Simon Phipps Warns Against Open Source Contributor Agreements

Friday Aug 27th 2010 by Developer.com Staff
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Contributor agreements that aggregate copyrights are bad, says Simon Phipps.

Contributor agreements that aggregate the copyrights of open source code should be avoided, says computer industry veteran Simon Phipps.

Phipps is the Open Source Initiative director, and in a blog post he outlined the reasons open source projects and developers should not use or sign contributor agreements.

He said contributor agreements undermine equality and meritocracy.

"An open source community is an open, meritocratic oligarchy - ruled by an elite who gained leadership based on the merit of their participation and skills, open equally to anyone who does the same in the future," Phipps explains. "The presence of a 'contributor agreement' that involves copyright aggregation may be a warning sign that the community using it has one member who is more equal than all the others."

Phipps said that not all contributor agreements are bad, but the ones that aggregate copyrights to a business, rather than a non-profit foundation, are no good.

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