[ECOS] Are copyright assignments detrimental to eCos?

Alex Schuilenburg alexs@ecoscentric.com
Fri Apr 4 15:33:00 GMT 2008

Jiri Gaisler wrote:
> Markus Schaber wrote:
>> Additionally, our company has the policy that any substantial
>> contribution must be copy-lefted, so no-one else can make closed-source
>> derivates.
>> Copyright assignment creates a single point of failure against
>> closed-source derivates, weakening the copyleft. 
> I completely agree with Markus. We are hesitant to contribute our
> leon2/3 port and drivers because we do not want to have closed-source
> distributions (e.g. eCos Pro) using our code without contributing
> back fixes or improvements. 
eCosPro is certainly not closed source and most of the code is under the 
same GPL+ex license as eCos.  Everyone who receives eCosPro receives the 
full source code.  Sure, we provide additional functionality under a 
different source license with our eCosPro distributions, but there is 
nothing wrong in earning a buck from our work. Also, GPL+ex code always 
stays GPL+ex. There is no way we or anyone else can ship the code under 
any other license. Any contribution of yours would stay open source 
whatever - we and the community would welcome your contribution.

I'm also intrigued by your attitude regarding contributions. Do you also 
withhold contributions if the code could be used by some evil regime or 
for some purpose which you don't agree with? In fact every commercial 
company that uses eCos more than likely makes money from it because they 
don't have to pay license fees or royalties, and not many contribute 
anything back. That is one of the things about free open source - you 
don't have much control of how people use your contributions.

As for eCosCentric not contributing fixes or improvements, that is 
incorrect. Mixed in with the various bug fixes we contribute, you will 
also find enhancements such as PPP, SPI, I2C, flash v2, etc.

> The ideal solution would be to license
> the eCos code in LGPL. This would allow mixing proprietary applications
> with the kernel, while force any improvements or bug fixes to be
> published. 
Neither the eCos GPL nor the LGPL force any code to be published. It 
requires that you make the sources available to any code recipient who 
requests it and even allows you to make a nominal charge to cover costs 
for providing the code. Some organisations just choose to publish the 
code to avoid dealing with such requests.  To reiterate something said 
earlier, the LGPL requires object code redistribution which could be a 
limiting factor for some commercial middleware. GPL+x is IMO the best 
solution for commercial use of eCos.

Later Jiri Gaisler also wrote:
> Markus Schaber wrote:
>>> I have looked at the files in eCos Pro, and majority of it has
>>> the GPL license with the linking exception. Is there anything that
>>> would prevent me from merging updated files from eCos Pro back
>>> to the open CVS version?
>> AFAICS, no, given that you legally received your copy of eCos Pro.
> eCoscentric provides a free eCos Pro kit for the Nios processor,
> which anyone can download. This would mean that all GPL files in
> the kit are free to be merged with the open CVS. Or is there some
> other catch ...?
You cannot contribute something which you do not own, namely the 
copyright, irrespective of what license the code is distributed under 
(GPL, LGPL, GPL+ex).

> Jiri.
-- Alex Schuilenburg

Managing Director/CEO                                eCosCentric Limited
Tel:  +44 1223 245571                     Barnwell House, Barnwell Drive
Fax:  +44 1223 248712                             Cambridge, CB5 8UU, UK
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