[GRASS-PSC] GRASS Development team as a legal entity

Hamish hamish_b at yahoo.com
Wed Feb 13 16:50:17 PST 2019

Markus wrote:
>> in the incubator list the question came up if GRASS Development team
>> is legal entity to which the copyright can be assigned.

While not a legal entity per se (that's a big reason why we joined OSGeo) it's
a clear moral entity with RFC rules & regs, history, etc. if a community dispute
ever arose.

I always added the ", and the GRASS Development Team" to the copyright
statement on stuff I wrote so that it was clear that in my absence I was cool
with the rest of the collective dev team's wishes, but that also if I wanted to
(re)use some of my own code somewhere else one day, that I hadn't fully
ceded my own rights to it. (not that I ever planned to, but at least this way I
never have to worry about reusing my own work/ideas/techniques in other
personal projects)

>> At time the GRASS Development team is not an incorporated entity
>> usually the first copyright holder name in the source code files is
>> the initial author followed by the GRASS Development team.
>> If that's legally sufficient I cannot sat nor what the implications are.

I guess the practical question is without a separate author listed do we have
full standing to sue/pursue someone violating/abusing the GPL? (but since we
have full CVS/SVN history going back to the introduction of GPL GRASS c.'99,
tracking down the actual contributor isn't a real problem)

Is there any code outside of the addons repo that *only* lists the GRASS dev team
as the author and no one else? And if so, wouldn't the main COPYING and GPL.TXT
files already blanket cover anything within a release tarball anyway? i.e. is this actually
an issue? My understanding of why individual code files had (c) statements was to
make it easy to avoid mistakes where individual files on file systems getting copied over
and the GPL providence forgotten. With it there it takes a positive physical action to
'forget' the authorship. But even if it weren't, the code (or icon image for example) would
still be blanked covered by the COPYING file. And thus we should perhaps put forward
that OSGeo should have all member projects' COPYING files reviewed by a FOSS
lawyer for validity &/or common mistakes.

Michael wrote: 
> Also, since OSGeo is in the US, does that mean that all GRASS has to comply
> with Us copyright laws?  Many authors are not from the US. How does this work
> in an international Open Source project. 

I think GRASS has to comply with US copyright law as long as we distribute creative
works to anyone with the US*. Regarding other countries I'd suspect that the number of
countries we'd have to deal with that are not party to the Berne Convention is beyond
our worry. So we can just consider the international case.

[*] in practice anyway. Authors with a physical presence, authors traveling there, and
OSGeo being 501c4 registered there makes the jurisdiction question rather moot.

But I'm not a lawyer. The fine folks at the SFLC are though, if this was a matter we
were ever really worried about or had to deal with.

best regards,

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