We release the ownCloud core and the desktop, iOS and Android clients under a dual license. Because of that we require a signed contributor agreement from developers who want to commit code to them. This only applies to these repositories, not the apps or other parts.
A contributor agreement? Does this mean that ownCloud is no longer free software?
No, the contributor agreement guarantees that every community contribution is always released as AGPL (or GPL in the case of the desktop and Android clients and GPLv3 in case of the iOS app). This is not different from the old situation.
The agreement allows the company to offer customers ownCloud under another license, in exchange for money. This thus helps pay the bills for ownCloud contributors.
Does this mean that everybody who wants to contribute to ownCloud has to sign this agreement?
No. We can accept your core contribution if you release your code under the MIT license. Of course we recommend that you sign the agreement because AGPL/GPL protects the freedom of your work better than MIT. But the choice is yours.
How difficult is it to sign the agreement?
Very easy. When you submit your pull request you will prompted to sign the CLA by clicking a button. We use cla-assistant.io for this.
Is there any risk for me when I sign this agreement?
We don't think so. You have to give us the right to use your software patents if you have any and if they apply to your patch. That’s all. Probably not a problem for you because software patents are bad and we all don't hold any patents anyway.
Why do you require a contributor agreement now?
We have set up a company to speed up ownCloud development and pay the bills of ownCloud developers. We thought a lot about the relationship between the company and community and about a solution that is best for both parties.
The company needs to have a business model so that it can sell software, support and services to big companies. Many customers are willing to pay for a non-AGPL version of ownCloud, some would not even use ownCloud without a proprietary license. Aside from the 'Enterprise Edition' under a closed license, we of course sell support and other services. The revenue is used to fund development of ownCloud, marketing, services, sponsoring and so on.
The community wants to be sure that all the contributions and all the hard work stays Free Software. That is guaranteed by the AGPL license.
And the community wants to make ownCloud better and more successful. That is where the company helps. ownCloud benefits enormously from the resources that the company invests into it, including coding, marketing and more. The company pays ownCloud coders to write features the customers need and works with the community to make ownCloud a better product. Because the company works in the open and as part of the community, and because the code is released under the AGPL, ownCloud itself continues to be free. Essentially, ownCloud GmbH customers pay for ownCloud contributors writing more AGPL code for ownCloud. So we think that we found a solution here which is good for all parties.