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FSFE Releases Fiduciary License Agreement

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 7 years ago | from the who-owns-me dept.

Patents 42

lisah writes "FSF Europe announced this week that it has released its Fiduciary License Agreement (FLA), which is being touted as an 'assignment of copyright.' The goal of the FLA is to allow free software projects to place their copyright under the control of a single group or trustee, though its usefulness is being debated throughout the open source community since it only address the authorship rights of a project, not the more intangible moral rights. Furthermore, the agreement seems to have been created without the involvement of a lot of lawyers and some members of the community worry that the FLA might have unintended consequences if adopted without sound legal advice."Linux.com and Slashdot are both owned by OSTG.

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42 comments

Hide the children (5, Funny)

Lord_Slepnir (585350) | more than 7 years ago | (#17987920)

The words "Free Software" and "Patent" were used in the same sentence. The loud screaming sound you hear the Richard Stallman going berserk. Don't worry, it happens every so often. Just stay out of the area in a direct line between Berkley and Redmond, and Berkley and Europe, and you should be safe.

Re:Hide the children (1)

BerkeleyDude (827776) | more than 7 years ago | (#17990630)

Don't worry, it happens every so often. Just stay out of the area in a direct line between Berkley and Redmond, and Berkley and Europe, and you should be safe.
1) I live in Berkeley, you insensitive clod!
2) It's Berkeley, not Berkley.
3) What does Berkeley have to do with anything??

who knew (2, Interesting)

macadamia_harold (947445) | more than 7 years ago | (#17987966)

Furthermore, the agreement seems to have been created without the involvement of a lot of lawyers and some members of the community worry that the FLA might have unintended consequences if adopted without sound legal advice.

Who knew that the lack of involvement of a lot of lawyers would be seen as a bad thing?

Re:who knew (5, Insightful)

bshellenberg (779684) | more than 7 years ago | (#17988042)

If you are drafting a legal document, it would be wise to involve a lawyer much in the same way that brain surgery should involve a doctor.

Re:who knew (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 7 years ago | (#17988192)

The key is "lot". A lawyer would be good for drafting a legal document. A lot of lawyers, not so good. Often, too many or too much of something is a bad thing. This can even apply to your example, too many brain surgeons would just get in the way when maybe you only need one or two.

Re:who knew (1)

bshellenberg (779684) | more than 7 years ago | (#17990874)

I'd disagree that a lot of lawyers is not so good. Legal language can have different interpretations in different jurisdiction. With a document that so many would have to live with for who knows how long, it should be accurate and effective in as many cases as possible and there should be no worry that the lawyers that worked the document are not in their area of expertise.

Re:who knew (1)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 7 years ago | (#17989566)

If you are drafting a legal document, it would be wise to involve a lawyer much in the same way that brain surgery should involve a doctor.
Or in the same way that a brothel should have a madam.

What? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17988068)

Fidic.. Fudic... Fidicu-what?! I can't even cut'n'paste that word!

Re:What? (2, Informative)

nomadic (141991) | more than 7 years ago | (#17989348)

It's a verb and an adjective. A fiduciary is someone who's legally required to put your interests in something ahead of their own; it generally arises out of a contract. Like if you own a restaurant, and hire a guy to manage it, that guy is a fiduciary, and has a fiduciary duty to run the restaurant with your interests in mind.

"Read 46 More Bytes..." (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17988098)

You must be kidding...

Legal writing doesn't have to be this bad (1)

codyk (857932) | more than 7 years ago | (#17988222)

This license is drafted poorly. Legal writing doesn't require the use of passive voice, run on sentences, and long strings of conditionals. See http://www.rosenlaw.com/oslbook.htm [rosenlaw.com] for examples of legal writing that doesn't assault the reader.

FTFA: (1)

lantastik (877247) | more than 7 years ago | (#17988248)

"From the FSFE's announcement, readers might easily conclude that the FLA is a new document. In fact, what is being announced is version 1.2 of the agreement. An earlier version of the FLA has already been used by the Bacula project to assign its collective copyright to FSFE in November 2006. Moreover, Eben Moglen, chair of the Software Freedom Law Center, describes the FLA as "a three-year-old legal implement that is now being released without substantial revision." Apparently, the news is not the agreement itself, but the fact that the FSFE plans to use it to become the legal guardian of free software projects. This interpretation is supported by Greve's comment that the creation of the Freedom Task Force was "a logical consequence" of his earlier concerns about the issues that the FLA is designed to addressed."

Wow...big news.

Re:FTFA: (1)

bigtomrodney (993427) | more than 7 years ago | (#17988610)

I get the impression this is to take over the licensing aspect of OSS projects, something that in the current GPLv2/GPLv3/Linux Kernel debate they would benefit greatly benefit from. As has been mentioned above this is in some kind of draft form and is three years old. One might think it was released simply for that GPLv2/GPLv3 debate. I mean if the FSF had been caretakers of all of the contributed code in the Linux Kernel then there would not have been any issue with the move to GPLv3.

