[ECOS] Are copyright assignments detrimental to eCos?

Gary Thomas gary@mlbassoc.com
Mon Apr 7 08:00:00 GMT 2008

Some different words on this whole subject - the way I see it.
I am not a lawyer - accept this as such.

Andy Jackson wrote:
> Andrew Lunn wrote:
>> On Fri, Apr 04, 2008 at 12:00:42PM +0200, Jiri Gaisler 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 ...?
>> The catch is that in order for it to be included into anoncvs, the
>> owner of the code has to agree and transfer the copyright to FSF. So i
>> cannot just pick up eCosCentric code and commit it. eCosCentric have
>> to agree to it as copyright owner.
>  >From an academic interest point of view, is this true for the parts 
> that have been derived from existing GPL licenced files? Surely the 
> whole point of the GPL is that you can't withhold a derivative work?

First of all, there should be nothing in eCos which was derived [purely]
from a GPL environment, it has all been created either from scratch
(at Cygnus -> Red Hat, or by contribution).  Portions from other projects
are included, but still respecting their license (e.g. the FreeBSD stack)

IMO, the whole point of the GPL is about *rights*.  If I distribute
something which came from a GPL source, the recipient of that distribution
must have at least as much right to the code as I did, *including* any
changes or additions I might have made before distributing it.  The GPL
does not explicitly say that I have to give my changes back where I got
them, in fact, I can claim copyright on those changes and still distribute
them as I wish.  This is the case of code distributed by eCosCentric
(and indeed by Analogue & Micro, among others) - we've taken the public,
GPL+ex code, made changes, additions, improvements, etc.  Those who have
received distributions of such material have the right to use and change
the source code, but they don't gain ownership over it.

In the case of FSF projects, we have all agreed that whatever we contribute
into the pool becomes the property (copyright) of the FSF.  No other entity
(person, project or company) can claim ownership of such contributions, not
even the original contributor.

Gary Thomas                 |  Consulting for the
MLB Associates              |    Embedded world

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