I was there at the beginning, as was Peter and Don. Before VXL was TargetJr, a large C++ environment for computer vision, developed by my group at GE for various company projects. Eventually we started collaborating with universities, such as Oxford, and decided to release the code to open source. The wording of the TargetJr copyright was meant to allow unfettered use of the code without the need to "copy left." Thus, commercial uses of the code could be implemented without restriction. Later, a Darpa-sponsored project, called the Image Understanding Environment (IUE), attempted to create a much more extensive set of C++ libraries for computer vision, including what is now VNL. Near the end of the IUE project, Oxford took the lead in restructuring both the IUE and TargetJr into what is now VXL. VXL just adopted the original TargetJr copyright without any deep consideration.
I would say that GE is no longer of importance with respect to VXL copyright issues. The original motivation for the TargetJr consortium is no longer relevant since TargetJr is not actively used at this point. My suggestion is to just replace the TargetJr notice with a new VXL copyright notice. It is unlikely that GE lawyers will be of any help and may create barriers out of a sense of caution.
I am happy to be the GE interface to help figure this out. However, I came to GE in late 2000 and started using VXL around 2001, which was just about a year after VXL got started and this consortium was formed. So, I do not know the answers to any of these questions myself. There are other folks on this email who may know the answers, or who at least know more of the background to help me get better answers. Does anyone else know any of the background before I start cold calling our legal department?
Pretty cool that VXL has gone from CVS to SVN to GIT, and the commit log for vxl_copyright.h is preserved back to February 2000!