[TOS] Textbook authors: Copyright Assignment, please respond

Ross Gardler ross.gardler at oucs.ox.ac.uk
Fri Sep 18 14:06:04 UTC 2009

2009/9/18 Greg DeKoenigsberg <gdk at redhat.com>:
> On Thu, 17 Sep 2009, Ross Gardler wrote:
>> 2009/9/17 Greg DeKoenigsberg <gdk at redhat.com>:
>>> * This also requires a single copyright holder -- i.e. the party with
>>> whom
>>> the CLA is binding.  Which would require all authors to sign away their
>>> copyright.
>> This is incorrect.
>> There is no need for authors to sign away their copyright, they need
>> only grant a sufficient rights to release the copyright under the
>> agreed licence. More information on how CLAs work is at
>> http://www.oss-watch.ac.uk/resources/cla.xml
>> As a community we already discussed and agreed that individual authors
>> will retain their copyright, so the CLA will *not* require copyright
>> assignment, only licence grants.
> And, as Ross points out elsewhere, we are releasing as CC-BY, not CC-BY-SA,
> so my apologies for that.

I'm confused too. In your original mail you said "SA-BY-NC", I
observed that we appeared to have agreed on CC-BY-SA, here you say we
agreed on CC-BY.

> So clearly I'm confused.  If you're not talking about copyright assignment,
> then are you simply talking about what entity holds the CLA? Do we just need
> a single entity to track CLA requests?

To take responsability for and to manage the CLAs, yes, but also to
act as the first point of contact if there were ever any claim on the
integrity of contributed works. This would mean that the entity would,
potentially, be opening themselves up to legal battles - probably not
a significant risk in this case, but a risk nevertheless.

They would be responsibe for ensuring, for example, that none of the
authors had cut and paste content from another text.

The risk to this entity would be reduced by the CLA itself, which
would have the author confirm they have the authority to grant the
rights in question, but the holding entity would still be the first
point of contact and, if lawyers could prove that due dilligence did
not take place they would themselves become liable. In other words,
this entity is had better be prepared to enforce a proper IP
management process on the writing of this book (which probably amounts
to only giving write access to those who have filed a CLA - assuming
the authoring tool adequately tracks versions and contributors).

I appreciate that community members may feel this is going overboard.
Unfortuantely, lawyers are risk averse and in many places lawyers
dictate what we can and can't do, both on the development and use
side. From a user perspective, this material could have a hard time
making it into one of the public repositories of open content unless
we can show a full audit trail for all content.

On the other hand, I might just be being too anal about this and I
should retrain as a laywer. [1]


[1] This is deliberately intended to open the door for people to say
what they think - I've been online communities for may years and I
have a very thick skin. My goal is not to get in the way, but to
ensure the issues are considered at an early stage.

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