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FSF now offering paperless option for all copyright assignments

by Donald Robertson Contributions Published on Nov 04, 2016 10:28 AM
All contributors now can take advantage of a simpler assignment process.

The GNU Project is built by volunteers from all around the globe. For many packages, sharing your code involves assigning copyright on your changes to the Free Software Foundation (FSF). This enables us to enforce the terms of the license on packages like the GNU Compiler Collection and the GNU C Library to ensure that the software always remains free. In 2010, we wrote that contributors from 66 different countries had assigned their copyright to the FSF. At that time, and for about 30 years prior, each assignment required sending paper documents via the international post, not always an easy or inexpensive process.

In 2012, the FSF announced that it would begin accepting scanned documents for assignments of copyright for contributors residing in the United States. We then set about a long process of trying to expand the countries where we could accept scanned documents. While a few countries have been added over the years, the ultimate goal has always been to smooth the assignment process for all contributors.

Today we have achieved that goal. With the advice of counsel, we can begin accepting scanned copies of assignments from all contributors, regardless of where they reside. With a small update to our assignment contract, we can finally make it possible for all contributors to avoid having to send their forms via the post.

This doesn't end our process. There are lots of ways to sign documents these days, including using GNU Privacy Gaurd or other forms of digital signature. We will keep working to smooth that process and make more options available. While there is still more work to do to make the process as simple as possible, this is one big step that will help contributors from all around the world to share their code.

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