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Date: Fri, 3 Feb 2012 06:15:36 +0400
From: Solar Designer <>
Subject: Re: copyright and license statements

magnum, Jim, all -

On Thu, Jan 12, 2012 at 06:02:03AM +0100, magnum wrote:
> On 01/11/2012 05:36 AM, Solar Designer wrote:
> > 1. Move your non-trivial contributions to separate (new) source files
> > such that you can unambiguously apply your copyright statement and our
> > standard permissive cut-down BSD license just to those.  Modify the
> > original file (such as rules.c) in trivial ways only - e.g., adding
> > calls into functions found in your new file.
> This is optimal but it's too complicated. Typically I would hack away
> until things are good. Then I would need to revert everything and move
> it to another file. I don't think it's gonna happen in reality.


> > 2. Don't retain your copyright to your changes to shared files, but
> > instead transfer copyright either to me or to a legal entity that will
> > be the copyright holder for JtR - perhaps to Openwall, Inc.  IIRC, this
> > is the approach that e.g. the Nmap project is using (with copyright for
> > contributions transferred to Insecure.Com LLC).  You will continue to be
> > credited as an author of those files anyway, but not be a copyright
> > holder.  (Authorship and copyright are distinct things.)
> This is fine with me. Could this too be accomplished with just a
> standard text that I add in the top comments? Ideally, there should be
> an example of such a text on the licensing wiki page!


In the same message, I also wrote:

"If we go with #2, then it would make sense to apply the same approach to
entirely new files as well - e.g., to new formats.  (Jumbo now has so
many extras compared to the main JtR that those extras alone (such as
many of the formats) may be of value to a company developing a
proprietary password cracker.)  This raises the issue of your own
ability to reuse your code without GPL restrictions, though.  Maybe
Openwall should issue a license to each contributor with right to
sublicense that contributor's source files to third-parties if/when the
contributor chooses so.  But this gets complicated."

Since I am uncomfortable about restricting rights of contributors for
their possible reuse of their own code e.g. in another project (which
might not be GPL'ed), I've been thinking of ways to leave those rights
to the contributors while also gaining similar rights to the
contributions myself (such that I don't have to coordinate with each
contributor each time I need to re-license or sublicense).

The first idea was as above - copyright transfer to Openwall + license
back to the contributor with right to sublicense. %-)

Then a much simpler idea occurred to me (I should have arrived at this
sooner): the contributors may non-exclusively license their
contributions to Openwall and/or to me with right to sublicense under
arbitrary terms.  This may be applied to files where I am a copyright
holder too (in fact, these are the primary target for it initially).
Then in the LICENSE file Openwall or I may license the entire thing to
the general public under GNU GPLv2 like it's done now.

An additional benefit of non-exclusive license with right to sublicense
over copyright transfer is that the latter must be "in writing", whereas
the former does not absolutely have to be (at least per the US law).

"Transfer of Copyright
... the transfer of exclusive rights is not valid unless that transfer
is in writing and signed by the owner of the rights conveyed or such
owner's duly authorized agent.  Transfer of a right on a nonexclusive
basis does not require a written agreement."

"Non-exclusive grants (often called non-exclusive licenses) need not be
in writing under U.S. law.  They can be oral or even implied by the
behavior of the parties."

"The same copyright law also provides that a copyright proprietor may
transfer rights to a copyrighted work without a writing but that such a
transfer operates only to transfer non-exclusive rights ...
By its terms, the Copyright Act's writing requirement applies only to ...
... Thus, the requirement does not apply to the transfer of nonexclusive
copyright licenses."

"And while an assignment of non-exclusive rights can be made without a
writing, a procedure which should *never* be followed, in order to
transfer exclusive rights the assignment must be in writing and signed
by the owner of those rights or that owner's duly authorized agent."

So a lawyer does not recommend "non-written" assignment of non-exclusive
rights, but what can we do if we really dislike paperwork (it'd
discourage at least some prospective contributors - e.g., this happens
with the FSF's software, where they require copyright assignment).
At least we'll have public electronic records (which might even qualify
as "writing", although this is not formally required by law in this case).

If this works for you, then I'll try to come up with specific license
statements.  Please let me know.



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