Should free and open source projects and companies require developers to sign community agreements in order to contribute, possibly signing over their copyrights? Some do, some don't, others have mixed policy. Canonical is leading an effort, called "Harmony", to create standardized community agreement documents, an effort they compare with the license standardization work of Creative Commons.
Of course, developers want to keep the rights to their creations. On the other hand, some project and business leaders say that they must have copyright assignments to be successful. Is there a middle ground?
Copyright assignment is a controversial topic in the FOSS community. The Desktop Summit is fortunate to have four leading thinkers on the issue who are willing to engage openly in a panel discussion about copyright assignment. It's hard to imagine four people better suited.
Canonical's Mark Shuttleworth is an entrepreneur and a proponent of copyright assignment. Unity and other Canonical projects require copyright assignment.
Michael Meeks is a developer and an opponent of copyright assignment. He worked on the OpenOffice.org (OOo) project, and is one of the core developers instrumental in the creation of LibreOffice, based on the OOo codebase. A major factor in the LibreOffice fork is the copyright assignment required to contribute to OOo.
Bradley Kuhn is the Executive Director of the Software Freedom Conservancy and a Director of the Free Software Foundation. He has an extensive background in free software licensing and advocacy, and has given much thought to conflicts between software freedom and other considerations, such as business, fundraising and cloud-based computing. In Bradley's view, copyright assignment is acceptable if the assignee is a trusted nonprofit organization.
The panel will be moderated by Karen Sandler, the GNOME Foundation's new Executive Director, who was previously the General Counsel of the Software Freedom Law Center.
The panel should appeal to everybody who is involved in free and open source software—hackers, community managers, other kinds of contributors, business managers or lawyers.