Life at Eclipse

Musings on the Eclipse Foundation, the community and the ecosystem

Archive for February 2013

A Major Overhaul of Eclipse’s IP Process: CLAs, signed-off-by and more

I’m very happy to announce that we are going to be making some fairly significant changes to the workflows and processes around how contributions flow into Eclipse projects, and how Eclipse committers will process them. The good news is that we think that the new approaches are going to make things a lot easier for everyone. For more details, you can take a look at the presentation I did at a recent Architecture Council meeting.

First, a quick summary of how contributions come into Eclipse today.

  • A contributor makes some changes to an Eclipse project and sends them to Eclipse for review and acceptance by an Eclipse committer. The first complication is that there are several different ways that can happen: contributions can come as push to Gerrit, or a patch in Bugzilla. Which means that the conversations about contributions can occur in multiple places.
  • Assuming the committer likes the contribution and wants to take it, they are then required to ask the contributor “The Three Questions” on either Gerrit or Bugzilla. The Three Questions are:
    1. Did you author 100% of the content you’re contributing?
    2. Do you have the rights to contribute this content to Eclipse?
    3. Are you willing to contribute the content under the project’s license(s) (e.g. EPL)

The problem with this approach is that it’s very manual, error prone, and annoying. In particular, asking a prolific contributor the same three questions each and every time they try to help you out is just not helpful. It is particularly annoying in the context of the normal git workflows, where there there are numerous conventions for dealing with contributions.

So here’s how we are going to make it better:

  • First, we are going to implement Contributor License Agreements (CLAs) for all contributors at Eclipse. The CLA will be a short document that essentially asks The Three Questions once. We will collect some information about the contributor so that we have a record on file of who is giving us code or documentation. Note that the Eclipse Foundation CLA will be quite different from those in use at other organizations. For example, Apache’s CLAs basically give the ASF a license equivalent to ownership for contributions. The Oracle Contributor Agreement (OCA) used by OpenJDK community gives Oracle joint ownership of contributions. The Eclipse CLA is much more modest. In terms of licenses, all it says is that the contributor agrees that their contributions will be provided under the license(s) for the project they’re contributing to. You can review and discuss the draft CLA on bug 401349.
  • Second, we are going to support signed-off-by for contributions which flow to Eclipse project via git and Gerrit. The goal here is to make it as simple as possible for Eclipse projects to accept contributions via the community best practices which have grown up around git. As part of this, we will be developing a contributor certificate of originality, inspired by the one used by the Linux community.
  • And finally, we are going to automate as much of this workflow as possible. Our CLAs will be presented and completed on-line. There will be Gerrit support so committers get an immediate indication as to whether a contributor has a CLA on file. There will be git triggers which will reject a commit where there is no CLA on file for the author of the code commit.

There are a ton of details to be worked out, not least of which is the timetable to roll all of this out. Stay tuned for that. If you want to get involved in the conversation, please join in on bug 401236.

Update: fixed typo “we think we think” in the first paragraph.

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Written by Mike Milinkovich

February 21, 2013 at 8:00 am

Posted in Foundation, Open Source

JRuby Moves to the EPL

I am very happy to report that after a little bit of conversation, the JRuby project has moved from the Common Public License (CPL) to the Eclipse Public License (EPL). So as of this moment, JRuby is tri-licensed under the EPL/LGPL/GPL. This is an excellent reminder to all remaining CPL-licensed projects (hello JUnit! – discussion thread here) to consider re-licensing under the EPL. I documented all of the history and background back in 2009 when the EPL officially became the CPL’s successor, and the CPL was deprecated by the Open Source Initiative (OSI).

This whole JRuby transition came about because Charles Nutter and I accidentally met one another over good Belgian beer at FOSDEM. Since that approach doesn’t scale, I am going to use this event to remind folks that if your project is still using the CPL, you should switch and it is really easy to do so.

Some key points:

  • Back in 2009, the CPL was superseded by the EPL. This means that the EPL is the successor version of the CPL. It also means that using the CPL is the licensing equivalent of using deprecated code.
  • Because the EPL is the successor version to the CPL, the “new version re-licensing” clause in Section 7 of the CPL applies. In other words, you can re-license your project without seeking the approval of all of your contributors.
  • The CPL and EPL basically differ by about one sentence, which you can see here. The difference relates to the scope of patent licenses terminated should someone sue another party for patent infringement. This is the kind of stuff that lawyers love, but most developers don’t really care about.

Thanks to the JRuby team for fixing this so quickly!

Written by Mike Milinkovich

February 13, 2013 at 3:41 pm

Posted in Foundation, Open Source