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Canonical chief executive Mark Shuttleworth has called for an uniform copyright assignment policy for contributors to free and open source software projects.


He told iTWire that while many companies and institutions used such assignment to include contributions in projects of which they were the primary copyright owner and contributor, "they all use divergent contracts, and it would be good to standardise and harmonise those".

Shuttleworth was reacting to queries raised in connection with an article in the Linux Weekly News where editor Jon Corbet had expressed reservations about the Canonical policy. Corbet mentioned that he had asked Canonical some queries but received no answers over the course of a couple of days.

(It must be noted here that Canonical took less than three-and-half hours to provide a detailed response to iTWire's queries; the delay in publishing this article is solely because this writer was on holiday.)

Elaborating on his point, Shuttleworth said, "for example, Intel required copyright assignment for contributions to Clutter and other projects. Novell to Moblin. Red Hat has a number of contributors' agreements too. There's a long list of those agreements; a few of them are poisonous but they are the rare exception.

"The guidance at Canonical is that we encourage our employees to sign copyright assignment agreements for the projects they participate in (as far as I know we've done so for MySQL, Zope, FSF, Novell, Red Hat, Intel and others) in order to facilitate the upstreaming of their work. There are variations on the language used. Canonical's was highlighted in a recent LWN article, but I think the article created the very mistaken impression that Canonical's agreement is materially different from any of the others I've mentioned."

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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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