Who owns copyleft now?

Big Tech working by stealth to hold more of the copyrights in key copylefted works by hiring lead developers so they get to decide when, how, where and most important if copyleft licenses are ever enforced. This ‘work-for-hire’ doctrinal process is well underway.


Data on Linux Kernel courtesy of LWN.

All of this entirely out in the open. And in my experience not much of a surprised to those involved in kernel development.

In terms of the Longue durée, if you recall the initial zeal and optimism of the free and open culture movement in the sixties, then the corporate hyperboilc backlash about gpl being a ‘virus’ and RMS being a ‘communist’ and the ongoing belief that copyleft is ‘anti-business’, the stealth aspect isn’t minimized because there is consequential data is ‘out there’… an open secret is still a secret, right?*, so, it is more about the strategy used… which is basically to use ‘work for hire’ doctrine to circumvent the (allegedly) ‘subversive’ copyleft tools. Just cast your mind back to prior decades and tell me if there was anyone working on linux kernel development at that time that would have predicted that any of these companies would have this kind of stake in the codebase in 2020?

So what’s best option for someone creating new kernel from scratch? Kernel is not gplv3 also Google making fuschia BSD licensed means they want it more open orore closed ?

I think the biggest decision you will have to make on licensing for this will be whether you want to attract the attention of big manufacturers. Even if you select a permissive license it seems to me like most of the legal action isn’t in the kernel space but in the userspace all the big firmware manufacturers (for example) seem to be holding on as tightly as they can to their own chiz…

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That really, really depends on your goals!

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If, like me you are rarely sure what your goals are when you are building software… (maybe the programming game is more like whack-a-mole, with multiple targets rather than football or hockey where are only goals at either end of the field) you could think like this:

What Are You Afraid Of? Another way of looking at it is that you’re picking a license based on what you are afraid of. All of these licenses assume you’re afraid of being sued. The MIT license is if you’re afraid no one will use your code; you’re making the licensing as short and non-intimidating as possible. The Apache License you are somewhat afraid of no one using your code, but you are also afraid of legal ambiguity and patent trolls. With the GPL licenses, you are afraid of someone else profiting from your work (and ambiguity, and patent trolls). This is a radical simplification, but if nothing else it can be a helpful framework in discussing with your attorney what license makes sense for your software. Which License Should I Use? MIT vs. Apache vs. GPL

For me, the most salient context for building software is historical. My decisions have been based on observing the centuries old battle between proprietary resource protection instincts vs. what I’d call ‘socialized’ IP regimes, like FOSS… As a sidenote, if like me, you are apprehensive about Big Tech interfering with FOSS, there are more and more licenses that speak to those common anxieties too.

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How much of the harm of having big proprietary companies in bed with Linux do you think is offset by those companies effectively subsidizing Linux development?

The harm and the level of subsidy are both hard to quantify. The idea of ‘offsetting’ harm with subsidies is also contentious for fans of the free market and it’s critics. The OP was to turn some light on the stubborn refusal by many FOSS advocates that FOSS is a growing part of the capitalist playbook. Too many devs left of Obama (which is probably a lot?) I talk too are still in thrall to (X)GPL as a broadly pro-commons instrument. It clearly is the opposite of that? I think that is an important takeaway… FOSS does not do what it says on the tin… lots of devs, including myself were hoodwinked for many years. It’s time to take back FOSS for a fairer society, and the only way to do that it seems is to put up barriers to Big Tech?

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