Conservancy Proposal

This motion for the membership involves the adoption of the Conservancy Proposal.


The Plone Foundation proposes a group ownership model for Plone's intellectual property.

Under this Conservancy Proposal, the Plone Foundation will become the common owner of Plone intellectual property. Committers will sign a contributor form based on the model of assignment of ownership, rather than licensing of contribution. This is part of a conservancy proposal designed for Plone by the Free Software Foundation and allows the Foundation to represent and protect Plone.


  • Community vote. This is just a proposal. The community, via the Plone Foundation membership, will approve this proposal or some other proposal.
  • Assignment and grant-back. Contributors assign the "ownership" (but not moral rights) to the contribution, making the Plone Foundation (PF) the owner. The contributor receives a "grant-back" license that gives rights, under the GPL, for many (but not all) rights the owner already had.
  • Designed by Eben Moglen. The Foundation, particularly Alan, have had discussions with the FSF about how to bootstrap a sustainable foundation. Eben Moglen, the general counsel for the FSF, designed this conservancy model to help make the Plone Foundation a showcase of achieving these goals within the free software context.
  • Past and future contributions. This proposal process will cover both transfer of existing code and future contributions. One step will involve the bulk transfer of existing code. The next step will cover ongoing contributors. Obviously we have to find everyone.

What this proposal isn't

  • Dual-licensing. Voting for this doesn't imply a vote for selling a non-GPL version of Plone to a corporation. Dual-licensing might or might not be a good move for the Plone community, but either way, it will be handled later.
  • Change away from GPL. Nothing about this vote implies a change in the license used for Plone. Plone will still be GPL unless some other proposal emerges and reaches consensus.


  • Designed by FSF and supported by Plone founders. This proposal is compatible with the spirit of free software and the spirit of Plone. As long as we follow Eben's lead, we have assurance that the FSF principles and the GPL provisions are ok.
  • Single responsible party to protect Plone. With group ownership, Plone can stand for itself in cases of trademark abuse, copyright policy statements, patent questions, etc.
  • Group rights. Philosophically, this proposal supports the rights of the group. If a contributor puts something into Plone then neglects the software or disappears, Plone can take action.
  • Clarify status quo. The status quo in Plone advertises that companies can approach Alan or Alex and buy their way out of the GPL. Most contributors either dispute this, don't realize this, or just ignore this. Clearly the status quo is murky.
  • Permit self-funding. Later, the PF membership can vote to generate Foundation income through royalties on a dual-licensing scheme. Eben's proposal focuses on a self-funding community trust setup.
  • Getting Alan and Alex out. If something goes wrong in the world of Plone's IP, who will get the registered letter? Alan and Alex? If so, is this fair? With this proposal, the community owns Plone and is responsible for Plone.
  • Possibility of tax write-off. Both Eben and Alan state that donations of code to Plone can be assessed a value and written off as a tax deduction.


  • Strong history of license vs. assignment. Other than the FSF, the assignment model for IP doesn't appear widespread. Python, Apache, Mozilla, and other big projects all follow the model where a contributor licenses their code to the project, but retains ownership.
  • Author rights and contributing to multiple projects. If a contributor wants to use their code in a commercial project, or with a non-GPL open source project, the assignment model throws a wrench in this. The PF can grant a license under different terms for the other project.
  • Perceived connection to dual licensing. It is true that this model was instigated by the opportunity to "sell" a non-GPL version of Plone. However, the PF has chosen to split the process for assessing the benefits and drawbacks for this self-funding approach. This first step in the process gets the IP into a known state with group ownership. If there are future steps, they will be discussed and rejected/adopted on their own merits.


  • Discussion period. The discussion period will last from Nov 10 to Nov 24 on the Plone Foundation membership list. The Plone Foundation will also have IRC appointments for open discussion on this proposal.
  • Voting. Voting by the Plone Foundation membership will take place from Nov 24-26. Rules for the voting will be announced later.
  • Contributor forms. If the PF membership approves the proposal, the PF will get a new contributor form published for review and approved by the PF legal counsel.
  • Signatures. The last week of November will start a campaign to track everyone down and get signed agreements.



  • Extended the discussion period and voting period.