Open Source Geospatial Foundation FAQ
The following are the frequently asked questions for the the OSGeo Foundation. If you have a question not answered here, send a message with your question to firstname.lastname@example.org
Structure and Governance
- What is the Open Source Geospatial Foundation?
- The foundation, or "OSGeo" for short, is an independent nonprofit legal entity established to support the needs of the open source geospatial community. The foundation will serve as an organizing body, a public technology commons, a development community manager, and event sponsor. Once fully established, the foundation will provide a legal and administrative framework to better support the ongoing development and promotion of open source geospatial data and technologies.
- What is the legal form of the foundation?
- The foundation is a membership-based corporation incorporated under the laws of the State of Delaware, USA. The foundation was expressly incorporated as a not-for-profit corporation, and intends to apply for tax exempt status under Section 501(c)(3) of the United States Internal Revenue Code so that financial contributions will be tax deductible in the United States.
- Who owns/controls the foundation?
- The foundation is a nonprofit entity and has no shareholders. Thus, nobody "owns" the foundation. However, the foundation does have charter members who, like the shareholders in a for-profit company, elect the foundation's board of directors. The board of directors, acting together, manages the affairs of the foundation.
- Who are the members?
- The membership is composed from users, supporters, promoters, and developers of open source geospatial software. Becoming a member is as easy as joining the site and contributing to the foundation goals. Beyond members, there are currently 45 charter members.
- Can I become a charter member?
- Beyond selecting the initial charter membership of 45 members, details of the membership process have not been determined. However, all members of the open source geospatial community are encouraged to participate in foundation mailing lists, committees, and projects. Charter membership is not required for most forms of participation.
- Can a regular member have any influence?
- Yes! First, a regular member can do everything a charter member can do, except vote in board elections. They can be members of committees and vote on them. They can speak up, and contribute in every other way. The foundation aims to be a do-acracy, and so the way to have influence is to do things! Ultimately, of course, the foundation will only succeed in its mission if the entire community gets involved -- so please don't hesitate! We need your help!
- Who are the board of directors?
- The Board of Directors were voted in an initial round by the initial foundation membership and then by the elected foundation members.
- Is the foundation controlled by Autodesk?
- No. Autodesk has provided generous support (legal, organizational and financial) to help establish the foundation, but only two charter members (including one board member) are from Autodesk. MapGuide Open Source, initially contributed to the foundation by Autodesk, is only one of eight initial foundation projects.
- What are the detailed rules of governance of the foundation?
- The foundation's governance model is still being developed, but it is expected that the foundation will emulate certain features of the governance models employed by other successful open source projects such as Apache. Individual foundation projects are expected to be governed by their own Project Steering Committees (PSCs), which will be appointed by the foundation's Board of Directors.
- What is the relationship between OSGeo and OGC?
- There is no relationship between OSGeo and OGC. OGC is a organization for creating GIS standards, while OSGeo is an organization for promoting open source GIS work. That said, a number of parties/individuals in OSGeo work with OGC standards, and vice versa. It is also an explicit goal of OSGeo to support and promote standards, including OGC standards.
- What is Open Source Software?
- Open source software is software where the source code is made available under a license that allows the modification, and re-distribution of the software at will. The precise definition of open source software used by the foundation is the OSI's Open Source Definition, and a variety of additional information can be found at the Open Source Initiative web site.
- Is the foundation against commercial software?
- No. Open source software is commercial software. Much open source geospatial software is used in commercial projects by for-profit companies offering a variety of services. Free and open source software is quite compatible with commerce. Perhaps you were thinking of proprietary software?
- Is the foundation against proprietary software?
- Proprietary software is not open source. The foundation respects the important role that proprietary software plays in our industry, and is not trying to get rid of it, or the companies that produce it. However, the foundation takes the position that free and open source software can and should play an important role in the geospatial industry. Furthermore, having quality open source alternatives to proprietary software can be good for the end user, the industry, and even the proprietary software vendors. In fact, most proprietary geospatial software is built on open source software to some extent.
- Does OSGeo support "Open Source Software" or "Free Software"?
