[OpenAFS] On contributor agreements

Simon Wilkinson sxw@inf.ed.ac.uk
Fri, 5 Sep 2008 16:51:28 +0100

>> So, 2 questions for the community would be,
>> 1) would you find a contributor agreement tenable (and what would  
>> make
>> it not tenable for either you or your employer)

I think the key issue, as others have said, is what is contained  
within the contributor agreement.

If the agreement just contains a statement that you are entitled to  
release the code you are contributing, and similar language (see, for  
example, the Mozilla CLA) then I can't see it being a real problem.

In my opinion, the issues arrive if the contributor license is  
structured to allow the Foundation to perform any kind of  
relicensing. This requires contributors to place a significant level  
of trust in the Foundation, now and in the future, to only relicense  
code in a manner which is acceptable to the community. In particular,  
there is the danger that the Foundation could sell code which has  
been contributed to it in this way to commercial third parties,  
without the permission of the original contributors. I'm sure nobody  
involved in the Foundation has any intention of this at present, but  
it is a concern for the future.

So, any contribution agreement that requires assignment of copyright,  
or which grants the Foundation additional permissions over and above  
the license that the contribution is provided under, would have to be  
very carefully considered. I feel that even a well structured  
agreement along these lines might deter prospective contributors, who  
either want to retain the ability to determine how their code may be  
used, or whose employers aren't prepared to grant extensive  
relicensing permissions to a third party.

>> 2) would having all members of the foundation sign one as a condition
>> of membership (where "sign" may not necessarily involve paper or
>> physical copies, if that can be made to work) be an issue?

Providing the contributor agreement itself is acceptable, I don't  
think there would be any issue with requiring agreement to it as a  
condition of foundation membership. It's not currently clear to me  
what relationship there is between foundation membership and code  
contribution. Obviously, you would want all contributors to agree to  
the contributor agreement - but would all contributors be required to  
join the foundation?