On Thu, 20 Sep 2001, Paul Everitt wrote:
> So, let's begin what I'm sure will be a lively and illuminating
> discussion. :^)

First, would it be possible to put up a copy of the Contributor
Agreement in html format?  If you feel the only legal version for
signing is the PDF one fine, but it would be a lot easier for people
to check it out if there is an html version to read.

Second, I suppose you should be aware of my biases before reading
anything more.  I don't believe in intellectual property, either
copyright or patent.  On the other hand, they are currently the
law of the land; and, within what seems to me to be fair use kinds
of standards, I try to respect copyrights while encouraging people
to use vehicles that make use of as few of the restrictions imposed
by copyrights and patents as possible.  (You will guess that I am
*not* a fan of the GPL, though I consider it far superior to a
traditional copyright <grin>.) Also, I am not a lawyer and don't
pretend to be very up on the subtleties of copyright law, so my
concern may turn out to be naive.

I very much like the intent stated in the Introduction, that
of getting maximal rights into the hands of both the contributors
and Zope Corporation to do things in the future with the code
without having to get an endless set of sign-offs.

However, I have a concern about the Agreement that isn't covered
in the Introduction or the FAQ.  I'm worried that the Agreement
may exclude us from some of the benefits of the bazaar model of
open source development.

My key concern is summed up in this statement from the Introduction:

  "Essentially, a committer signs an agreement stating that all
   code that the committer submits has been created by her."

The actual agreement does *not* say this, but "essentially" it does
require it, since the things the committer has to swear to in
submitting the code are very difficult to swear to unless he or
she is the author of the code.

Now, I have only contributed small amounts of code to Open Source
projects so far.  But I'm sure there are a lot more people out there
who have "only contributed small amounts" than those who have contributed
whole modules, and that there are even fewer people who do so much
work that jumping through these kinds of legal hoops, and agreeing to
a certain amount of liability, is worth while.  In the cases where
I have contributed, it's just been, "oh, cool, thanks for the patch",
with no legal discussion and maybe an acknowledgment in the contributors

My concern here is that under a regime such as this one, if I write
ten lines of code that adds a feature I and a few other people
really need in Zope, it is *not* going to get committed.  I'm certainly
not going to sign that agreement and become a committer just for
ten lines of code, and I much doubt that Zope Corporation is going
to want to go to the overhead of vetting my application just for
ten lines of code.  But if I wrote those ten lines, it hardly seems
that any other contributor can commit them, since they don't own
any rights to them that they can assign to Zope Corporation.  I suppose
that I could assign them those rights, but personally I find that
idea repugnant since I don't believe in intellectual property
<grin>.  (Hmm.  If I put my stuff in the public domain, how would
that play in?)  But aside from that, jumping through legal hoops
(there would presumably have to be some sort of written assignment
of rights) for ten lines of code is at the very least going to have
a dampening effect on small contributions.

Of course, you could get around this problem by having the committer
rewrite the small submissions, but this seems a bit disingenuous,
and it seems to me it might be legally questionable.  In other
words, under this Agreement, exactly what is the legal status
of a one or two line patch?

So, the many small contributions that make a bazaar software project
tend rapidly toward high quality, which is one of the things I got
the impression you are trying to achieve by opening up the CVS
repository, may not materialize under this Agreement.  We'll have
just about the same situation we have now, except that there will
be more committers and therefore, one hopes, an increase in the
pace of (controlled) change.  An improvement, yes, but can we do
even better?

Of course, I could be completely wrong in my guesses about the
dynamics, but I figured somebody should play the devil's advocate
here <grin>.


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