Who owns open source code?
July 12, 2007 8:43 AM Subscribe
Legalfilter: Who really owns an open source project?
posted by crypticgeek to Law & Government (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
A friend mentioned to me that Apple had bought the CUPS source code. Which is rather interesting to me because it brings up the question of ownership. Clearly to sell the source code to Apple, some person or group of persons must own the source code and agree to the terms of the sale. So my question is, who owned all the code?
Obviously I assume many people other than the original author have submitted patches to the code. Do they relinquish their ownership of the code when they submit a patch? I know the sqlite project makes patch submitters agree to release their patches into the public domain. Do other projects make similar requests to their submitters to release their rights? If it's not done explicitly, can it be an assumed implicit release of rights? You'll have to forgive my ignorance here. I've never contributed to a project before so I'm not quite sure of the "standard practices", if this is one. I intend to develop my own open source project someday, so this would be good to know.
Xchat is another example that comes to mind here. I recently learned that the lead developer has for some time now charged for the windows binary while claiming it was still GPL'd with source available (except for the code that controls the 30 day expiration of the software). Did patch submitters give up their rights to their code (thereby allowing him to release and relicense in this manner), or is he flagrantly violating the law and the license of code he doesn't entirely own? He has said he has a standing offer to remove or rewrite any patches someone might have made if they ask him to, so that makes me believe he does not infact own all the code. If so, could then someone who wrote a patch sue him since he's making profit off their work?