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Add distribution and attribution in case of Proprietary Relicensing #17

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In case Proprietary Relicensing happens, copyleft is effectively wiped out.
What remains is a fallback license of sorts, which should at least require attribution I think...
I wonder if this is enough, I can't figure out well enough what would happen when all the
fun questions would be asked (compatibility...)

@enyst enyst The fallback license should require at least attribution.
In case Proprietary Relicensing happens, copyleft is effectively wiped out.
What remains is a fallback license of sorts, which should at least require attribution I think...
I wonder if this is enough, I can't figure out well enough what would happen when all the
fun questions would be asked (compatibility...)

Signed-off-by: Engel Nyst <>

I believe at least one earlier version of this provision preserved the notice/attribution requirement, much like your patch. It's a (small?) policy question; I seem to recall thinking that for maximum effectiveness the notice/attribution requirement should also go away.

I'll have to think about this some more.


I'm sorry, I have missed previous versions because it didn't occur to me it may have been intended...

As a side note, and FWIW... IMHO a clear (and strong) requirement like Proprietary Relicensing might also discourage the practice of copyrights accumulation itself, apart from discouraging their actual use against community. Because a well understood clause like this (unique among licenses, afaik, and I welcome correction if this is false) would, IMHO, make community developers themselves think twice before signing CLAs or similar, and question the power they give.


You are correct that this clause is unique (AFAIK). As to whether it will discourage the practice of copyright accumulation, I'm not sure, but that is an interesting possibility. Incidentally, I believe there was briefly a provision in copyleft-next modeled on Apache License 2.0 section 5, a kind of built-in "inbound=outbound" provision that would arguably remove some arguments in favor of copyright accumulation, but I decided to take this out as being too difficult to draft well. I'm still open to the idea of adding something like that back in, if I can figure out a good way to do it, even though it would make the license at least several lines longer.


The original reason for the PR is the case: a copyleft-next project ends up under a company (it doesn't necessarily start with business models in mind). If this company, out of stupidity or greed, proprietary-relicenses, the community loses copyleft. That's bad enough, and it also loses attribution. Those notices are not only or not necessarily those of a company.


Actually the principal foreseeable case of PR is a company developing some software, releasing it under copyleft-next, and simultaneously (or later) releasing the same software, or an enhanced version, under a proprietary license.

There will be no copyleft-next attribution notices that are lost if the PR provision works as currently designed. This is because only the original upstream copyleft-next licensor can be affected by the PR provision. In all other cases (involving downstream copyleft-next licensors), the activity is a straightforward license violation of the upstream-granted copyleft-next licenses. Therefore, the only copyleft-next attribution clauses that are lost are those of the copyleft-next licensor who engaged in proprietary relicensing.

Note, the policy assumption I am making is that it is good, not bad, that copyleft is lost when the provision kicks in. The community doesn't lose anything, because it can still fork the code under copyleft-next (or even the GPL). What is lost is the ability to monopolize proprietization, which is the principal motivation of the business model. Indeed, what is lost in the case of a new fork under copyleft-next is that the bad-actor company will be unable to enforce copyleft-next, while downstream contributors will be able to enforce. This does not seem like a bad thing to me.

It is a minor 'extra punishment', if you will (admittedly perhaps superseded in some cases by applicable legal regimes), that attribution notices may be lost (or, more precisely, that downstream users no longer have to preserve them). But no any upstream non-copyleft-next licenses remain applicable, and if they have attribution or other notice preservation provisions, those continue to apply.

For example, it is conceivable that company Foo, Inc. will build some software in part out of upstream Apache-licensed components and license the software as a whole under copyleft-next. Let us suppose Foo is the only copyleft-next licensor. If Foo proprietary-relicenses in a way that triggers this provision, downstream users do not have to preserve Foo's attribution notices to the extent they are associated with the copyleft-next license grant. Downstream users can also ignore the copyleft requirement that Foo in theory attempted to impose. However, downstream users do have to comply with the attribution requirements of the upstream Apache License grants, if applicable.


Thank you for the details. Personally I see no potential reasons why it wouldn't work as designed in the case you target. I didn't mean to suggest otherwise.

