Notes on Zwiki project legal issues. I (SM) will try to keep this page up to date; if anything seems wrong please get in touch. Discussion in the usual places, primarily the zwiki list. This page is in progress.

2004/11/19: started this page

2005/01/23: renamed to LegalDepartment, added notes



  1. optimal healthy growth of zwiki product, developer community, user community
  2. strongest, clearest, least troublesome legal standing for project into the future
  3. maximal ability to accomodate many developers
  4. lowest barriers for contributors
  5. maximal ability to reuse good code
  6. use/clarify/advance best practices of the free software community






Conditions for contribution

Decision makers



Questions & answers

What is Zwiki's license and copyright policy ?

The license is GNU GPL. SimonMichael is named as sole copyright holder. In 2004/11 we are exploring the enforceability and ramifications of the latter. Here is Zwiki's LICENSE.txt :

 ZWiki - a zope-based wiki implementation
 Copyright (C) 1999,2000,2001,2002,2003,2004 Simon Michael <>
 for the zwiki community.

 This program is free software; you can redistribute it and/or
 modify it under the terms of the GNU General Public License
 as published by the Free Software Foundation; either version 2
 of the License, or (at your option) any later version.

 This program is distributed in the hope that it will be useful,
 but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of
 GNU General Public License for more details.

 You should have received a copy of the GNU General Public License
 along with this program; if not, write to the Free Software
 Foundation, Inc., 59 Temple Place - Suite 330, Boston, MA  02111-1307, USA.

 If you need to discuss an alternate licensing arrangement, contact me at

and docstring:

 The main Zwiki module. See README.txt.

 (c) 1999-2004 Simon Michael <> for the zwiki community.
 Wikiwikiweb formatting by Tres Seaver <>
 Parenting code and regulations by Ken Manheimer <>
 Initial Zope CMF integration by Chris McDonough <>
 Full credits are at .

 This product is available under the GNU GPL.  All rights reserved, all
 disclaimers apply, etc.

Why do you claim copyright of the whole code base ?

To preserve a simple copyright status. This facilitates (a) enforcement and legal defense and (b) re-licensing, if ever those should become necessary. See

If we had a non-profit Zwiki foundation, that would be the appropriate copyright holder. So far, I'm it.

Why is enforcement and legal defense an issue ?

Hopefully it never will be. But in the expected lifetime of this code, some kind of abuse or SCO-style corporate attack is a possibility.

Deep pockets counts for more than copyright statements in a legal battle. Still, it makes sense to choose the strongest position we can. Sticking to GNU guidelines and standing under the protective GNU umbrella seems a good way to do that.

Why would you ever want to change the license ?

  1. To offer non-GPL licensing to proprietary developers for a fee, to generate an income stream funding further development (the mysql model). I have not promoted this and stopped thinking about it some time ago, but have not yet renounced it.
  2. To track changes in the GPL. Eg, GPLv3? or v4 comes out and is desirable for us to adopt, eg because it's more useful, or more defensible.
  3. To allow greater code sharing and coexistence with the main Zope code, especially Zope 3. For example ZPL is a requirement for being in the mainstream Zope code repositories.

Do you intend to unfairly profit from my work ?

Do I lose rights to my own work ?

Have all contributors agreed to the above policy ?

No. Details:

As far as I know, I have mentioned the policy to all authors of major contributions (on accepting their first contribution) and they either verbally agreed or made no objection.

I haven't raised the issue for small contributions; I have assumed they fall under public domain and can be integrated without problem.

The above is the only copyright statement in the codebase (note any exceptions here) and it has been there for a long time.

As of 2004/11 a major contributor is challenging the policy, and this contribution is on hold as we clarify these issues.

I wasn't aware of this when I contributed code; I assert copyright ownership of some code within Zwiki, what then ?

I believe any such problem could be resolved by removing your code, without causing serious disruption to Zwiki. There was no intent to mislead. But read on.

Have there been any written transfers of copyright ?

No. This would have been a barrier to contributions, and is being deferred as long as possible. My (vague) assumption was that by getting at least verbal agreement, I would have a good chance of getting written agreement later if a need arose. This has not been attempted.

Then, in US law, the above copyright statement has no legal force at all ?

That may be true; see this thread. If so, it seems that the actual copyright would devolve to all (major) contributors through Zwiki's history, according to the bits they wrote.

What about a shared/non-exclusive copyright, as in Zope & Plone ?

How do other projects handle this ?

What's the current situation then ? What to do ?

Unclear for the moment. We are discussing this, documenting it and considering options. It was always going to be necessary to look into this more deeply; that time has come. If I seem to be moving slowly, I'm sorry; please be patient and work around for the time being. Decisions in this area have long-term consequences and I'd rather not rush them.

How has the discussion been going ?

See the zwiki list, and the debian-legal thread above, and #zwiki. Here are some relevant excerpts.


example text --simon, Fri, 02 Sep 2005 11:13:01 -0700 reply
from a recent project announcement: "Preferred licensing of project is GPL. Hosting of the project is on a dedicated workspace. Any contribution must be GPL compatible (ex. ZPL). Copyright is assigned to contributor on a per component level. To prevent any legal risks resulting from mergers or buyouts, all code will be formally licensed to the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII), a global independent software association. All project code must be archived in the FFII repository."