[Mono-list] problems with relicensing

Josh Emmons jemmons@capitalprinting.com
Tue, 08 Jan 2002 15:13:58 -0500

I think the problem (or one of the problems) is /who/ has the ability to 
relicense the code.  In this case Ximian can relicense it as it chooses 
(it holds the copyrights), but contributors cannot (they have assigned 
the copyrights to Ximian).

As you (miguel) point out, this is not new.  This is done by AOL/TW, et 
al. and if I had the choice of putting my rights in the hands of AOL or 
Ximian, well, you all would win every time.

But consider the following scenario:  I write a lexical parser (let's 
say) that I contribute to Mono.  I assign the copyright to Ximian.  Mono 
is Open Source or Free or whatever, so the only freedom I loose by doing 
so is the freedom to relicense my lexer.  I, or anybody else, can still 
modify it and use it in as many different projects as needed.

But what if now Ximian changes the license to "you can only use this 
code if you pay Miguel de Icaza two-hundred gorgan-zillian dollars", 
which would be in Ximian's rights to do.  Could Ximian make this license 
change retroactive?  Let me be more specific: if Ximian has owned the 
copyright to my lexer since version 1.2, can they say that all software 
that uses a version of my lexer later than 1.2 (which may be /years/ old 
at this point) has to fork over money to Miguel or be sued?

I think that they can (though not that they would).

So then my problem becomes, do I donate my lexer to Ximian, knowing that 
  /any other/ project I use it in may be put in jeopardy if Ximian 
changes the lexer's license, as they have the right to do?

If I didn't have some sort of legal guarantee that Ximian would not make 
retroactive changes to my code's license, the only code I would donate 
to Ximian would be code that I was sure I was never going to use 
anywhere else.  That doesn't sound like quality code to me.