During the past few weeks, I’ve been privileged to get a first-hand lesson on the General Public License (GPL). Yes, PICnet is lucky to have quite a bright lawyer on staff, but even he was a little unclear on the GPL, open source, and copyrights. To be honest, I’m not sure there’s many people in the Joomlasphere that have much research knowledge and legal practice in the application of the GPL, so it’s a learning lesson for everyone.
Every once in a while, I get a little morsel of understanding, which I feel is good to share with the community. Today’s installment: who the heck holds the copyright to the Joomla code, and therefore, who has the right to replace Joomla’s GPL license with some other license? Is it the core team? Is it Open Source Matters? Is it free for anyone to change the license as they see fit?
Well, I should say that I’m neither a lawyer nor 100% certain of my following answers, but I believe my thoughts below might help in better understanding this market of ideas.
From my research, and what I’ve learned through listening carefully to the GPL talk at the Joomla!Day USA by James Vasile, Open Source Matters legal counsel and lawyer at the Software Freedom Law Center (you know, the group that actually helped create the GPL!), the copyright holders of the Joomla code are the committers of code to the project. That would mean the people we’d expect, like Johan, Louis, Andrew, and others (maybe even Miro!), own the copyright to their pieces of the code. I should say, they don’t own the copyright to the entire Joomla system, but rather to the code they’ve contributed to the project.
It’s pretty powerful that individuals can give their hard work to the project, still hold copyright, but agree to have it all licensed together under the GPL.
What does this mean? Well, in my mind it means that if Joomla’s license were going to change to another type of license, everyone who has contributed substantially (I use that word without full knowledge of its power) to the code base of Joomla would all need to agree that their copyrighted code could be licensed under some other license other than the GPL. That would seem like a hard feat, since it would require quite a few hands (including people no longer on the core team) to agree together to changing the license.
Moral of this story: based on my ever growing understanding and appreciation of the GPL, significantly changing the license under which Joomla is protected would be quite an effort.
Your thoughts are appreciated, especially from GPL lawyers (anyone, anyone?). I’m here to learn as much as you all are.
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This entry was posted on Thursday, June 14th, 2007 at 7:20 am and is filed under GPL, Joomla, Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.