.

The Covenant (0)

mfwitten (1906728) | more than 2 years ago | (#37378318)

Let's not introduce religious baggage into our communities, OK?

Re:The Covenant (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37378898)

As far as I know the word covenant is associated with the legal profession. It may sometimes be used by religious people, but it's not their invention.

Not suprised. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37378738)

Lobbies are plenty of money to force their interests. Normal people has no power.

Desirable conditions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37380646)

A covenant would have to meet at least two more conditions before I would find it acceptable. These conditions are necessary as there is such a huge imbalance in power between me and a large company.
  1. The covenant must be public. Every contributor signs the same contract.
  2. A covenant must be reasonably stable. BigCorp cannot change it without giving everyone plenty of warning.

I think you can see why these conditions are necessary. As a potential contributor I would be totally demotivated if I had to hire a lawyer to analyze a covenant before I could sign it -- and even then I would worry about being steamrolled by BigCorp's legal team.

Making a covenant public and stable gives the Open Source community a chance to scrutinize it and declare it fair. This would greatly lessen my distrust of the covenant and increase the chance that I would sign.

Not Free (1)

harlows_monkeys (106428) | more than 2 years ago | (#37380742)

Affero GPL does not meet the conditions of the FSF's Free Software definition. In particular, it fails on Freedom 0. A few years ago, they never would have approved this, but they took an uncharacteristically pragmatic turn and decided to ignore their ethics in favor of achieving a result they desired that could not be achieved with Free Software licenses alone.

The basis of the FSF's definitions are their view that it is unethical for one to have a program but not have the ability to use it, study it, and modify it. When the program is on someone else's server, you don't have it, so the ethical issues do not arise. As Stallman once explained [oreilly.com] :

a proprietary program on a web server that somebody else is running limits his freedom perhaps, but it doesn't limit your freedom or my freedom. We don't have that program on our computers at all, and in fact the issue of free software versus proprietary [only] arises for software that we're going to have on our computers and run on our computers. We're gonna have copies and the question is, what are we allowed to do with those copies? Are we just allowed to run them or are we allowed to do the other useful things that you can do with a program? If the program is running on somebody else's computer, the issue doesn't arise. Am I allowed to copy the program that Amazon has on it's computer? Well, I can't, I don't have that program at all, so it doesn't put me in a morally compromised position

He's talking about proprietary programs there, but that doesn't make a difference. His point applies to any software running on someone else's server.

Re:Not Free (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37384194)

Of COURSE someone running code on another system limits your freedom. You think putting your global ecommerce system into some remote server and having no way to take over that service with your own in-house solution except downloading data and rebuilding the whole site from scratch is "unlimited"?

What's wrong with this picture (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37380964)

Orthogonal on whether this "covenant" is fair or not, will work or not let's consider NexisLexis, a subsidiary of Reed Elsevier. NexisLexis provides a case law database citing adjudicated US court decisions and other legal materials. Think about this for a moment: A US court (taxpayer funded) decides a case, then hands over the results to a private company to sell). What's wrong with this picture? ... Bueller? ... Bueller? ... Anybody? ... These materials should be in the public domain. We, the US taxpayer have already paid for their production. We should NOT have to pay to look at them.

Now, consider Reed Elsevier. Big science publisher. Much of what is published is ... you gussed it: US Taxpayer funded. Have you seen the price of refereed research publications? We have to pay for it again.

In my opinion, NexisLexis and Reed Elsevier are running a scam, nothing more, nothing less. They are selling something they have no rights to in the first place. Their officers and directors should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and the company liquidated. All their assets should be handed over to a public interest outfit for custodial care and free access. ... Just my opinion. Yours may vary.

Scam alert! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37381970)

(1) The 3-year clock doesn't reset if HPCC Systems decides not to accept any more contributions under the "Covenant". The Covenant must be signed by both parties to be valid. Once HPCC Systems chooses not to sign any more of them, after 3 years' time, HPCC Systems owns the copyright free-and-clear to every contribution ever made and accepted.

(2) If HPCC Systems decides to take the code private before 3 years elapse, the contributor must actively request their code be removed, and it will only be removed from subsequent versions.

[By the way, the letter seems so carefully written and documented, up until it mentions a 3-year time period before providing an explanation for what it's about. This makes me even more suspicious.]

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