- Sometimes a distinction is made between "Open Source Software" and "Free Software". "Open Source" is thought to emphasize the technical benefits of developing software with the source available for use with a set of guarantees. "Free Software" emphasizes the importance of the freedom to use, modify, and redistribute the software, and the societal benefits of those same guarantees. The foundation uses the name "Open Source" in its title and in some of its communications for clarity and simplicity's sake, but it considers both the social and technical aspects of Free and Open Source software important.
Projects Joining the Foundation
- What software projects are currently part of the foundation?
- On its formation, the GDAL/OGR, GeoTools, GRASS, Mapbender, MapBuilder, MapGuide Open Source, MapServer and OSSIM projects declared their support, and joined as projects in incubation. Since then Mapbender and MapBuilder have graduated as full projects, and OpenLayers and GeoNetwork have entered incubation.
- What does a project need to do to join?
- Projects need to go through the Incubation process to join the foundation. Details on how to apply, and how the process works are available on the Incubator web page.
- So when can my project join?
- The Incubator is now accepting applications to join the foundation. Only a limited number of projects can be effectively handled in the incubation process at a time, so please be patient.
- Do foundation projects need to sign over copyright to the foundation?
- No. Copyright to individual contributions in foundation projects is expected to remain with the original developer. However, assigning copyright to the foundation is an available option.
- Do project developers need to sign a legal agreement?
- No. Generally speaking this is not required, but some specific projects may require developers or their employers to sign a contributor agreement.
- Do foundation projects need to turn over project control to the foundation?
- No. The foundation is not interested in controlling foundation projects. However, foundation projects are expected to follow some foundation rules, mostly around the need to ensure that project code is not legally encumbered (e.g., not stolen, or improperly contributed), and that appropriate controls are in place to ensure code is properly contributed. Some additional expectations may exist around projects operating in an open and accountable fashion, handling foundation-provided funding appropriately and not taking actions that will cause legal problems or negative goodwill for the foundation. The foundation also encourages, but does not require, projects to support foundation goals, such as implementing standards-based interoperability.
- Can my project operate as a benevolent dictatorship?
- Detailed requirements for project administration have not yet been worked out, but it is anticipated that rules somewhat related to those for Apache will be followed. Projects should have a Project Steering Committee responsible for technical decisions and these committees should operate openly and with a consensus based approach. A benevolent dictatorship is not likely to be considered suitably open and consensus based.
- Do I have to use mandated source control / web system / bug system / mailing list from the foundation?
- No. Projects joining the foundation can continue to use their traditional source control system, web site system, bug tracker and mailing list software. However, the foundation does offer these infrastructural components, and encourages their use to provide a more consistent way for users and developers to interact with the different foundation projects.
- Does the foundation mandate a particular license for software?
- The foundation only accepts projects that use OSI-certified licenses for their software, and requires that projects stick to OSI-certified licenses. This includes common licenses such as MIT/X, BSD, GPL, and LGPL. The foundation encourages library projects to use the LGPL or a more permissive license (such as MIT/X or BSD) rather than the GPL so that the libraries can be reused by non-GPL projects, but does not require it. The foundation also discourages a proliferation of new and incompatible licenses.
- Does the foundation mandate a particular license for content other than software, such as geodata, educational materials, documentation, etc.?
- The foundation accepts non-software projects that use Creative Commons or similar licenses for their public geodata, educational material, or promotional material. The foundation also discourages a proliferation of new and incompatible licenses.
- What can I do to get involved?
- Visit the OSGeo web site. Join the main foundation discuss list. Check out the Volunteers Needed wiki. You don't need to be a programmer.
- How can I contribute code?
- The governance model currently being formulated will define the legal and related issues concerning how code will be accepted into foundation software projects. Individual Project Steering Committees will determine the criteria for accepting contributions within this broader legal framework. In the meantime, you are encouraged to participate on the mailing lists for the foundation projects.
- Does the foundation need money?
- The foundation is soliciting organizational sponsorships now. Once some organizational and financial details are worked out it will also be possible for individuals to make tax deductible (if in the USA) donations. However, contributions of time for commmittee work, development, documentation, testing, user support, and advocacy are the preferred form of contribution from individuals. Some countries have tax exempt organisations with similar goals to OSGeo that may be candidates for donations or that are willing to receive donations for OSGeo.