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FSFE Releases Fiduciary License Agreement 42

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the who-owns-me dept.
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."
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FSFE Releases Fiduciary License Agreement

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  • by Lord_Slepnir (585350) on Monday February 12, 2007 @04:54PM (#17987920) Journal
    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.
    • by natbudin (577028)
      Berkeley? I'm pretty sure you mean Cambridge [wikipedia.org].

      </pedantry>
    • 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 (Score:2, Interesting)

    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 (Score:5, Insightful)

      by bshellenberg (779684) on Monday February 12, 2007 @05:02PM (#17988042) Homepage
      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.
      • 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.
        • by Yvanhoe (564877)
          It may even be handy to meet a lawyer *before* your brain surgery, you just never know...
        • 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.
      • 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.
    • First time for everything
  • What? (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Fidic.. Fudic... Fidicu-what?! I can't even cut'n'paste that word!
    • Re:What? (Score:5, Funny)

      by Lord_Slepnir (585350) on Monday February 12, 2007 @05:07PM (#17988116) Journal
      It means "possessing properties that make it Fiducious".

      I hope that helps

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by nomadic (141991)
      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.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    You must be kidding...
  • It could have unintended consiquences.
  • 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.
  • "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: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by sumdumass (711423)
      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.
  • What the hell are they? It least in terms of a legal document?
    • 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.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      I don't know about Europe, but Canada's Copyright Act has a concept of "moral rights" [justice.gc.ca].
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Rydia (556444)
        See, there are no moral rights in the US. The only thing that comes close is VARA, and that is very bare-bones.
  • 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 wri

    • by killjoe (766577) on Monday February 12, 2007 @06:05PM (#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.
      • by bug1 (96678)
        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/F
        • by Dogtanian (588974)

          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* cont

          • by bug1 (96678)
            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 ev
            • by Dogtanian (588974)
              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. (^_^)
  • by Schraegstrichpunkt (931443) on Monday February 12, 2007 @06:43PM (#17989410) Homepage
    This article is about FSFE, which is independent of the FSF.
  • by tlambert (566799) on Monday February 12, 2007 @07:27PM (#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
    • 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 t

  • This is poison (Score:3, Insightful)

    by petrus4 (213815) on Monday February 12, 2007 @08:02PM (#17990388) Homepage Journal
    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.
    • by UtucXul (658400)

      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.
    • by xmda (43558)
      Nice troll :)

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