Do Read: Diaspora Contributor Agreement

Sep 22, 2010

Developer licensing gets a bit sticky.

We wrote last week about Diaspora, the open source social network designed to offer privacy to users who are fed up with Facebook's regular policy changes and the threat of privacy violation. Last week, the site and its code went live for developers, but for those out there ready to dive into the social networking platform should take note: A few passage from the Contributor Agreement have members of the open source community concerned.

You hereby assign to us joint ownership, and to the extent that such assignment is or becomes invalid, ineffective or unenforceable, you hereby grant to us a perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive, worldwide, no-charge, royalty-free, unrestricted license to exercise all rights under those copyrights. This includes, at our option, the right to sublicense these same rights to third parties through multiple levels of sublicensees or other licensing arrangements;

You agree that each of us can do all things in relation to your contribution as if each of us were the sole owners, and if one of us makes a derivative work of your contribution, the one who makes the derivative work (or has it made) will be the sole owner of that derivative work.

And later:

With respect to any patents you own, or that you can license without payment to any third party, you hereby grant to us a perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive, worldwide, no-charge, royalty-free license to: (i) make, have made, use, sell, offer to sell, import, and otherwise transfer your contribution in whole or in part, alone or in combination with or included in any product, work or materials arising out of the project to which your contribution was submitted; and (ii) at our option, to sublicense these same rights to third parties through multiple levels of sublicensees or other licensing arrangements.

In short, Diaspora can take and use any contributions at the company's choosing and can sublicense the contribution to other parties. If someone at Diaspora makes a piece of software or code based on a developer-submitted contribution, the derived work is owned entirely by the person who made it. Nowhere with the document does it specify what qualifies as a derived work.

In the agreement, Diaspora also makes it a point to mention that with the exception of the above clauses, all rights and titles are reserved for the contributor. The company also agrees to release any contributions licensed under a suitable Free Software Foundation-approved license.

The full terms can be read here.

Related content

  • Open Web Foundation Agreement Licenses Specifications for All

    The Open Web Foundation has drafted a public agreement with which creators of proprietary specifications can grant the developer community usage rights.

  • Red Hat Signs Sun Agreements on Java SE Development

    Red Hat has signed the Sun’s Contributor Agreement and TCK License Agreement with the aim of developing an Open Source Java platform for RHEL.

  • My first look at DIASPORA*
  • diaspora*

    You don't need Facebook to keep up with your friends online. With diaspora*, you get a similar experience without the spying.

  • Project Harmony Launches Today

    "Project Harmony is like Creative Commons for contributor agreements. We've set out to capture the best practices of free and open source software contributions, across a diverse array of project cultures, communities, and values." said Allison Randal, a community participant in Project Harmony. "The public review process for the Alpha versions of the documents launches today, and runs through May 6th. After a year of hard work by the original ~100 drafting volunteers, we're really looking forward to broader participation in this public review."


  • licensing goals

    hey, stay calm.

    it looks like the diaspora guys used this part of the license to be able to contribute parts of the code to the ruby community.

    anon, rambo tribble and gplfan, you should send in suggestions about the license to the guys. that helps more than complaining.

  • hari hari

    Well That's as clear of case of unmitigated greed and dishonesty as your likely to see.
    The diaspora project is for me dead. I hope I never have to hear about them again. The project's founders shown their true colours.
  • Hmmm ...

    It sounds like Facebook is contributing more than just code; the attitude seems to have metasticized, as well.
  • GPL the whole thing

    I wouldn't contribute a single bit of work to people who want to become the owner of it by free.

    One of the operative words in the previous sentence is "owner". Because GPL prevents people from stealing (even with "consent" obtained through deception), *all* software and software-related work should only be released under GPL. Otherwise, there is the opportunity to do what the Diaspora gang is trying to do: potentially steal contributed code.

    There is a f****** bastard born every second...
comments powered by Disqus
Subscribe to our Linux Newsletters
Find Linux and Open Source Jobs
Subscribe to our ADMIN Newsletters

Support Our Work

Linux Magazine content is made possible with support from readers like you. Please consider contributing when you’ve found an article to be beneficial.

Learn More