Subject: Re: Open Source and Contributor Agreements
From: Chris Zumbrunn <>
Date: Sat, 26 Nov 2005 10:20:55 +0100

On Nov 26, 2005, at 6:36 AM, David Barrett wrote:

> Still seeking closure on this.  Can anyone confirm or deny the 
> following reasoning:
> - Open source has an unstated principle that all contributors are 
> equal; nobody has any greater or lesser rights to the source than 
> anyone else (copyright excluded).

Licenses to not regulate *contributions* they regulate *distribution*. 
There is no "right to contribution" and there can't be, since that 
would be outside the scope of a *license*, but as licensees all are 
equal - and have the right to fork.

> - Groups who maintain a branch of an open project but restrict 
> "commit" privileges to those who grant extra rights that group -- even 
> with the best intentions -- are fundamentally subverting the openness 
> of the project.

They might be fundamentally subverting the openness of their own 
project, but not that of the code they already released under an open 
source license. That's all open source cares about.

> - This anti-open practice is grudgingly tolerated due to its 
> prevalance among some of the most respected, influential, and 
> long-lived open source projects.

No. It is simply not a concern of open source.

> - However, this tolerance is contigent upon the contributor agreement 
> being cumbersome, thereby ensuring nobody accidentally trades away 
> rights that a "true" open source project withholds.

No. If work is released under an open source license it doesn't matter 
how the rights to do so were obtained, as long as they were obtained.

> - Because an opt-out contributor agreement integrated into the license 
> is too easy, it's too likely to cause people to accidentally give 
> rights to the maintainer, and thus too anti-open to be approved by the 
> OSI.
> Is this accurate?

No. If it requires a license-back that goes beyond the license-grant 
then it is discriminatory and does not comply with the OSD.