Conservancy Promotes Transparency by Publishing Template Agreements for Linux Compliance Program

November 3, 2016

Conservancy Promotes Transparency by Publishing Template Agreements for Linux Compliance Program

Discussion Invited at Second Feedback Session on GPL Enforcement

Today at the Linux Plumbers Conference, Software Freedom Conservancy hosts its second feedback session on the GPL Compliance Program for Linux Developers. These sessions, which Conservancy is hosting at relevant events over the next year and summarizing for public review, will seek input and ideas from the Linux community about GPL enforcement, answer questions, and plan strategies to deal with GPL enforcement actions that do not follow Conservancy and FSF’s Principles of Community-Oriented GPL Enforcement.

The publication of the template agreements ([1], [2]) demonstrates Conservancy’s commitment to transparency. The documents have a similar structure as Conservancy’s agreements with its member projects, designed to work at the service of the coalition. They include an easy termination provision, requiring just thirty days’ notice at any time. Because the aim of Conservancy’s compliance work is to avoid litigation, no lawsuits may be initiated without further explicit agreement.

Two versions of the template agreement are provided. The anonymous agreement includes a clause binding Conservancy to not disclose the identity of the participant. This clause was directly requested by Linux contributors who fear repercussions from their employers or other community members who oppose GPL enforcement. Conservancy designed this version to respect the wishes of those who want to help ensure the future of copyleft, but are not prepared to face public attacks from those who oppose copyleft.

Karen Sandler, who will co-host today’s session at the Plumbers Conference, noted the importance of designing agreements that adhere to the Principles of Community-Oriented GPL Enforcement. The agreements empower developers to direct and control Conservancy’s enforcement actions. While the Principles allow for recovery of costs, the terms ensure that developers direct how such funds are spent. Karen noted, however, While the agreement sets out how money received through any compliance actions is divided, to date no amounts have been received under this initiative.

Conservancy is publishing these agreements today as background for the enforcement feedback session at 6:00 PM Mountain Time at the Linux Plumbers Conference 2016. Conservancy’s Executive Director, Karen Sandler, and Director of Strategic Initiatives, Brett Smith, will host the session, and all conference attendees are welcome to join the discussion. Conservancy will also take feedback on the agreements over its mailing list for discussion of the GPL enforcement principles and at feedback sessions at other conferences over the coming months.

Conservancy, as always, recommends that anyone who is contemplating signing an agreement consult legal counsel about their own specific situation prior to doing so.