[Geany-devel] AUTHORS && THANKS files

Lex Trotman elextr at xxxxx
Sat Sep 24 01:40:54 UTC 2011

Hi Matthew,

As threatened...

On 23 September 2011 13:33, Matthew Brush <mbrush at codebrainz.ca> wrote:
> Hi,
> I was just looking at these files for some reason and a few things struck me
> as kind of odd.  The header of the THANKS file says:
> "This file lists all *external* people that have contributed to this
> project." (emphasis added)
> which sounds kind of odd.  For example, it seems all of the core developers
> and regular contributors are listed here.  I don't even think of myself as
> "external", let alone Nick, Frank and Colomban and many others in the list.
> And then in AUTHORS, it lists the core developers, and then under "Regular
> Contributors" it lists only two people.  I'm curious what the criteria for
> being a "Regular Contributor" is, since I've seen a bunch of regular
> contributions on the ML and patch tracker, many of which were made by people
> other than those two people.  At first I thought it might be people who have
> SVN commit access, but then there's the COMMITTERS file, so that's not it I
> don't think.  IMHO, anyone in the THANKS file that has actually authored any
> code or translations should be listed in AUTHORS.

I suspect that these files are rather confused due to lack of love.
IMHO if these are not going to be kept up to date they better be

If they are going to be kept up to date, now before release is the
time.  IMHO thanks should be *everyone* [1].

The distinction of Authors is questionable to me, it certainly doesn't
fulfil the purpose the FSF uses it for [2].

Committers is , well, the committers, not sure why we scruffy mob need
to be acknowledged separately though.

> On a similar topic, I noticed in the source files, on top of the license in
> the comments, some files list Nick and Enrico as the copyright holders, some
> also have Frank, others Colomban, and yet others Lex (and maybe others
> still).  It seems as though if you contribute significant portions of code
> to a file, you should add your own copyright blurb in the comments?  Would
> it not make more sense to have a single copyright holder for all files in
> the project, be it a person (ie. the current lead/maintainer), or an
> organization (ie. The Geany Software Foundation :)

Copyright assignment is used by some projects but as you say there
needs to be a legal entity to receive it.  And what country would this
legal entity exist in? Who would own it and how wold it be run and
paid for. And legal paperwork is needed for contributions, including
employer disclaimer (to prove they don't own the software you write).
All in all Noooooooo.

Copyright law isn't uniform around the world, but I have been advised
that the most common is that:

1. the originator has copyright whether they want it or not, and
usually automatically without having to claim it
2. the copyright holder can license the work under any license (or
more than one)
3. the year isn't needed to claim copyright, but to indicate when the
copyright terminates (given the lifetime of software this is moot)

Someone who submits a patch no matter how small or large and whether
they commit it directly or someone else commits it, they still own
copyright in that patch, but by submitting it for inclusion in a GPLed
work implicitly allow it to be released under that license and this
cannot be withdrawn.

The best advice I have is that such contributions need to be listed
somewhere with any source release and the changelog (for tarballs) and
the repository history (for online) is ok, so long as they note the
original contributor and the file header acknowledges  the copyright
of such contributions.  Our header does not and technically Enrico,
Nick et al are claiming copyright of material they have no right to,
so it should be changed to acknowledge such contributions as a group.

Then the header copyright notices do not need to be updated in any way.

When I made significant changes to build.c I added myself to the
header to make it clear that I owned copyright to material in the file
and that I explicitly allowed that material to be released under the
GPL, but I was too lazy to do it to all files with only minor
contributions[3], but if we had a general notice that wouldn't be

> Also, if someone contributes a significant amount of code to one or more
> files, does that mean they hand-over the copyright of that code to one (or
> maybe all?) of those people listed in the various file headers?

Too complex, and who?

> The reason I ask about the copyright thing is that I'm currently working on
> something that basically adds entirely new files and I wasn't sure if I
> should add my own copyright blurb in the fileheader or that of someone else.
>  It almost seems like currently the copyright blurbs in the file header
> comments are more like an "Authorship" or "Attribution" than copyright.

For whole new files you own the entire copyright so you should put
yourself.  If you copy code from elsewhere you need to acknowledge
that too.  You should use the same header as the rest of the project
to make administering it easier, ie its all the same license.

> I think it might be useful to put some information about this in the HACKING
> file so that contributors clearly know whether to put their own copyright in
> the header, or if not, who's name/info to pass the copyright on to.  Also
> whether they should add their names to the AUTHORS file, or THANKS file, and
> whether they should update the ChangeLog (if that sticks around) and to
> update the documentation.  It also wouldn't hurt to mention in there that
> all of the submitted code will become/has to be GPL, just in case that's not
> clear.  We're coders after all, not "law talkin guys".

To take the points in order:

1. yes the project needs to address it and the HACKING file is a suitable place.
2. I think THANKS go to everyone who contributes code, documentation,
translation, even criticism :) and as we continue to benefit from such
contributions the thanks should be eternal, not just for each release.
Adding yourself in the patch is probably worthwhile, or auto add to it
from the acknowledgements in the VCS log.
3. having said the above I don't see the purpose of the authors file,
it doesn't meet the Gnu use [2] so I'm not sure its needed.
4. The changelog is needed for tarballs since they don't have access
to the VCS log, but they should be the same and as discussed elsewhere
the changelog should be created from the VCS log.  The VCS log should
acknowledge the original contributor of all changes, "Patch by ...",
"From an idea by ..." etc silence means the committer.
5. Noting that contributions will be licensed under the GPL isn't
strictly needed but is a good idea and polite anyway.


[1] http://www.gnu.org/s/womb/gnits/THANKS-file.html#THANKS-file
[2] http://www.gnu.org/s/womb/gnits/AUTHORS-file.html#AUTHORS-file
[3] http://www.gnu.org/prep/maintain/html_node/Legally-Significant.html#Legally-Significant
 but note that this is not necessarily the case in all jurisdictions

> Cheers,
> Matthew Brush
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