Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Thanks to Subha who worked on #1176 and committed a new file.

Do we need a Lino Software foundation?

Subha’s contribution reminded me that it is not clear how we should handle certain juristic questions: e.g. Who is the copyright holder of his file? Should we formulate and sign Contributor License Agreements as Django does it? What would happen if one of us would (accidentally) commit a file with sensitive confidential data or copyrighted content. Who would be liable? Who would be my successor if I happened to die? Should I assign the copyright of all my files to the Lino Team (and ask contributors to do the same)?

AFAICS the “Lino Team” currently is an “informal group” of “co-publishers”.

I now saw an interesting article about this on the Digital Media Law Project. My notes:

  • AFAICS the Lino Team cannot be considered a partnership because it does not generate revenue or intend to make and distribute profits.
  • (quote) While this form of publishing content has the advantage of informality and flexibility (no formation or operating costs, no burden some bureaucratic requirements), it creates a great deal of uncertainty about the legal and tax status of the co-publishers’ relationship. This uncertainty can have negative consequences, including exposing co-publishers to personal liability for the unlawful acts of their colleagues, and creating complications in the management and/or dissolution of the enterprise, as well as certain tax consequences.
  • (quote) Co-publishers can enter into a formal “co-publishing” agreement in order to clarify the status of their relationship and set out the parameters under which the group will operate. If co-publishers are carrying on a business for profit, then this agreement will be legally indistinguishable from a partnership agreement, and they will have adopted the partnership form of business. If co-publishers are not carrying on a business for profit, then the group won’t legally be a partnership, but the agreement can set out group decision-making procedures, delegate duties, and describe what assets (including copyrights) will belong to and be licensed to whom.

Currently I am the legal owner of Lino because I am the author. But actually Lino is free software and therefore owned by “us all” who want to use it.

And then there is hope if Rauno continues to be motivated, that I will want to employ him. A full-time developer requires a bit more of money than Rumma & Ko has for the moment (it actually depends on how quickly we find new customers).

Until now Rumma & Ko is doing all the work of building and maintaining a Lino community, but finding a legally waterproof answer to these questions requires more expertise than I have.

All this seems to confirm that we need a Lino Software Foundation (#1165). OTOH, creating a foundation or any other legal form of organization is by itself a lot of administrative work. Who is going to do this work?

As a funny coincidence, today I plan a live meeting with a friend who might give advice about these questions.

About pull requests

I surfed about pull requests…

… and started to write How to submit a pull request.