Endocode's GPL Cooperation Commitment

Increasing stability and predictability in Open Source license compliance by providing a fair chance to correct mistakes

by Mirko Boehm | February 20, 2019

Endocode believes that Free and Open Source software benefits all of us. Open Source licenses provide the legal backbone for our intentions to share the created code so that everybody can use, study, modify and improve it. Copyleft licenses, in particular the GPL, model this relationship in a reciprocal manner by requiring all modified and extended versions of the code to be free as well. Some of our Quartermaster code is released under the GPL-3. We also believe that our users share this vision and comply with the terms of the license by default, and that deviations from this norm are probably honest mistakes. By entering into the GPL cooperation commitment, Endocode aims at giving a fair chance to correct violations before licenses are terminated.

Open Source licenses model how the community of developers and users should collaborate. This understanding evolves with time based on experience, growth of the ecosystem, Open Source adoption and many other factors. One realisation in the lead-up to GPL-3 was that the clause that the license terminates on noncompliance punished honest mistakes too harshly. This is why version 3 of the GPL includes a specification of a cure period for license noncompliance. If a party is notified of a compliance violation, it has a chance to fix the problem before the license terminates. However, only a fraction of the Open Source code out there is licensed under the GPL-3.

Many individual developers and businesses believe that this cure period should be applied to Open Source license relationships in general. Since it is difficult to change the world all at once, they entered into the GPL Cooperation Commitment by declaring that they will apply provisions similar to the GPL-3 cure period when acting against Open Source noncompliance cases.

Enforcing Open Source licenses is crucial since being compliant is an important hygiene factor in the ecosystem. Being noncompliant undermines the fabric of the upstream/downstream network and hurts collaboration. Endocode develops the Quartermaster toolchain that helps automate some license compliance tasks and offers training, consulting and other services to help communities and businesses understand, achieve and maintain license compliance.

Title image: FSFE, “100 freedoms”, CC0.