PKP’s New Contributor License Agreement
We’ve recently added a Contributor License Agreement (CLA) to our git repositories here at PKP. This requests that open-source contributors sign the CLA as part of the process of contributing to our software.
The PKP Technical Committee (which is comprised of PKP team members and community members) has been considering how to start using the latest GNU GPLv3 license for our software instead of our current GPLv2 license. Besides keeping up to date with the latest GPL license, we are motivated to move to GPLv3 because OJS currently ships with several libraries that are not deemed “compatible” with the older GPLv2.
In discussing the license change with several of our development partners, it became clear that the ownership of the code and permission to relicense is a complicated and multi-jurisdictional subject. OJS 2.x has been under active development for more than 14 years and has had many contributors come and go.
PKP discussed this with the SFU legal department and essentially determined that within the Canadian jurisdiction where PKP is based, PKP is able to proceed with updating the license to GPLv3. However, in order to avoid ambiguity in the future, we should ask contributors to sign a CLA.
The CLA is available in legalese at here but we have also written a plain-English version at https://pkp.sfu.ca/contributor-license-agreement/. As that document describes, the CLA affirms the contributor’s rights, such as the retention of copyright. It asks the contributor to affirm that the contribution is their work, and that they allow PKP to distribute and maintain it as open-source software.
We are using a Github-integrated tool called CLA Assistant to manage agreements. It’s a quick and unobtrusive process, and it does not force anyone to agree in order to participate. It simply adds an indication of whether a contributor has agreed or not alongside their pull requests, and allows a click-through agreement process for contributors who haven’t signed yet.
Our developer community is important to us. If you have any concerns about the CLA’s intent or the process we’ve put in place, or the greater process of moving to the GPLv3 license that motivated it, please feel free to contact us.