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Gentoo Linux copyright / CDDL question

From: Mike Cox
Subject: Gentoo Linux copyright / CDDL question
Date: 17 Oct 2006 17:24:52 -0700
User-agent: G2/1.0

Question to the nice folks in g.m.d.......

I have a couple of nice patches I would like to contribute to
the Gentoo project, but I have some doubts. As some people
probably already know, Gentoo requires that their contributors
transfer copyright of all contributed material to the
Gentoo Foundation, as described here:

However, some passages in this document seem very suspicious to
my untrained, non-lawyer, eyes. Could any of the helpful folks in
g.m.d please take a look and pick it apart. My questions in

(1) Why would they need copyright for patches for programs they're
just packaging, but didn't write themselves? (FAQ item #3)
The problem I see here once a patch for any 3rd party application
is submitted to, Gentoo owns copyright and the
original contributor loses all rights over their code, including
the possibility to use it in their own, potentially differently-
licensed projects. Is it advisable to submit any non-trivial
patches to Gentoo's bug tracker?

(2) It says there legal action is only possible if all copyright
is owned by a single entity. Isn't it rather true that any of
the copyright holders can take legal action should the need arise?

(3) They are using the term "Intellectual Property." Isn't that
term generally frowned upon in the Free Software world?

(4) In other places they claim they're doing this because
GNU, Debian, and the BSDs are requiring copyright transfer as
well [1]. Well I know that some GNU projects recommend it (emacs,
libstdc++), but by far not all; and I have heard first hand that
Debian not only does not require it, but they don't even have an
entity one could assign copyright to even if one wanted to. (Does
anyone know about the BSDs?)

Also, it has come to my attention that some of the work
contributed to Gentoo is grossly missattributed; the most recent
incident being dealt with in

Here, the writer of said guide (C.M.) complained back in May
on a Gentoo mailing list that a different guy (who didn't write
a single word in said document) is listed as the main writer while
the real writer is only listed as contributor. After nothing
happened in more than four months, the real writer got rediculed
as being destructive to the Gentoo community as a whole--just for
insisting on his copyright. Later on they did give credit--but
somewhere in a footnote in an appendix, and hoped they would get
away with it.

There is also another (unfortunately anonymous) guy who claims
he knows about tons of other such violations, but did only
disclose two so far. Both cases involve patches submitted to by 3rd parties that got submitted up stream--
misattributed to Gentoo in the first case and misattributed
to a Gentoo maintainer who did not write it in the other one.
Read more about it here

I checked both and it seems the guy's right. He says he'll reveal
more "when the time is right."

So here's my question: under these circumstances, how advisable
is it to submit any patches to We do have some
fixes for two really longstanding bugs, but feel very
uncomfortable about submitting them to Gentoo, even if it's
against the spirit of Free Software and all.
What do the experts here think?

On a related subject, we have developed a kernel mode driver for our
Microsoft Wireless Optical Mice with Tilt Wheel Technology,
complete with device file in /dev and all needed ioctls necessary
for querying signal strength, battery life status, and other misc.
statistics, for Linux, that we have now ported to the OpenSolaris
kernel (hence the xpost to c.u.s). My question is, is the same
type of copyright transfer needed to get this driver into OpenSolaris
proper? How would we handle code shared between the Linux and
OpenSolaris driver?


Mike Cox (the_real_mike_cox)

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