When we released CloudEngine as free/open source software, we followed what is fairly standard practice in some parts of the open source Community. We added a contributor license agreement (CLA) – some terms that we wanted anyone who was going to contribute to the project to agree to. This is the CloudEngine CLA (the page is a bit broken now, but please scroll down – it gives you the idea).

At the time I thought nothing of this, but recently I’ve been reading about the problems around CLAs. This presentation from a (the lead?) developer Michael Meeks on the Libre Office project is illuminating – they don’t use CLAs. Also, this article Desktop Summit: Copyright assignments, by Jake Edge

There are arguments for and against. This StackExchange thread is good, particularly the point “The FSF assignment grants… it places constraints upon the FSF…” by Alan Shutko,

The arguments against boil down to the body to whom copyright is assigned (The OU in the case of CloudEngine) having greater privileges to use the software than anyone else, including the right to re-license under different terms. The perception of a lack of parity may prevent people contributing (I’m not saying this is the reason we haven’t had contributions to CloudEngine. However, it may be a factor).

This presentation on Contribution Policies for Open Source Projects, by Richard Fontana/ Redhat provides a good summary.

So in summary, I would think very hard before using a CLA on a project now. It may, just may be possible to use the “inbound” license (the CLA) to grant rights and responsibilities fairly to the assignee and the assignor.

I think this is a Free Software Foundation (FSF) assignment, which aims to do just that.

But does it “impose a barrier to entry”?

John, Leslie K. and Acquisti, Alessandro and Loewenstein, George, The Best of Strangers: Context Dependent Willingness to Divulge Personal Information (July 6, 2009). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1430482 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1430482

Instead, Meeks suggests having a "Contributor Agreement", which says "Inbound = Outbound" licenses. See, http://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Legal:Revised_Fedora_CLA_Draft#FPCA_Text

As an aside, here’s a good introductory presentation on “Open Freedoms/ Open Practices” by Paul Stacey.