RFC: Properly stated origin of code contributions

Brandon Allbery allbery.b at gmail.com
Thu Oct 30 15:45:17 UTC 2014

On Thu, Oct 30, 2014 at 11:25 AM, Carter Schonwald <
carter.schonwald at gmail.com> wrote:

> I'm happy to ask the IP lawyers in my family for some opinions on this but
> I think what we are doing now is fine.

As Joachim already noted, it's a bit late to switch course for GHC; you'd
have to track down every past contributor. (I've been involved with
projects that needed to do that; if at all possible, avoid it.)

The reality, as I understand it (note that I Am Not A Lawyer(tm) but have
experience with projects that have had to face the question), is that
there's complex interactions between copyright law and contract law (not to
mention questions of how contract law affects contributions to an open
project). And both have a certain "valid until proven otherwise" aspect,
which often makes it wisest to not change what's already working well
enough --- especially since even asking a lawyer "on the clock" can
potentially have legal implications on the whole project (but only if
someone actually challenges in court and brings it up). As a result, the
FUD's kinda built into the legal structure. :/

(My earlier response is not incompatible with this; the question I was
answering was why a project might go with a CLA. In reality, whether the
answer is *relevant* to a project is certainly open to question. One
difference between the situation with GHC and the situation with Scala or
Perl 6 is that the latter are also defining a language specification, which
may have implications if there is a plan to submit it to an official
standards body at some point. For ghc, that rests on the language
committee, not the GHC developers.)

If it really bothers you, probably best to ask someone like the EFF. Almost
certainly do *not* formally ask a lawyer (informal is fine) --- they are
going to concentrate on the worst case, mainly because even asking for a
formal evaluation suggests that there is a need to worry about the worst
case. Otherwise, leave well enough alone.

brandon s allbery kf8nh                               sine nomine associates
allbery.b at gmail.com                                  ballbery at sinenomine.net
unix, openafs, kerberos, infrastructure, xmonad        http://sinenomine.net
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