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LINAGORA switches from CLA to DCO

To encourage more contributions from the open-source community

July 8 2021
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Over the past few years, open-source software has transformed the software industry. When companies are competing against each other to launch the next best application, enterprises are turning to the untapped mine of open-source contributors around the world. This helps them to give a new perspective to their development pipeline and complete the projects more efficiently and faster.

LINAGORA has been the leader of the French open-source industry for more than 20 years and after a turbulent 2020, LINAGORA has a new vision. LINAGORA has re-asserted their belief in free and open-source software to make Good Tech – ethical and open-source software, to make the world a better place by having a maximum positive impact on people, society, and the planet. We are committed to this vision, and as part of that commitment, we never stop re-evaluating how we do that. For some members of our community, CLA is an obstacle to contribute to LINAGORA projects. To reduce the friction time and make it easier for our community to contribute, we are switching to a Developer Certificate of Origin.

What is the difference between CLA and DCO?

Contributor License Agreement (CLA) is a lengthy legal contract, which is often binding and restricts developers from freely contributing to open-source projects. The developers are usually deterred from contributing by having to review a lengthy legal contract and potentially giving up some of their rights. Developer Certificate of Origin (DCO) provides greater flexibility and portability for open-source communities. The DCO puts the ownership of contributions back in the hands of the developers. No more worrying about entering legal terms you do not fully understand or hiring an attorney to help you understand the legal aspect of a CLA.

Why this change?

A Contributor License Agreement is the industry standard for open-source contributions, but it is highly unpopular with developers as it increases the friction time of their contributions. It sometimes even deters them from contributing due to the fear of not understanding the legal terms and their consequences fully. As part of our commitment to make Good Tech, we have decided to switch to Developer Certificate of Origin to ease the process of contributions for our open-source community. LINAGORA celebrates the model of free and open-source software and the associated creativity and collaboration. We hope that the implementation of DCO will remove another obstacle to contributions to LINAGORA projects.

Companies like Chef and Gitlab have already made the switch from CLA to a DCO, to facilitate the contributions from their open-source communities. As of now, we are rolling out these changes so that the contributors to LINAGORA open-source projects will be required to make contributions and bug fixes under the project license (Affero GPL Version 3 with additional terms) and a Developer Certificate of Origin (DCO).

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Frequently Asked Questions

Why did you wait so long to make this change?

With our version of the CLA, we thought we had a streamlined version of managing contributions, but the advantages of a DCO are compelling and evident. We always strive towards removing barriers to contributions to our open-source projects and reducing the friction time for our contributors. Therefore, this change will help us in realizing our vision of making GOOD Tech for Good.

How does a DCO work?

If you agree to make contributions and bug fixes under the project license and the DCO, you need to certify it by adding a line to every git commit message: Signed off by: John Unicorn unicorn-john@ developer.org Please make sure to use your real full name (no pseudonyms or anonymous contributions). If you set your user.name and user.email as git configs, you can sign your commit automatically with git commit-s.

What if I am contributing while working as an employee for a different organization? Do I need my employer to sign something as well?

No! That is the best part about switching to a DCO. As long as you are the rightful copyright owner of the contribution, you don’t need anyone else to sign the git commit. You can sign the git commit on behalf of other entities involved in the contribution if you are lawfully authorized to do so.

What if I have already signed a CLA?

Do not worry, all your rights remain the same. You do not need to do anything with your previous contributions. In the future, just make sure that you sign the git commit message.

What about contributions from Europe? Are their contributions valid without a CLA?

Yes. The DCO is an express statement from a contributor that they have the right to make their contributions and that they are intentionally making their contributions under terms enabling distribution under the project’s license – in our case Affero GPL Version 3 with additional terms. Just like a CLA, the DCO is an attestation attached to every contribution made by the developer.

What if I forget to add the attestation to my git commit message?

Every commit must have a Signed-off-by line. If you have already submitted a PR you must amend your commits to include the Signed-off-by line. In the case where your PR is a single commit, amending your message can be as simple as running git commit - - amend -s. When there are multiple commits in your PR this will require a little more work to rewrite the commit message for each commit.

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