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You are here: Home Bulletins 2011 Fall 2011 Bulletin GNU contributors update

GNU contributors update

by Donald Robertson Contributions Published on Nov 28, 2011 05:16 PM
As part of our mission to protect and promote free software, the FSF has for many years taken copyright assignments on many GNU packages. Thousands have contributed to FSF-assigned packages like the GNU Compiler Collection (GCC) and GNU Emacs, but the assignment process has always created a slight barrier for new contributors. That is why we were so happy in October when we announced two major changes to how we handle copyright assignments at the FSF.

Our lawyers at the Software Freedom Law Center have given us the go-ahead to begin accepting scanned copies of assignments from contributors located in the United States. We are in the process of researching if we can accept scanned documents from contributors based in other countries. As we hear back from lawyers from around the world, we will be updating our list of countries where scanned documents can be accepted.

But even for contributors in countries where scanned assignments cannot be accepted, we have implemented a change that significantly speeds up the assignment process. Instead of mailing forms via the postal service to each contributor, we now simply email a PDF of the assignment that the contributor can print themselves. Previously, we would only accept forms that were printed on our letterhead, in order to ensure that the form was not changed. As the number of contributors from around the world grows, relying on the postal service is increasingly inefficient. Hence, we decided to start sending forms electronically, reducing transit times and ensuring more consistent delivery.

Accepting scanned documents will greatly cut down delays in the assignment process, and using electronic forms wherever possible will help avoid the vagaries of the international postal system.

Together, these changes will make it easier than ever to contribute, and hopefully encourage more hackers to help the GNU Project.

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