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Re: On Contributing To Emacs

From: Stefan Kangas
Subject: Re: On Contributing To Emacs
Date: Fri, 31 Dec 2021 00:18:50 -0500

[Moving this to emacs-tangents.]

Richard Stallman <rms@gnu.org> writes:

> The Glibc and GCC developers made a bad decision last June.  The DCO
> they are using is full of gaps, and they don't get it from all the
> authors.  A copyright assignment is much better.

What is your view on the GNU software that does not have a copyright
assignment, and not even a DCO?

IMO, it would be more important for Glibc and GCC to maintain the
copyright assignment than it is for Emacs.  AFAIU, GPL violations with
GCC are very common, and they are also common with Glibc.  However, they
are exceedingly rare with Emacs.

I think this is no accident, but a result of the fact that it is more
attractive to try to steal code from systems libraries and a compiler
than from a text editor.

The risk in our case is therefore lower than it is for these projects.

> I ask lawyers how to keep the the copyleft strong, because that is
> a priority for the free software movement.  I don't ask them whether
> that should be our priority, because that's the starting point.

My starting point is the need to eradicate proprietary software.  To
achieve that goal, copyleft is one tool, and successful software is
another.  The reason that I think we should accept the risk here is that
it is a) very small, and b) it will bring other huge advantages.  The
benefits would by far outweigh the drawbacks.

In particular, it would allow us to include and re-use code from Lisp
libraries that have been developed without copyright assignment.  It
would also significantly lower the barrier for entry, and together with
other changes I think it has the potential to significantly help in
recruiting new contributors.

I do not find the blanket "our lawyers told us so" argument
satisfactory.  It would be better to discuss the pros and cons of the
various approaches.

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