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Re: [Openvpn-devel] OpenVPN Licensing Issues

  • Subject: Re: [Openvpn-devel] OpenVPN Licensing Issues
  • From: James Yonan <jim@xxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 17 Sep 2004 13:33:57 -0600 (MDT)

On Thu, 16 Sep 2004, Matthias Andree wrote:

> On Tue, 14 Sep 2004, James Yonan wrote:
> > Therefore, in order for a dual licensing scheme to work, anyone who has ever
> > submitted code to the OpenVPN source code would need to agree to the dual
> > licensing scheme, since their code might now be potentially licensed under a
> > commercial license (in addition to the GPL).
> > 
> > There are different forms in which this agreement can be legally stated:
> > 
> > Here is Hans Reiser's version:
> > 
> > http://namesys.com/legalese.html
> > 
> > I'd like to invite some discussion on this idea, and I'd especially like
> > feedback from past OpenVPN contributors as to whether this is something they
> > could agree to.
> IANAL, but the copyright system in considerable parts of Europe, among
> them Germany, my home country, is fundamentally different from the
> Anglo-American system, and I wonder if the Hans's legal agreement,
> particularly not having a salvatory clause, is a. valid and b.
> enforcable in Germany - and that the rights transfer to Hans is water
> tight is of interest to Hans's customer.
> German copyright law is centered around the idea of an originator, and
> if I'm writing code, I am the originator, and will be, until the end of
> time. I cannot reassign my authorship.
> (OK, if I'm hired, the employer is officially the originator, but this
> involves payments of minimum salaries and, depending on work volume,
> social insurance.)

Another dual-license model that appears to be working (and not without a
little controversy) is the MySQL model, though I'm finding that there
seems to be a paucity of authoritative knowledge on how to set up a dual
licensing model in a way that works for everyone (given the nascent stage 
of the legal concept, it doesn't surprise me that it might not have been 
internationalized yet).

Even Lawrence Rosen's new book ("Open Source Licensing : Software Freedom 
and Intellectual Property") barely mentions dual-licensing.

> The idea that I am prohibited to sublicence my own contribution for
> money is daunting, and I'd think twice before submitting code for use
> under such an agreement.

Ideally, if it is legally feasible, I would ask OpenVPN contributors to 
grant me non-exclusive rights to sublicense under a commercial agreement.

As a matter of principle, I would not want to ask for more rights than is 
necessary to make the dual-licensing concept workable.

> I can see what Hans is aiming at, preventing licenses for proprietary
> work that is based on ReiserFS to float around, but Hans's agreement is
> unacceptable: suppose I'm writing two modules, all on my own. Module A is a
> standalone piece of code with a certain function but which can be sold
> to a project outside ReiserFS; Module B interfaces Module A to ReiserFS.
> The agreement would mean I can either
> - contribute _my_ Module A to ReiserFS, agree not to make money out of
>   it unless I'm willing to not sublicense under different licenses than
>   GPL and whatever other perpetual license or copyleft license Hans uses,
> or
> - sell it on my own, without adding to ReiserFS.
> How the heck is that going to work?
> What this means for OpenVPN:
> 1. I retain authorship in my code no matter how often I write (C) James
>    Yonan in the code
> 2. I can certainly license the code with a perpetual right to
>    sublicense, but for an _exclusive_ transfer of right to duplicate and
>    relicense conditions would have to be different than Hans Reiser's.

I agree in principle, though I'm wondering if the motivation for requiring 
an exclusive transfer of rights is to avoid the complexities of trying to 
commercially license code that is a jigsaw puzzle of different copyrights.


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