What is Harmony?

Project Harmony is a community-centered group focused on contributor agreements for free and open source software (FOSS), launched in May 2010. As a group, we represent a diverse collection of perspectives, experiences, communities, projects, non-profit and for-profit entities. In that diversity, we share a common belief in the future of FOSS, and a common interest in using our skills (whether they're legal, organizational, editorial, technical, or otherwise) to the benefit of collaborative FOSS communities.

Contribution agreements are one available tool out of many in an overall legal strategy for FOSS developers, the entities that distribute their work, and the users of their work. We hope that our work will enable more people to contribute code, by reducing the cognitive cost and legal time of reviewing contribution agreements. However, the fact that we're working to improve this one tool doesn't imply that we think it is a necessary part of all FOSS legal strategies. Many successful FOSS projects choose not to use contribution agreements, and we are hearty advocates of those projects, and of a broad variety of strong legal strategies built using a broad variety of tools.

Contribution agreements in the FOSS world today may be loosely categorized into two styles: copyright license or copyright assignment. Project Harmony supports both styles of contribution agreements, recognizing them both as effective tools. We understand that if a project chooses to use contribution agreements, their particular needs may lead them to favor one style or the other.

Terms of reference

(Agreed by participants following kick-off meetings in Boston and London)

Project Harmony is made up of a group of industry interested parties, from companies, projects and those with personal interests in FOSS. It is open to all interested parties to join. Its initial goals are to avoid proliferation in contribution agreements across FOSS software projects where those organisations chose to work with contribution agreements. In doing this we hope to assist organisations which use contribution agreements by providing standardised variable templates with clear and concise explanations; to come to a common understanding on these; and to recognise the relative maturity of FOSS by dealing with its internationalisation. We hope to make it easier for organisations to have and use contribution agreements. We believe that contribution agreements should make it easier for developers to contribute regardless of who their employers are.

We may look to establish this forum for these contribution agreements into an organisation which will have a long term role in administering this area.

To achieve our initial goals we will be working together to create plans to create:

  • Contribution Agreements: A suite of standard language which works across international borders and which provides standardised wording for FOSS contributor agreements, minimising the need for legal review. We understand and accept that there are varying positions and decisions in different projects based on commercial positions, community preferences and the wording needed to meet this.
  • Inter-Company Agreements: In addition it is recognised that there would be an advantage to put in place "inter-company" agreements for employee contributions to other company or projects' software. The intention of such documents is to remove the need for employee signature of project contributor agreements and to equalise the playing field between organisations.

back to top