GNOME Policy on Copyright Assignment

Most of the GNOME core software has always been licensed under copyleft licenses, such as the GPL and LGPL. Some of GNOME's goals in choosing copyleft were and are:

  • to make sure no one organization dominates GNOME.
  • to ensure that all contributors to GNOME, corporate and individual, are on equal footing, which helps avoid conflicts and disagreements between contributors.
  • to grant both commercial and non-commercial users and developers equal rights and privileges to copy, modify, and redistribute the software.
  • to provide individuals the assurance that their code will be propagated in line with the spirit of the copyleft.
  • to provide transparency and openness in the development process, in order to create trust in the licensing framework of GNOME.

Some copyright assignment policies are consistent with these goals. Other copyright assignment policies, depending on their structure, can sometimes contradict these goals. The GNOME Foundation Board of Directors therefore carefully considers, on a case-by-case basis, any proposal to include packages with mandatory copyright assignment policies into GNOME.

Therefore, addition of any dependency into GNOME that would require official inclusion of such a package needs explicit approval by the GNOME Release Team and the GNOME Foundation Board of Directors. Anyone seeking inclusion of such a package into GNOME should discuss such plans with the GNOME Foundation Board of Directors and GNOME Release Team. The Release Team and Board of Directors will consider each such request on a case-by-case basis, using the guidelines outlined here and in the more detailed discussion.

The GNOME community is supported by many companies, some of which have copyright assignments. While many of those copyright assignments were made with the best of intentions for the GNOME project and ecosystem, companies may be bought and sold and business models may evolve over time. In order to make sure that code accepted into GNOME will always best serve GNOME's mission, we have created the following guidelines. Our intention is not to prevent copyright assignments but to make sure that GNOME projects continue to further the GNOME mission for all GNOME users.

In general, copyright assignment by individuals to well governed non-profits presents few problems, and some advantages. The problematic scenario of concern is a package that is entirely owned by a single, for-profit company, as this might give that company complete control of that key piece of GNOME. To allow such packages to be included, the GNOME Foundation recommends addressing the GNOME Foundation's concerns before inclusion and usually asks the corporate entity to make certain commitments.

The following are key copyright assignment policies that the GNOME Foundation may ask of an entity that seeks GNOME inclusion of a copyright-assigned project:

  • A policy that patent licenses will not be obtained or exploited that offer protection only to proprietary users of the package. For example, any patent license that is available to proprietary users should be equally available to Free Software users.

  • A policy that commits to publication, in their entirety, of all terms included in proprietary licenses to the package, to make any potential conflicts of interest apparent. These licenses should be non-discriminatory.
  • Since the Free Software community has occasionally seen GPL enforcement used by for-profit corporate entities to pressure others to take a proprietary license when such a license is not really needed, the GNOME Foundation is more comfortable with LGPL'd (or weaker) licenses when proprietary relicensing is used as part of a business model for an essential GNOME package.
  • The GNOME Foundation does not wish its support of the package to be used to force third parties to assign rights to a company. As such, if such a package is included, GNOME Foundation is likely to have a 'GNOME version' of such a package, with a maintainer unaffiliated with the company. In practice, this 'GNOME version' will usually be initially identical to the upstream project, but will provide a home for changes developers may not wish to assign.

With the Release Team and Board of Directors carefully applying these criteria, the GNOME Foundation hopes to keep the GNOME project unencumbered by control structures that do not align with the spirit of the GNOME community.

FoundationBoard/Resources/CopyrightAssignment (last edited 2013-12-04 15:38:51 by WilliamJonMcCann)