[ECOS] Are copyright assignments detrimental to eCos?

Jonathan Larmour jifl@eCosCentric.com
Sat Apr 5 00:44:00 GMT 2008

Jiri Gaisler wrote:
> Alex Schuilenburg wrote:
>> Anyway, forking is not in our interest, never mind the community's. We 
>> want the benefits that contributions to eCos bring, as does everyone 
>> else. eCosPro is not a fork, it is a superset of eCos.  See  
>> http://www.ecoscentric.com/ecos/ecospro.shtml
>> What you seem to be suggesting is that you want everyone else *but* 
>> eCosCentric to benefit from your potential contribution.
> What I am saying is that I want everyone to benefit from our contribution,
> *and* from potential derivate work in form of bug fixes. Just like the
> linux kernel.

In this respect it's no different from the linux kernel. Someone can take 
the linux kernel, make changes and bug fixes and distribute it. And by 
virtue of the GPL the people who get any kernel binaries can get the 
source code that goes with it and all is as it should be. That doesn't 
mean they have to be posted on the linux-kernel list, nor provided to 
Linus for inclusion in the source base, and indeed many are not.

What difference do you think there is?

> Everyone sees the same kernel code, while applications and
> drivers can be proprietary if desired.

And that's what happens with eCosPro - all the source code is supplied, 
and the only bits that can't be redistributed freely are some portions we 
have written solely ourselves (not derived from public eCos sources) as 
extensions and add-ons.

For example we have an entirely new MultiMedia Filesystem. That's an 
extension we wrote ourselves, and is no different conceptually from people 
writing their own userspace filesystem on Linux (such as with FUSE). Just 
like with a FUSE filesystem an extension should be able to be 
proprietary[1]. The fact that eCos, unlike Linux, links into a single 
kernel image without such a clear kernel boundary isn't important for the 
principle of thing - that's the reason for the exception clause with the 
GPL which we have.

> It seems to me that insisting on
> FSF copyright transfer blocks this in some way. We are still maintaining
> our own ecos fork (superset), but I would rather see everything merged
> to anoncvs. But I respect the policy of the anoncvs maintainers and
> eCoscentric, so we will keep it as is for them time being.

Obviously you don't have to contribute changes either :-). But I don't 
think you need have the worry you seem to have. Anything contributed to 
eCos gets owned by the FSF, and put under the eCos GPL+exception license 
de facto forever[2]. No-one can change that (except the FSF, and as the 
creators of free software they never would). And anyone who makes fixes to 
those source files has to keep it with that license and distribute them 
under the GPL terms. Just like the Linux kernel.

Does that clear things up?

Jifl (eCosCentric hat)
[2] Or equivalently anyway - because of single ownership in the FSF, we 
can change the license wording if there is a legal need. We couldn't do 
that with multiple owners - we'd need everyone's permission.
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