Re:FTFA: (2, Insightful)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 7 years ago | (#17988628)

I'm asuming that if they becomes the legal guardian of some software then they could be held for it's intent. Like RIAA going after sharman networks and kazzaa. Maybe they should seek a lawr advice on this. The postition on free software would likley help RIAA in going after them if they decided too.

As a side note, I'm seeing this as a refined attempt to wrangle the GPLv3 into play. I'm not a fan of it so I'm not thrilled with this either.

"Moral Rights" (1)

R2.0 (532027) | more than 7 years ago | (#17988352)

What the hell are they? It least in terms of a legal document?

Re:"Moral Rights" (1)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 7 years ago | (#17988580)

It's when software authors decide they don't want, for example, militaries or law enforcement agencies of the world using their software due to personal moral convictions. There is no way the FSF could account for all the variations that individuals are likely to come up with on this. However, they can unify the assignment of copyright on open source software to make enforcing standard licenses like the GPL a lot easier.

always been leery of assigning... (1)

Speare (84249) | more than 7 years ago | (#17988728)

I'm sure some RMS-types will think I'm a loony anti-FL/OSS crusader or something, but I've always been leery of the idea of signing my legal rights away to someone else who purports to have the rights of the users at heart. I say that in italics because it means that I would not only be saying that I think morally that the rights of the users are more important than the rights of the developers, but I would be stating this in legally binding fashion. I do not want to sign away the rights to code I've written, even if I could then claim to be one of my own code's "users." It just seems backwards to me.

Now that tinfoil hats have become fashionable, I also wonder what such a signatory agent would do with code I've written and signed to them, if they were in some sort of financial or legal pressure. I don't want to be like the proverbial naive grandma who entrusts her fortune to a foxy conservator in sheep's clothing.

If I want to allow everyone rights on my code, I'll do so myself. It's far more intellectually honest, in my opinion, to disavow copyrights altogether or to go with a license that allows everyone rights (not just GNU heads). Use it in business, use it in military, use it in a video game, I don't want to limit your options in any way.

Re:always been leery of assigning... (3, Insightful)

killjoe (766577) | more than 7 years ago | (#17988940)

Here is the problem. When you wrote that code you violated somebodies patent. It doesn't matter what you wrote if you added two number together or concatenated a string you violated a patent.

So now you are a target for a lawsuit, what are you going to do about it?

Sometimes it makes sense to turn over your copyright to another agency. Sometimes the agencies insist on it (see mysql). In the end it's your choice of course but don't think people do it because they are stupid.

Anyway this most likely applies to patches, bug fixes, etc. I certainly have no delusions of grandeur such that I will want to keep ownership of a dozen lines of code patching some hole or whatnot. Who the hell cares.

Re:always been leery of assigning... (1)

bug1 (96678) | more than 7 years ago | (#17992096)

Another benefit of assigning copyright to an independent 3rd party is that if you ever wanted to sue of damages as a result of copyright infringement you need the concent of all the copyright holders.

In most open source projects you could never track down all the contributers, so it would be very difficult to sue for damages.

And if you have a group of a dozen programmers all working on a project then its a bigger ask to expect them all to sign the code over the project leader, rather than someone like FSF/FSFE

Re:always been leery of assigning... (1)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 7 years ago | (#17995778)

Another benefit of assigning copyright to an independent 3rd party is that if you ever wanted to sue of damages as a result of copyright infringement you need the concent of all the copyright holders.
With respect, this being Slashdot, it's hard to tell whether this is an accurate interpretation of the law coming from someone with sound legal experience, or if it's just more half-baked armchair legal advice. So please excuse my scepticism if it's the former. However...

IANAL and don't claim to be an expert, but doesn't the copyright on individual lines remain with their original author(s)? That is, releasing a program consisting of my work and Person X's doesn't mean that X has copyright over *my* contribution (*). So although the project as a whole has joint copyright, the owners of several individual parts (which could collectively make up most of the code) could still sue on that basis(?).

Re:always been leery of assigning... (1)

bug1 (96678) | more than 7 years ago | (#18003286)

IANAL.

If person X creates an original work, and person Y creates a derivative work (a patch to X's work), then both X and Y have full copyright control over their work.

If the copyright of X and Y's work are under a compatible licence they can be combined and released as a collective work, the copyright on the collective work i think is held by the person who does the release, however this is only a very weak type of copyright, and doesnt impede the copyright of the original or derivative work.

Now suppose evil corp violates the copyright licence, they have violated both X and Y's work, so each has the power to sue individually but only to resolve the issues with their own work, not the other persons.

