Kernel contributions from organisations and individual privacy

Ruben Safir ruben at
Thu Jun 11 12:39:47 EDT 2015

On 06/11/2015 11:38 AM, Greg KH wrote:
> On Thu, Jun 11, 2015 at 10:41:57AM -0400, Ruben Safir wrote:
>> On 06/11/2015 10:28 AM, Greg KH wrote:
>>>> If the copyright is owned by the company then ONLY the company can push
>>>>> it up stream and assign copyright to the Linux Foundation.
>>> No one assigns kernel copyright to the Linux Foundation unless you have
>>> entered into some odd business agreement with that legal entity.  And
>>> that is quite rare to do so and takes lots of lawyers and time.
>> It doesn't take a lot of lawyers anymore than a license would.  I
>> thought that the Foundation requests this routinely in order so that it
>> has standing in court if a lawsuit should happen.
> No, it never has done this, where are you getting this crazy idea?

This idea is not crazy.  During the SCO battle this problem got tossed
about quite a bit and I thought that at that time the Linux Foundation
and Mad Dog set up a Copyright Clearing House for the Kernel.  Your
saying that this never happened, so maybe I'm wrong.  But it was
discussed a lot, and lawyers were involved....and Linus was involved.

The problem is two fold.  First the Foundation and Linus need standing
in court cases where violations of the GPL2 were involved...if there was
such need.  That is best established with assignment of the copyright,
bit done through a contributor license agreement.

I never claimed, BTW, that this was forced on everyone.  But I thought
it was encouraged since the SCO battle.

Secondly, it prevents what SCO actually claimed they could do, which is
pull there code, and the derivative works, from the kernel altogether.
If the contributor assigned copyright, that is better than depending on
the GPL2 guarantees of relicensure....the so called viral aspect of the
GPL, which is the part that actually guarantees that a shared
contribution project like the linux kernel can exist securely under
copyright law.

BTW - the crazy idea came from a conversation I had with Linus when I
talked to him about the MYSQL license, fwiw, and then I bounced it off
of Moglin, who referred me to Sara Brown, who put me in touch with
Richard...and the the SCO thing broke out and then the conversation was
all over slashdot and then moved the Wall Street Journal..and then IBM
got involved and that is when I thought the TLF set up a CLA, but it
must have only set up the little sworn statement you posted.

OK - the earth will still spin on its axis today.

I do not want to put out misinformation.  Thank You for the correction ;)

> The only thing you have to agree with when contributing Linux kernel
> code is the DCO, which can be found in the file
> Documentation/SubmittingPatches, or here online:

I didn't know that and looking at it, that is pretty flimsy.  It is a
good thing that up until know this hasn't bit them in the ass so far.  I
might be all that is possible though because a CLA, to be really
blanket, would require one having to go back to every contribution to
date.  So it is a limited device.  But it was discussed and I did talk
to Mad Dog about it years ago.

> You keep your copyright on the contribution you make, it's always been
> that way for Linux kernel development for its entire development history
> (22+ years).  I don't know where you got the idea that you have to
> assign copyright away to contribute to the kernel, but please do not
> spread false information like this.
>> The FSF has copyright to a large bulk of the software under GNU for
>> this reason.
> The FSF is insane, don't confuse the two groups please :)

That might be so, but with regard to CLAs, I think they have it right.

>> Obviously you have first hand knowledge of practice I don't have, but
>> copyright is a huge problem with contrition.
> "contrition"?  The state of feeling regret?  What are you talking about?

Don't you LOVE spell checkers!  contributions

>> In order to contribute, you must have copyright ownership.  You can't
>> prove that if your anonymous.
> Which is why we can not accept anonymous contributions to the Linux
> kernel.

Right which is the core point.

> But then there's the technical aspect of it all.  When you put your name
> on code, you have "ownership" of it and you end up doing a much better
> job than if it is anonymous or just hidden within a larger company.  And
> that's a good thing for both the developer, and the overall project.

For a maintainer...yeah.  But when a lawsuit breaks out...that technical
problem quickly takes a back seat.

Now, for something important, when are we going to get Cherries from the
Northwest to NYC?

> greg k-h
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