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Re: r1.100 of getdate.y changed 'ago' behavior

From: James Youngman
Subject: Re: r1.100 of getdate.y changed 'ago' behavior
Date: Fri, 28 Apr 2006 22:05:18 +0100

On 4/27/06, Edgar Toernig <address@hidden> wrote:
IMNSHO, that's ridiculous.  To fix a simple bug I shall write and
sign a copyright transfer and send that letter around half the
world???  If I had known that in advance I would have never written
the patch.  Maybe a big notice on the home page "DON'T BOTHER TO
TRANSFER VIA SNAIL MAIL" would be appropriate.

However, if anyone wants to see the bug fixed and is willing to
do the paperwork, I've placed the patch in the public domain.
Anybody can do anything he wants with it.  Just claim that you
wrote the patch, send it to Paul and a copyright transfer letter
to whatever address he will give you.

Be assured, I'll never bother a GNU project with bug fixes again.

A displeased ET.

I sympathise.  The hard part of the work should be writing and testing
the code and documenting it.  Not the ensuing paperwork.

But the GNU project doesn't frivolously waste the time of its
contributors.  After all, volunteer effort is what has built pretty
much the entire GNU system.  However, writing the Free Software is not
the only challenge that the FSF and the GNU Project take on.  The
other challenge is ensuring that the software remains Free.  That
means enforcing the terms of the GPL, the licence that embodies
Copyleft.  Most people comply with the GPL and are happy to.  But
regularly we find parties that wilfully or accidentally don't comply. Normally, explaining things to them works fine, and everybody is
happy.  But in the last resort if nothing else works, the FSF must be
prepared to take legal action.

To be in a position to do so, the FSF needs to be sure that it has a
clear title to the code that it believes it owns.  That means being
able to prove this in ways that are acceptable to the legal system (in
this case, the legal system of whatever country the FSF ends up
bringing a court case to protect the rights of the users of Free

This is why the FSF needs a copyright assignment for significant
contributions.  This is not gratuitous; the FSF pays staff to help
with the burden of administering these records.  It's not that they're
just making work for you, it's work for them too.   The FSF wouldn't
do it unless it was necessary to protect the rights of the users of
the software.

I don't blame the FSF for imposing on me the burden of making
copyright assignments.  Instead, I blame the sometimes cumbersome
nature of the legal system and in particular I blame those people who
decide that they want to avoid complying with the GPL.

I find that signing an assignment is a small price to pay for the
benefit of having someone else go to court on my behalf to keep Free
Software Free.


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