Suppose evil corp knows its beaten and wants to settle, there is no one person they can settle with, so they have to reach agreement with 2 people instead of one. Now imagine that instead of there being just 2 copyright holders there were a thousand. As a collective the copyright holders have the power to make the problem go away so they have an extra bargaining chip.

Separating it into more cases just means the lawyers get more as there are more overheads.

But this is all academic as free software people hardly every sue for damages, they just want evil corp to stop being evil.

Re:always been leery of assigning... (1)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 7 years ago | (#18003762)

I see what you're saying, and it does tie in with what I already understood the case to be. But I have to say that if this was something I was concerned with, I'd ask someone with a legal background (and understanding of how laws play out in practice) to say what was likely most beneficial, rather than the usual Slashdot situation with a couple of "IANALs" (i.e. me and you) discussing something we're quite vague on. (^_^)

Re:always been leery of assigning... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17989358)

Thank goodness we have new tools like FLA to fight the oppression of non-free software. Thank goodness there are those who can see the usefulness of using this license to propogate the cause of free software. Nobody would sign away any legal rights to a person or organisation that they don't trust. EULA anyone?

One entity to sue to shutdown a project now? (2, Insightful)

tlambert (566799) | more than 7 years ago | (#17989980)

So basically, if you use this, then there's only one entity to sue to shutdown a project now?

How handy for people who want to use litigation to shut down a competing Open Source project... just think how much more convenient it would have been to have one small group of people with no funding to sue, so they could shut down Linux without having to take on IBM.

(If you can't tall from the above, I'm currently having problems typing at the same time I'm doing the "bad idea dance"...)

-- Terry

Re:One entity to sue to shutdown a project now? (1)

squiggleslash (241428) | more than 7 years ago | (#17997820)

Which could be a good thing. After all, if someone looks at the Linux kernel, and decides to sue one of the people who has a copyright on a core component of, say, the memory manager, then Linux is similarly screwed. In this instance, you have hundreds of people you can sue, any one of whom will cause chaos if their contribution to the code is no longer redistributable. Depending on how embedded the code is, and the degree to which changes made since are derivations, it may be a serious problem to remove the contributions.

This is poison (2, Insightful)

petrus4 (213815) | more than 7 years ago | (#17990388)

The FSF have wanted to do similar things before, acting as a trustee for software that was listed as part of the GNU project. Their recent attitude towards Novell however, among other things, should give you some idea of whether collaborating with them on this is a good idea.

The end goal here is not legal "safety in numbers," as they might claim. It's control, pure and simple. You only need to look at how they behave, and how they want to bar access to software they already control to people they don't like, in order to see the truth of this. Remember Bruce Perens' veiled threats to Novell? I'm going to probably get the usual brainwashed GNU/cultists replying to this and attempting to justify that attitude in various ways, but as far as I'm concerned there is no justification. Control is control, and the ends do not justify the means. As I said then, those sorts of threats are more in line with what we expect Steve Ballmer to use.

Ulrich Drepper was dead right in calling Richard Stallman a raving megalomaniac; that's exactly what he is. The end goal of the FSF is to establish a software monoculture of their own, which they have complete control over, and which they can completely dictate use of. They also seek the marginalisation of alternatives. (The BSDs) Stallman doesn't want computer users to have anywhere to run.

The FSF's cheerleading squad on here can talk about how wonderful they are as much you want. The truth is nowhere near as attractive.

Re:This is poison (1)

UtucXul (658400) | more than 7 years ago | (#17991148)

They also seek the marginalisation of alternatives. (The BSDs) Stallman doesn't want computer users to have anywhere to run.
Where exactly have RMS or the FSF done anything to marginalize the BSDs? RMS' personal webpage used to run on a host that used FreeBSD.

Sure the GNU people tend to prefer GNU (and by extension Linux) and the BSD people tend to prefer BSDs. Seems pretty natural to me. And I can't imagine how that hurts or marginalizes either camp.

SHIt... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17993044)

are tied up in lesSocn and

FSFE is not FSF (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17994068)

Don't trust the FSFE. Are you trusting an organization that didn't give credit when required ? FSFE claimed that they played an important role against software patents in Europe. But that's not really true, FFII played an important role and a lot of funding was coming from the FSF itself. Why do we need FSFE if we have the FSF ?

This is two weeks old -- and poorly researched (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17994824)

This is two week old news: See the announcement of the FSFE [fsfeurope.org] and the corresponding LWN.net article [lwn.net] by PJ of GROKLAW. That two weeks old article also illustrates why this is FUD.

See FSFE's homepage [fsfeurope.org]: The FLA was drafted and reviewed by some of the best copyright experts available -- including Eben Moglen. The author on linux.com seemed to have little clue about the facts, it is easy to dismantle his article with just the links above.

So if you are interested in the facts, check out the links above.

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