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GSIP 15 - Contributor Agreements and Supporting Documentation
Creating Contributor Agreements and supporting documentation. This proposal contains a copyright assignment agreement, to be completed by all committers to GeoServer, as well as a number of supporting documents, to become wiki pages in the main GeoServer documentation, explaining the licensing and how it works. Assigning copyright makes it much easier for the Project Steering Committee to change the license in the future, both for special exceptions and general changes. Copyright will be assigned to OpenPlans , the 501c3 non-profit that started GeoServer, but all power over licensing decisions will be given to the Project Steering Committee.
Assigned to release
Other wiki discussions:
Chris Holmes +1 Justin Deoliveira +1 Jody Garnett +1 Alessio Fabiani +1 Rob Atkinson +1 Andrea Aime +1 Gabriel Roldan +1
The first motivation is a general desire to have GeoServer be a more ‘professional’ project, with clear legal provenance that we can demonstrate to potential contributors and users. This has the benefits of increased legal protection, maximizing business compatibility, a guarantee to remain open source, and potential revenue for the GeoServer Project.
It also allows the Project Steering Committee greater flexibility to explore alternate licensing arrangements. These are detailed a bit in the supporting documents, as ‘community licensing’, a twist on the traditional ‘dual licensing’ model. The motivation is to attempt to be supportive of growing the open source project, while reconciling it with the reality of the geospatial domain, which includes a few particular use cases:
\1) Much of GIS is ‘integration’, hooking up a spatial component to an existing system. These systems are often licensed under proprietary licenses not compatible with the GPL.
\2) Many governments are still uncomfortable with open source software per se, but see GeoServer as a potentially valuable piece of software that they’d like to use, and see a proprietary license from an established organization as a seal of quality.
\3) Commercial companies would like to base a portion of their proprietary product on GeoServer. They are happy to be good community members, contributing back any code in GeoServer, and indeed doing a bunch of testing and further improvements to get it up to their level of quality. But they are unable to release the source code of their full product.
What we want to do is give these use cases an option to use a less restrictive license. But we very much enjoy the protections that the GPL affords, so we don’t want to release to the world a less protective license. But if the use cases described above come to the project, we’d like to be able to issue them a license that lets them do what they want because this indeed will grow the user base and economic sustainability of GeoServer.
Attached to this page is the proposed contributor agreement, as well as the supporting documentation (see ‘links’ section above). The contributor agreement will need to be distributed to all current committers, signed by them and their employers, and returned. All future committers to the repository will also need to print, sign, and return the agreement. Details on doing this are given in the agreement itself.
The agreement and supporting documentation will be moved from this section of the wiki to part of the official documentation.
This proposal also opens up the door for selling non-GPL licenses to organizations that require them, in what we’re calling ‘community licensing’, which is similar to Dual Licensing , but money will go to the community and improving GeoServer, instead of going just to the company that owns copyright. This proposal talks about this in a general way, but the specifics of licensing, including a plan for a ‘GeoServer Enterprise Edition’ will be the subject of an independent GSIP.
- Chris Holmes
- Software Freedom Law Center