[Fsfe-ie] is this list still alive

Glenn Strong Glenn.Strong at scss.tcd.ie
Thu Mar 17 17:04:19 CET 2016

Hi Dietmar,

Further to Bob's comments.

I work in TCD and I have had to deal with this question a number of
times. Here we have an explicit IP policy which covers work produced by
/undergraduate/ students as part of their degree.

TCD asserts no claim of ownership over that work. I base this on the
College IP policy (link below), where they say that college don't claim
any ownership of IP for "any copyright material submitted as an exercise
in full or partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of a
qualification from TCD"

(work produced by staff or research students is not necessarily covered
by the same policy, BTW)

That policy is published by the TCD research & Innovations Office:
(relevant quote on page 5)

It is possible that your institution publishes a similar policy?

As Ben & Bob point out it's very possible that the college are simply
trying to cover themselves so that they can, for example, put your
dissertation in the library, or have another project build on it, and
the presence of a rather legalistic looking header on the source has
triggered a reflex.

Who is it that has asked that you sign over the rights? I imagine it's
your academic supervisor for this work, simply because it's odd for
anyone else to have read the code!

- Glenn

On 17/03/2016 15:39, Bob Jolliffe wrote:
> 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
> header.
> 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.
> Bob
> 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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Glenn Strong
Asst. Professor, School of Computer Science and Statistics
https://www.scss.tcd.ie/Glenn.Strong/     +353 1 896 3629
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