Clarification around the DCO

Bradley M. Kuhn bkuhn at
Tue Oct 20 23:40:11 UTC 2020

Rowland penny via samba-technical wrote at 01:09 (PDT) on Monday:
> [A] bunch of Lawyers and the SFC are trying to dictate to Samba just what
> is in the DCO and what it should be called. The lawyers are only kicking
> up a fuss and dragging Samba into their argument because they cannot get
> their way. Is this a much simpler version of what happened ?

No, I don't think so.

Just to give the relevant backstory:

Conservancy helped Samba write the contributor representation you have, and,
as Samba is *part* of Conservancy, Conservancy's legal counsel advised about
it.  Conservancy's paramount goal (as always) is to just help our projects
do what they want to do, which is how we got the existing text.

While there was a recent thread on a CHR-governed list that brought all this
up again, James' summary of that conversation mischaracterized Conservancy's
actions.  I don't see how anyone can summarize that particular discussion
accurately without violating CHR, so I won't even try to do so.

Nevertheless, I don't think it matters much if Samba gets an accurate
summary (CHR-compliant or otherwise) of that particular thread, as James
gave his current complaints on this list already.  We still don't know what,
if any, Linux Foundation (LF)'s complaints are.  But that doesn't matter so
much; we all do our best to be responsive when any complaints are raised.

Fortunately, I can give a complete backstory, as the primary relevant facts
weren't recent, but many years ago and aren't under CHR.  In 2011, Jeremy
took the DCO from the Linux tree, and we made the modifications that are
right for Samba.  At the time, we all thought that the DCO text was under
GPL as there was no additional licensing information provided in the Linux
tree other than GPL (see Git history on Documentation/SubmittingPatches in
the Linux tree for confirmation).  It was totally reasonable for Jeremy to
conclude that the text was entirely GPL'd with no additional restrictions,
and Conservancy helped Jeremy make the original Samba DCO under GPL.

In 2013, Luis Rodriguez (of the Linux project) attempted to make DCO into
its own stand-alone project, which led to many discussions about what the
license of the DCO actually was.  When Conservancy learned of Luis' efforts,
Conservancy did due diligence and reached out contemporaneously to LF to
discuss Samba's DCO.  After initial discussions, LF never followed up
despite repeated inquiries.  LF never made a request for Samba to do
something different.  Around that time, however, the LF republished (without
fanfare) the Linux DCO text with *yet another* license (yielding three
possible different licensings of the Linux DCO in the wild).

I stand by our and Jeremy's conclusion that the existing contributor
representation is right for Samba's unique situation, but IMO we should
limit the attack vector for detractors of Samba's (IMO excellent) practices.
I also don't think it matters what name we call it, and, as I said earlier
in this thread, if changing the name makes *anyone* happy who isn't happy
right now, why not just do it?

> If it was left to myself, I would make any required changes (adding the
> CC-by-SA)

This was definitely the “nice thing to do”, especially since CC-BY-SA
required the changes from MR 1610 (now merged as of c15c40e0183) for proper
compliance with CC-BY-SA.  I don't think it behooves Samba to rely on Linus'
licensing of DCO under GPL, which is why I proposed MR 1610.

> In my opinion, it is our DCO (or whatever you want to call it) and it has
> nothing to do with any external body.

Agreed, although keep in mind Conservancy isn't an external body; it's the
organizational home of the Samba project.  Samba is part of Conservancy, in
an organizational sense.
Bradley M. Kuhn - he/him
Policy Fellow & Hacker-in-Residence at Software Freedom Conservancy
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