While a U.S. court has ruled open source licenses are copyright, assuring that in other courts remains a challenge.
The challenge only grows when projects extend across borders, with multiple contributors in 10,000 different places. .
On the surface it's a simple license assignment, a way to pass control of contributions from developers to a project. But it also allows projects to be re-licensed, which is important for their viability and flexibility.
Therein hangs the controversy.
Why re-license if you're not going to do a proprietary fork, some ask? The fear that a project may take copyleft code and use the FLA to turn it into a source of proprietary profit is real.
I disagree. The FLA mainly takes the burden of worrying about international copyright law out of the programmer's hands and places it in the hands of people who care about such things, and who will protect the code under the FLA's terms..
There's another important issue here, that of "orphan" copyrights.
The extension of copyright to near-infinity, meant to maintain Disney and other movie companies, leaves us with a lot of stuff noone you can get a legal sign-off on.
People die, obscure code seems to acquire new value, and there is no one to go to for permission. The FLA solves this problem.
So would you sign an FLA?