contribution agreements for open source projects

David Woolley forums at
Thu Sep 24 06:47:09 UTC 2009

John Cowan wrote:

> My personal view is that asking your contributors to license their
> stuff under the existing project license is plenty, unless you are a
> mega-project and actually expect to fend off lawsuits.
A not uncommon reason for such agreements is so that the project 
originator can exploit modifications in proprietary versions.  That's 
the case for Asterisk, and, although I didn't read the Sun agreement 
that closely when it came up here, I think it also the case for Sun.

The basic trade is that, in return for having your contributions in the 
primary fork, the primary developer gets to use them almost as if they 
owned them.  Such contribution licences are more acceptable to patch 
submitters than would be the FSF approach of requiring an assignment of 
the copyright ownership, given the intent to commercially exploit.

David Woolley
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