Ownership of Samba code [Was: Re: VxFS quotas]

Jeremy Allison jeremy at valinux.com
Tue Mar 27 17:27:49 GMT 2001

On Tue, Mar 27, 2001 at 06:12:23PM +0100, David Lee wrote:
> I have always informally ensured with the director of our department that
> it is acceptable for us to contribute code freely to projects such as
> Samba.  We have never signed any paperwork to "donate" this code to samba:
> we simply provided it (as a mark of gratitude to the folks who produce,
> maintain and develop the product).  Hmmm... I wonder who "owns" it? 
> Assuming that netatalk is "free" (I realise that is fuzzy), then I think
> it should be OK.  (But if netatalk (or Samba Inc.!) were to be the next
> multi-trillion Microsoft, then I think my employers might like to see a
> penny or two in return...) 
> I wonder if there is a more general point that the Samba folk could
> clarify:  once code is contributed into Samba, who "owns" it?  Who can
> re-use it?  Under what conditions?  Et cetera.

The code contributed by you to Samba is still owned and
Copyright by you, you have just given us (non-revokable)
permission to distribute it under the GPL. Your code
may then be used by other GPL licensed projects, but not by
projects under any other license without your permission.

Essentially, you've donated the code to the GPL "pool",
although you retain copyright.

Hence if you wish you may also licence your code to the
netatalk project (it's still your code).

However, the netatalk project, unlike Samba, is under
the BSD licence. This means that any code licensed to
it may then be re-used my anyone for any purpose, so
long as they maintain your copyright (essentially this
is a meaningless requirement, as it may easily and legally be
embedded in completely proprietary code). There is no
requirement that modifications to BSD licensed code be
made public, unlike the GPL which means that anyone
working on Samba are obliged by the license to make
the code public. This is why we not have the NT Point and
print code worked on by HP (from JF's original codebase)
and many other parts of Samba (from SGI, Veritas, HP, Linuxcare,
VA Linux etc).

This is why I personally do not contribute to BSD licenced
projects, nor allow my code to be re-used by them, but
this is a personal decision. I have seen too many commercial
companies get their start from BSD licensed code, and
contribute nothing back - NetApp are one example here,
and also the use of the BSD TCP stack in almost every OS
except Linux, including Microsoft Windows, is another.


		Jeremy Allison,
		Samba Team.

Buying an operating system without source is like buying
a self-assembly Space Shuttle with no instructions.

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