To be sure to clarify: PR in "the original reason for the PR" was meant as "pull request". I didn't mean to claim "the original reason for the proprietary relicensing clause". :-) I apologize if there was a misunderstanding.

In the following, I will use PR as proprietary relicensing. :-)

I submit to you that the extent of the PR clause is far wider than the intented case. Any entity with more rights (even if not copyright itself) than anyone else, foundation, corporation, non-profit, small company, no matter how they were meant to work in the beginning, is able to trigger it. There are at least two main cases:

  • new project, a company develops it, and licenses it under copyleft-next. (intended case)
  • existing copyleft-next project, decides to get a legal entity behind it, assigns copyrights to it. (the category I had in mind in the argument above for attribution). Edit: or existing copyleft project; gets a legal entity; changes license to copyleft-next.

I honestly see no (enough) reason why the second case wouldn't be very wide. On the contrary, the clause might discourage category 1) (which means it works), but unfortunately the practice of copyrights assignment is so wide and taken for granted, that the category 2) can end up very widespread...

The cases are very different, and I believe I see some misunderstanding (and making it myself) in the existing conversations, because some participants to the discussions have in mind exclusively case 1), and others, case 2).

In case 1), company develops the software, and licenses under copyleft-next.
In case 2), company acquires the copylefted software, and gets copyrights to it. For all the known, good or bad, reasons.

In case 1) "original licensor" = developers = company
In case 2) it's more interesting. Ignoring copyright assignment: copyright holder = contributors. Company = licensee, and licensor for downstream. Original licensor in the sense of the license is a licensee, the first licensee.

Case 1) PR failed attempt => the clause 'punishes' the right target. :)
Case 2) PR failed attempt => the clause 'punishes' the original dev community. (and the corp, but the corp deserves it, that's good.)

In case 2), because of the additional risk (comparing to any other license), I'd dare to hope that copyleft-next license may discourage the practice of CLAs. As contributor, one will have one more risk to weight, before assigning more rights than anyone else: that stupidity, greed, one-time strike mistake, failed workaround of PR clause, will not result only in a disputable commercial offer from the corp/entity (which you'd argue with), but: it will lose copyleft, only because they tried.

Case 1): probably there's not much community contribution anyway
Case 2): the project was developed in the community, and assigned to a legal entity

In case 1), some concerns can be answered with: "if you want to reserve your rights, use GPL".
In case 2), I suppose (or hope) an answer to similar concerns is: "if you use copyleft-next, don't take the damned risk to enable another entity to lose copyleft through a one-time strike".
Or, perception may be: "there's a significant risk compared to other licenses, and you can't guarantee only for yourself if you want legal protection, so don't use copyleft-next". ("legal protection" and similar phrases are used as arguments for CLAs.)

In any case, please consider that the intended case of PR (case 1), is not the only case. On the contrary, if it works as designed in case 1, that case is less likely to trigger the clause (more likely to just avoid copyleft-next). But, any entity that has more rights than anyone else can trigger it, and projects can get to that (or change the entity) in many ways, in years history.

On attribution... Thank you for making it clear, that the case is not affecting the Apache components. I don't know if it's similarly clear for old copyleft-next notices. It should be the same thing I assume, if gets the copyleft-next codebase at one point in time (and not before)... only less obvious...

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Commits on Jan 3, 2013
  1. @enyst

    The fallback license should require at least attribution.

    enyst committed
    In case Proprietary Relicensing happens, copyleft is effectively wiped out.
    What remains is a fallback license of sorts, which should at least require attribution I think...
    I wonder if this is enough, I can't figure out well enough what would happen when all the
    fun questions would be asked (compatibility...)
    Signed-off-by: Engel Nyst <>
Showing with 1 addition and 1 deletion.
  1. +1 −1 Drafts/copyleft-next
2 Drafts/copyleft-next
this License, we offer a work that would be a Covered Work had you
prepared it, under a license other than (i) a version of copyleft-next,
(ii) a license authorized under section 10, or (iii) a license approved
- by the Open Source Initiative, sections 4 through 11 of this License no
+ by the Open Source Initiative, sections 5 through 11 of this License no
longer apply to you.
4. Distribution: General Conditions.
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