Subject: Re: Open Source and Contributor Agreements
From: "Philippe Verdy" <>
Date: Mon, 28 Nov 2005 13:06:15 +0100

From: "David Barrett" <>
> 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).

Open source does not speak about "contributors" because the term is not 
related to the source itself but to the relations between a developer 
working on a source, and a project. Projects are NOT source files : a 
project is a humane social relationship.

> - 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.

Openness of the project yes, of the source no.

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

It is not only tolerated but highly recommanded for very obvious reasons 
(vandalism, responsability face to attempts to hack and contaminate sources 
with viral backdoors...)

> - 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.

The licence that comes with the open-source software is for the material you 
get with the software and its sources, and what you can do if you want to 
distribute the source yourself.

It does not define (or should not) the relations with the open-source 
project (like the Sun SCSL licence does, and for this reason SCSL does not 
qualify as open-source, because it requires you to join to a community and 
accept its policy, and because it does not allow to distribute the software 
yourself without prior agreement from a project leader)

A sane open-source project must be designed with two separate contracts: one 
for the open software licence (the EULA), another for the half-open project 
which requires additional agreements that do not limit the EULA, but limits 
your interactions with the project and the tools it offers to manage it.

Nobody is required to accept the project agreement or to become a 
contributor to the project from which it initially originated, to use an 
open-source software and to distribute it according to the EULA that covers 
it. What the open-source says is that this distribution is allowed, and the 
project ''may'' want to integrate your modifications found in your 
distribution if needed (the open-source EULA allows this without asking you 
for your permission).

> - 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.

Simple: exclude all statements in EULA regarding the management of the 
project from which the open source is originated and from which it is