February 1, 2007

FSFE releases copyright coherency solution

Shane Martin Coughlan writes "FSFE releases solution to increase legal strength of Free Software projects

      FSFE releasing the Fiduciary Licence Agreement (FLA) under the
        terms of the GNU Free Documentation Licence (GFDL) and the
        Creative Commons Attribution/Share-alike (CC by-sa) licence.

The Fiduciary Licence Agreement (FLA) is a copyright assignment
carefully crafted for the specific needs of Free Software projects to
bundle their copyright in a single organisation or person. This will
enable projects to ensure their legal maintainability, including
important issues such as preserving the ability to relicense and
certainty to have sufficient rights to enforce licences in court.

The FLA is a truly international copyright assignment working in both
copyright traditions that was written by Dr. Axel Metzger (ifrOSS) and
Georg Greve (FSFE) in consultation with renowned international legal
and technical experts. The latest revision was compiled by Georg Greve
and FSFE's FTF coordinator Shane M Coughlan based on feedback provided
by Dr. Lucie Guibault of the Institute for Information Law in the
Netherlands.

"The FLA has been carefully formulated to meet the legal requirements
of every country and it ensures that assignment or licence granted
has the same scope irrespective of the country in which it is signed,"
says Dr. Lucie Guibault. "This marks a clear step forward in
copyright assignment and offers real benefit to the Free Software
community."

There are two ways the FLA would be used: A project can apply to be
accepted into FSFE's Fiduciary Program, examples for this are
Bacula.org and OpenSwarm. This has the advantage that the work of
handling the legal issues and taking care of licence compliance will
be done by FSFE's Freedom Task Force and its large team of technical
and legal experts. This allows the project to focus on project
management and technical work.

The other usage would be to use the FLA and adapt it to assign the
rights to another organisation set up by the project team itself. This
organisation would then have to take care of the paperwork and licence
compliance work itself, but it would still benefit from the solidity
of the FLA for the gathering of rights and FSFE's Freedom Task Force
will be glad to provide insight and experience to such organisations.

"For us the most important issue is not whether projects assign their
copyright to FSFE or any other organisation. We just want to do our
part so projects do not neglect these issues," explains Georg Greve,
president of the FSFE. "Legal maintainability is a key issue for Free
Software adoption. We started the Freedom Task Force to help ensure
legal maintainability in practice as well as spread knowledge about
these issues. Our idea for a healthy Free Software eco-system is to
have a healthy and heterogenous infrastructure of organisations that
will cooperate with each other to support Free Software in this way."

Shane Coughan, coordinator of the Freedom Task Force adds: "Deciding
which approach is best for a project depends on many different
factors and always boils down to individual circumstances. Ideally,
organisations handling these issues should be non-profit and have
a clear primary focus on Free Software."

"When building such an organisation, it is also important that people
pay attention to the possibility of having to withstand organisational
attacks from the outside as well as legal battles in court. Not all
Free Software projects will want to adopt such hardened structures,
which might contradict their technical and project management
principles and structures," Mr Coughlan continues. "In that case, the
FLA allows FSFE to help safeguard the project in the legal sphere,
while maintaining the project's absolute independence in management
and project decisions."

Whichever way projects prefer, the Free Software Foundation Europe and
its Freedom Task Force will be happy to help projects adopt the
Fiduciary Licence Agreement.

About the Free Software Foundation Europe:

      The Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) is a non-profit
      non-governmental organisation active in many European countries and
      involved in many global activities. Access to software determines
      participation in a digital society. To secure equal participation
      in the information age, as well as freedom of competition, the Free
      Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) pursues and is dedicated to the
      furthering of Free Software, defined by the freedoms to use, study,
      modify and copy. Founded in 2001, creating awareness for these
      issues, securing Free Software politically and legally, and giving
      people Freedom by supporting development of Free Software are
      central issues of the FSFE.

http://www.fsfeurope.org/projects/fla/

--
Joachim Jakobs http://fsfeurope.org/
Tel: +49 700 - 373387673, Ext.: 404
mobile: +49-179-6919565"

Link: fsfeurope.org

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