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[Chicken-hackers] Darcs' experiences with the software freedom conservan

From: Christian Kellermann
Subject: [Chicken-hackers] Darcs' experiences with the software freedom conservancy
Date: Tue, 31 Aug 2010 12:09:03 +0200
User-agent: Mutt/1.5.20 (2009-06-14)

Dear chicken fans,

as part of my homework I have asked Eric Kow, member of the darcs
project for his advice and experience with the Software Freedom
Conservancy. Please find his excellent answers below. Thanks Eric!

----- Forwarded message from Eric Kow <address@hidden> -----

Date: Tue, 31 Aug 2010 10:52:58 +0100
From: Eric Kow <address@hidden>
To: Christian Kellermann <address@hidden>
Subject: Re: Your experiences with the software freedom conservancy
In-Reply-To: <address@hidden>

Feel free to bounce/forward this as you see fit.

For what it's worth, I'm very happy we joined the SFC.  I think it's
made our lives easier (we can own darcs hardware, for example) and has
lent us a certain feeling of stability.  Three general comments:

[A] Keep in mind that while the SFC do have a lawyer working for
    them (Karen Sandler), they do *not* provide legal advice to
    projects outside the scope of SFC services (so things like
    signing the original agreement and [optionally!] copyright transfer
    You'll want to talk to the sister SFLC organisation for that.  I'm
    not really sure how one goes about retaining the services of the
    SFLC. They seem to provide at least a lot of documentation that you
    can read yourself.  But Bradley and Karen work for both, I think, so
    perhaps they can advise on this.

    So why join the SFC?  Basically because it's really useful to be
    (part of) a legal entity/person.  It makes it possible to have
    things like a bank account, or even a single entity if you want
    to have consolidated copyright statements like Copyright (C) 2010
    Software Freedom Conservancy.

[B] If you're not careful, people on your team are going to be confused
    and excited about A for the wrong reason.  In the darcs team, I
    still regularly have to point out that no, we don't really
    have proper lawyers we can turn to for all our questions.

[C] If you really want to do copyright consolidation, know that the
    SFC have an agreement that guarantees that they will never change
    the license to something non-free.  It's a nice touch where
    communities are averse to copyright-transfer.  If you're interested
    in this stuff, I'd suggest carefully reading
    and keeping in mind that you may need to get a proper lawyer to
    advise you.

On Mon, Aug 30, 2010 at 20:39:38 +0200, Christian Kellermann wrote:
> As I know that darcs did join the software freedom conservancy I would
> like to ask you about your experiences with it. What is the amount of
> time that has to be spent on administrative tasks

Joining the SFC has reduced our overall administrative burden
rather than added to it.  What admin tasks I've done as a result of the
SFC have been to collect receipts from people for reimbursements
(whereas before it was a lot more informal), but if you're sufficiently
organised about it, this takes little time.  The overall gain from
having somebody take care of the accounting, holding a proper bank
account is very nice.

That said there is an initial cost of joining, which is having to
reach an agreement within the community about how your project will
run itself: who will represent Chicken Scheme to the SFC and how
may change in the future.  This is a sort of one-time investment,
and it's a good thing for your community to be clear about anyway.
Keep in mind that the SFC have a non-interference policy with your
project politics.  It's completely up to you how you run yourselves,
but you'll want to get it in writing.

> , did being a us based non profit foundation turn out to be a benefit
> for fundraising in europe?

No, not particularly.  The occasional big US donor has expressed
appreciation for it being a US non-profit, but this makes no difference
for Europeans.

> How did the developers feel about putting it all in the
> hands of a US based entity since the majority of darcs' developers is
> based in europe (I think this is still true.)

We are still mostly in Europe: out of 10 developers on, I think 1 is in the USA
and 1 is in Australia.

I don't think anybody minds per se, but some developers would prefer to
see a UK/Europe based entity for the practical reason of being able to
get a government boost for their donations.  In the UK, we have
something called GiftAid, for example

I would very much welcome some sort of European complement to the SFC
(I think they are working on it and you should definitely ask).  If you
have any French developers, one thing you should try is to lobby the
folks who made the CeCILL license <> to create such
an SFC-like and an SFLC-like structure (perhaps cooperating with the SFC
and SLFC to minimise effort).  They, after all, care about free software
and have the lawyers to back them up.

> I do have lots of questions like this of course. Besides these
> technical questions I am also concerned how this whole process can be
> gone through in a way that encourages all people to participate.

I don't have a good answer for this.  Perhaps see what you make of our
our threads on darcs-users


The general approach is just to be very transparent and have an attitude
of seeking feedback/criticism.  You also need to be ready to provide a
fair summary of the discussion from time to time to keep things from
spiralling out of control.

> Or to put it differently I do not want to leave out anyone or make
> them feel this way. The chicken developer community is rather small,
> spread all over the world (with a small German bias).
> I would propose that if your time permits I would transfer this
> discussion to our chicken-hackers or even chicken-users mailing list,
> so that everyone can ask whatever is on their heart.


Hope this helps,

Eric Kow <>
For a faster response, try +44 (0)1273 64 2905 or
xmpp:address@hidden (Jabber or Google Talk only)

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