Subject: Re: Open Source and Contributor Agreements
From: Danese Cooper <>
Date: Sat, 26 Nov 2005 08:30:05 -0800

A classic example of how the contributor agreement is preferable to  
mandatory grant-back (from the FOSS developer point of view) is  
NeoOffice/J, a derivative of codebase ported for use  
on MacOSX.  The developers of the Mac port were (in their opinion)  
having trouble getting their patches checked timely into the mother  
codebase and decided they didn't want their copyrights jointly owned  
by Sun (Sun uses a Joint Copyright Assignment instead of an simple  
assignment), so they forked the codebase and maintain a copy with  
their changes and their installers on a separate website.  This has  
allowed Mac users to have a higher quality experience of, and the NeoOffice/J developers have garnered a small  
bit of direct compensation for their differentiators (in the form of  
an optional shareware monetary contribution at install).  Sun gets to  
claim is well supported on the MacOSX platform (which  
they were unwilling to commit engineering resources to accomplishing  
themselves) That's how its supposed to work.


On Nov 26, 2005, at 4:32 AM, Alex Bligh wrote:

> David,
>> - 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.
> That's not the way I read it. The point is the openness of the  
> project is
> maintained by the ability of contributors to fork (i.e. run the  
> project
> somewhere else) if they don't like the way the maintainer is doing  
> their
> stuff (including requiring contributor agreements that are punitive  
> and/or
> exceed the benefit of working with the maintainer). It's precisely  
> because
> of this "freedom to fork away from the maintainer" (by which is  
> meant avoid
> a compulsory license back) that (some) people didn't like the OVPL.  
> Given
> CA's are voluntary, I have heard few (rational) people say they are
> inherently evil (i.e. they should not be offered) - many say they they
> won't sign them (i.e. they should not be accepted) - which is of  
> course
> their right - but that's a different thing entirely.
>> - 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, for the above reason. And because what people objected to about  
> the
> OVPL was asymmetry. Opt-out asymmetry is still asymmetry (I agree  
> with that
> one whole heartedly). And opt-out can itself be a pernicious (see, for
> instance, spam discussions ad-nauseam).
> Alex