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Re: gpl version 2 for cvs

From: Larry Jones
Subject: Re: gpl version 2 for cvs
Date: Fri, 19 Apr 2002 15:01:20 -0400 (EDT)

Karl Berry writes [quoting me]:
>     Do you know what they are?
> Not any more.  I can research again.  But is there a problem with just
> updating?  It's not like the basic meaning changed or anything.

But the details may have.  If the changes are just clarifications, then
I don't have a problem with updating, but there isn't a lot of
motivation to do so, either.  If the changes remove restrictions, then
there could be more motivation to update, but you're already free to
apply the more liberal terms.  If the changes add restrictions, then
we'd have to consider what those restrictions are and whether we want to
apply them.  Remember that the FSF has a political agenda that the CVS
maintainers may or may not agree with.

> There are several problems [with the existing copyright notices]:

First, note that copyright notices are no longer required at all under
the Berne Convention, which every country apt to recognize a copyright
notice at all has subscribed to.

> 1) Legally, just saying "as specified in the README file" is not
>    sufficient.  Something resembling the actual notice has to appear in
>    each source file.  This sucks, but the legal system cannot be bug-fixed.

No, a pointer to the notice is sufficient.  See "How to Apply These
Terms to Your New Programs".

> 2) Ranges in copyright years are not allowed.  Each year must be written
>    out.  This sucks too.

According to the US Copyright Office's Circular 3, even that was not
officially allowed.  You presumably needed a separate notice for each

> 3) There are no copyright years for anything after 1992, but I feel
>    certain that add.c has been modified in the last 10 years :).  In
>    general, each year that a 

The existing copyright notices are the ones inserted by the original
authors of the code.  The volunteer maintainers have not added any
additional notices, nor have they assigned their rights to the FSF (as
you note, CVS is *not* a GNU project), making the legal ownership of the
code quite murky and any new notices subject to challenge.  Nonetheless,
all contributors have agreed (at least implicitly) to allow their code
to be distributed under the terms of the GPL, making it all pretty moot.

So far as I can see, the only reason to make any changes would be to
advance the FSF's political agenda, which I don't feel any compelling
reason to do.  And the changes would be on very shaky legal ground

-Larry Jones

It's clear I'll never have a career in sports until I learn
to suppress my survival instinct. -- Calvin

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