[Fsfe-ie] is this list still alive

Bob Jolliffe bobjolliffe at gmail.com
Thu Mar 17 16:39:29 CET 2016

Hi Dietmar

I think Ben sums up the issues well enough.

I have seen similar issues emerge where the programmer is involved in
an employment contract.  In that case, in most countries - and I
assume Ireland - there is a default assumption that the code you write
is owned by the employer unless otherwise agreed.  So you are
generally not at liberty to place your own licence headers which first
of all rest on the assumption that you own the rights in order to be
able to disperse them with licence.

I mention this because often postgraduate students relation to the
institution is one of an employment contract and these sorts of
defaults would apply.

As an undergraduate student I don't think there is any suggestion of
employment.  And so default assignment of copyright can't be justified
on the same basis.  I think that means (and like Ben I am not a
lawyer) that there would have to be some more explicit policy which
you would have to agree to.  Those agreements which I have seen (even
from US institutions) seem to generally stress that copyright in
student assignments - not just code - remains with the student.

My own experience with higher ed institutions is that (unless your
tutor understands free software) they are generally woefully ignorant
of such matters and no copyright declarations are made on any
assignments and the position remains ambiguous for both the student
and the institution.  When students are given their first programming
assignments they don't start off by learning to place a licence

Makes me wonder what are your fellow students doing?  Just submitting
"raw" code?  If so I imagine you might be able to simply do the same.
And resting on the assumption that you haven't assigned your rights
away, you can equally publish your code elsewhere using the licence of
your choice.

If they are obliging all students to assign copyright to Letterkenny
IT then that is another matter, indicating they have in fact given it
some deliberate thought and come down to a particularly reactionary
position.  If they are only asking you (because they have become in
some way disturbed by your copyright assertion and LGPL header) then
you have a better chance of asserting you rights at a later stage by
just removing the header.


On 17 March 2016 at 15:46, Ben North <ben at redfrontdoor.org> wrote:
> Hi Dietmar,
> This list has indeed been very quiet for the past couple of years, yes.
> Nonetheless there are people subscribed to this list.
> My thoughts on your situation would be as follows, but bear in mind that I
> am not a lawyer and this is not advice.
> Firstly, it's excellent that you're trying to make your software available
> under a free-software licence.  I think the goals of Free Software are
> especially important in an education context.
> It's possible that part of the 'terms and conditions' of being a student at
> Letterkenny IT is that all creative output you produce as part of your
> studies belongs to the college.  A brief Google just now didn't turn
> anything up, but any such document might not be public.  If you did agree to
> that, there might be very little you can do.  If you don't cease to claim
> copyright on the code, you might not be awarded your BSc.  Depending on the
> sympathies of the tutor for this particular course, he/she might be willing
> to go along with the idea that, even though the copyright needs to be held
> by Letterkenny IT, the code could be licensed under a Free-Software licence
> (e.g., the LGPL you mention).  Perhaps this would be acceptable to you.
> If there isn't such a 'terms and conditions' agreement, you could try and
> find out why Letterkenny IT want the copyright.  If it's so they can re-use
> the code (perhaps to show to future students; to archive it; to
> automatically assess it; to publish it), then it might be the case that the
> LGPL allows them to do everything they want to, and this just needs to be
> explained to them.  If you didn't agree to assign the copyright in your
> course-work to them, then I find it difficult to understand how they can
> demand it.  (But: I am not a lawyer, and even if they can't actually compel
> you to assign them the copyright, it might be wise to do so in the bigger
> picture of you getting your BSc.)
> Those are my (non-expert, non-lawyer) thoughts on this.  Depending how much
> of a fuss you want to make, you could talk to an actual lawyer, or perhaps
> get in touch with Digital Rights Ireland (https://www.digitalrights.ie/).
> Or perhaps the FSFE (https://fsfe.org/index.en.html).  Hope this is of some
> use anyway!
> Good luck!
> Ben.
> On 17 March 2016 at 13:02, Dietmar Steiner <open.source at d-steiner.com>
> wrote:
>> Hi
>> I just subscribed to the list and saw the last message in the archive is
>> from 2014.
>> So is this list still used and if not what list I should use to discuss
>> open software issues on.
>> My issue currently is:
>> I am in year 4 of a Bsc (H) in computer science at Letterkenny IT. I have
>> submitted some software with an LGPL licence header.
>> As a result I was told to remove the header and to add a copyright notice
>> to assign all copyright to Letterkenny IT.
>> I would like to argue my case to publish my work under the LGPL and would
>> like to get advice what my position is in terms of copyright.
>> Thanks for any response
>> Dietmar Steiner
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