This week it emerged that somehow an error had found its way into the MySQL build system which had changed the licenses on the manual pages from GPL to a restrictive proprietary license. It took some two months before the issue was discovered. Oracle have reversed that change now, so the panic mode has passed. The incident definitely served as a timely reminder though, waking up the open source community once again to the care and attention needed when considering the use of “contributor agreements”.
While they’ve promised that they’re not going to do any such thing, Oracle could potentially change the MySQL license at any moment. Contributors needn’t be party to that decision as they sign away any copyright interests they have in the project when they sign the contributor agreement. For those starting new projects though, this incident highlights one of the reasons contributor agreements can detract from the health of a project. There are other alternatives that should be considered.
In this week’s InfoWorld article Simon takes a look at contributor agreements, commenting on the practices of duel licensing and copyright aggregation along the way. What is the best way to make sure that your community flourishes?