Introducing the new Eucalyptus Contributor Agreements

Contributor Agreements have become a standard mechanism by which open source projects safeguard their rights to accept software into the project.  Canonical and Apache are just two illustrative examples.

The purpose of these agreements is to handle cases that open source licenses might not fully address.  For example: what does the project do if someone contributes code, and then later it turns out that the contributor didn’t actually own the code in question?  The typical Contributor Agreement answers this question by requiring the contributor to verify that they have the rights to contribute the code to the project.

There are, broadly speaking, two flavors of Contributor Agreements:

  • A licensing agreement, in which the contributor holds the copyright for the code and provides a broad license to the project for the use of that code;
  • An assignment agreement, in which the contributor assigns the copyright of the code to the project, and the project provides a broad license to the contributor for the use of that code.

The previous Eucalyptus agreement was an assignment agreement.  In order to commit software to the Eucalyptus project, a contributor had to agree to assign all copyrights and patents in the code to Eucalyptus Systems.

After careful consideration, and after working with counsel, we have decided to change to a licensing agreement.  This means that contributors will maintain ownership of their code and all associated IP, and license it broadly for use by Eucalyptus Systems.  We believe that this change is a crucial step that will make it easier for developers to contribute code to Eucalyptus.

We are in the process of making huge changes to our website, and incorporating the new licensing agreement will be part of those changes.  In the meantime, you can read the new agreements on our projects site.

Introducing the new Eucalyptus Contributor Agreements


Loving the work that the RENCI folks at Duke are doing on top of Eucalyptus. They’ve got a set of patches that sit atop Eucalyptus proper, and they call their patches “Neuca”. I lol’d when I found that out.  It rolls swimmingly off the tongue.

We’ve seen quite a few of these kinds of projects.  It’s a key indicator of success that people are building this functionality on top of our base.

Our ability to incorporate these kinds of patches directly into mainline will be a key indicator of our maturity as an open source company going forward.

As I discussed at SCALE 10x this past weekend, I believe that our current contributor agreement needs an update.  That work will take some time, and I can’t really say much about it yet — but the prospect of working more closely with RENCI and others provides strong motivation to Get It Right.  It’s a key challenge, and I’m exciting about tackling it head-on in the coming weeks.

(p.s. RAGE HATE SPELLING FAIL.  The likelihood of my typing “eucalytpus” is pretty much an even money bet.)