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Confused as to why this is here, please see Discussion, Flames, below

Contributor Licenses

Contributor licenses come in many forms.

TWiki's copyright statement explicitly states:

    Copyright © 1999-2004 by the contributing authors. All material on this collaboration platform is the property of the contributing authors.

If this notice did not appear, this would in fact still be the case. (Much like a rare unsigned Terry Prachett book does not need &copy: Terry Pratchett at the beginning, but is considered highly sensible)

In order for redistribution and copying of comments & code added to TWiki.org, the copyright owners - that is YOU must provide TWiki.org with a license for your code and comments. The current assumption by TWiki.org that all comments & code attached to pages can be redistributed in unlimited form by them is erroneous.

Why is a license important ?

A license is important because without it, default copyright law holds, not "wiki"-law, not GPL, pure copyright law. In the past this "attitude" (fact) has been taken as an attack on TWiki.org, when it is not. (If a GPL license has been granted then that or copyright law hold - with the latter being more restrictive)

Copyright law states that in the absence of any permission that copying & modification of material created by another person still under copyright is unauthorised. In the US there is the concept of FairUse, however this does not apply in all countries - including the UK where a number of CoreTeam developers are located.

Unless you explicitly give permission to the core team they cannot legally take patches or documentation from you for redistribution.

NOTE : If your code is a substantial derivative of TWiki - then you do not have any option.

What Options Are There ?

If you are distributing a whole TWiki.pm file? None - you can only redistribute the whole TWiki.pm file under the terms of the GPL.

Common options chosen

If you are distributing patches that are substantially your code, then you are not bound by the GPL for those patches, since you are not redistributing stuff not written by you. (This was part of the FSF's complaint against the original QPL accompanying Qt - you were forced to distribute patches, and nothing else - the patches then could be any license).

In this scenario you have a number of options, not limited to:

  1. Assign copyright to the work you contribute to either the core team, or a core team member. In some countries you may not be able to do this.
  2. Tell the core team they can do what they like with your contributions
  3. Explicitly state the license they can use to distribute your work. Options you have:
    • Explicitly GPL your work - this then allows anyone to use your work under the same conditions that you recieved TWiki under
  4. If you want to be less restrictive, you can use the modified BSD license. This license is GPL compatible - that is it allows the incorporation of your work into a GPL work, but has less restrictions, and allows more to be done with your work. You still retain copyright, but the work can be used and treated as if you had assigned copyright to the core team.

I believe Options 1 or 3 are preferred by the TWiki.org core team

All these options boil down to permission - a license is a document that sets out the terms under which you can perform an act that would usually be illegal. Be it fishing, driving, copying & distributing content. By definition any contributor can choose any license they wish.

IF TWiki.org had a notice on the registration page stating that all contributions of code and text would be treated as if they were GPL'd (in the case of code) and public domain (in the case of text) then you would not need to consider what license you are providing patches under.

They do not, and this is a problem, since without acknowledgement of this issue (which could be trivially solved by a) contacting past contributors b) a notice added to the registration page) then the assumption of the above puts the TWiki.org community under question at future points in the equation.

For reference I have personally chosen in the past first 3, then 4, then to say "anything goes" with regard to the core team's use. All of those can be picked and chosen from, since I have made the options irrevocable by me.

-- MS - 02 Feb 2004

Discussion, Flames

Creating this page to clear up my home page, and because the issues it covers whilst discussed lots with various core team members (with one notable exception who sees me as a threat for even thinking about these issues) in good nature still haven't been dealt with. (even though the solutions are relatively simple)

This isn't a whinge, it's just explanation as to why I'm moving this here.

I am concerned that TWiki has absorbed enough material just attached to pages without contacting original authors to find out the licenses under which their work may be used.

PeterThoeny might not have liked me trying to perform a Wiki:MindWipe last August and denied me that right (and in the process ignoring his own copyright notices), but this does not mean that at some point if patches to code are taken without checking the conditions under which they're provided that TWiki.org is safe from a SCO like situation in future. If TWiki is being changed to a situation where it is "marketted" by PeterThoeny as an application platform, knowing the foundations you're standing on are solid is important.

And in the meantime I'm painted a threat by PeterThoeny regarding these specific issues, and I'm one of the very few who have explicitly stated the licenses under which their work may be used (and also made it impossible for me to do a "SCO" on TWiki.org in future)

As noted above, I'm moving this here because a) I'm cleaning up my home page here b) I really am concerned that I'm one of the few who have explicitly stated this. "Implicit" isn't an option - TWiki.org needs permission.

I'm not going to respond further on this - as I say I believe this issue will bite TWiki.org again at some point if it isn't resolved, and the options above are there to help contributors make a choice and help the core team, rather than for me to become (again) a target for abuse, and excuses about other people's broken processes.

It's not my intent to start a flame war about this, and as a result any flamage will be ignored by me at least - I'm tidying my home page. If you disagree with what I say, this is probably the one place where Wiki:DisagreeByDeleting is appropriate. (I'm sick and tired of seeing Wiki:DisagreeByDistorting) (And if you don't like that, please, Wiki:DisagreeByDeleting )

Finally, I don't expect the core team to do anything about this, this is an issue for the contributors of TWiki.org as much as the people who task themselves with running TWiki.org. People contributing code & comments explicitly stating "yes, take, use" is far more positive than an imposed procedure.

-- MS - 02 Feb 2004

This posting should be taken with a grain of salt. It is done by the same person who spread FUD last year on lack of acknowleging contributors and on violating the GPL, confusing the TWiki community and the CoreTeam.

-- PTh |

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Topic revision: r3 - 2008-09-14 - TWikiJanitor
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