Table of Contents

  1. Legal aspects

RFC 2: Legal aspects of code contributions

Author: Markus Neteler (based on

Contact: grass-psc AT

Status: Adopted (8 Dec 2006)

Legal aspects

GRASS developers have to keep the code base clear of improperly contributed code. It is important to the GRASS users, developers and the OSGeo foundation to avoid contributing any code to the project without it being clearly licensed under the project license or a compliant license. In this document, a "committer" is understood to be a developer with write access to the GRASS source code repository.

Generally speaking, the key issues are that those individuals providing code to be included in the GRASS repository understand that the code will be released under the GPL >=2 license, and that the person providing the code has the right to contribute the code. In order to verify this, the committer must have a clear understanding of the license themselves. When committing 3rd party contributions, the committer should verify the understanding unless the committer is very comfortable that the contributor understands the license (for instance frequent contributors).

If the contribution was developed on behalf of an employer (on work time, as part of a work project, etc) then it is important that an appropriate representative of the employer understand that the code will be contributed under the GPL license. The arrangement should be cleared with an authorized supervisor/manager, etc.

The code should be developed by the contributor, or the code should be from a source which can be rightfully contributed such as from the public domain, or from an open source project under a compatible license.

All unusual situations need to be discussed and/or documented.

Committers should adhere to the following guidelines, and may be personally legally liable for improperly contributing code to the source repository:

  • Make sure the contributor (and possibly employer) is aware of the contribution terms.
  • Code coming from a source other than the contributor (such as adapted from another project) should be clearly marked as to the original source, copyright holders, license terms and so forth. This information can be in the file headers, but should also be added to the project licensing file if not exactly matching normal project licensing (grass/COPYRIGHT.txt).
  • Existing copyright headers and license text should never be stripped from a file. If a copyright holder wishes to give up copyright they must do so in writing to the GRASS PSC before copyright messages are removed. If license terms are changed, it has to be by agreement (written in email is ok) of the copyright holders.
  • When substantial contributions are added to a file (such as substantial patches) the author/contributor should be added to the list of copyright holders for the file in the file header.
  • If there is uncertainty about whether a change is proper to contribute to the code base, please seek more information from the Project Steering Committee, other GRASS developers or the OSGeo foundation legal counsel.

Questions regarding GRASS GIS should be directed to the GRASS Development Team at the following address:


Postal address:

 GRASS Development Team
 c/o Dr Markus Neteler
 Fondazione E. Mach - Research and Innovation Centre
 GIS and Remote Sensing Unit
 38010 S. Michele all'Adige
 email: neteler AT
Last modified 3 years ago Last modified on Feb 16, 2015 2:53:32 AM