Establishing OSS policies in a proprietary software company

25 Jun 2014

My company produces proprietary software but consumes a lot of FOSS libraries and components. Until recently, our standard contracts were of the 'we own everything you do' type. Obviously that created some difficulties for someone like myself given that I'm active in the .NET OSS community. The irony being that if I signed it, I wouldn't be able to support the very OSS libraries I maintain and that the company uses.

We'd like to establish a corporate policy where developers can contribute back and, possibly, create new OSS. I believe this is strategically a good move for several reasons, including:

A) It supports the software that we've built our business on, and without which, we might not even exist B) It exposes our developers to more code and ways of working, thereby helping to improve their craft. C) It's an attractive policy to the type of developer that we are interested in attracting as we grow.

At the same time though, it is critically important for us to protect the proprietary aspect of our software.

Our legal department and I are not experienced in establishing such policy and procedures. I'd like to get in touch with someone from a company who has enacted something like this, so if you know anyone, I'd be very grateful if you could introduce me (dhickey@gmail.com, @randompunter).

I hope to publicly share what we come up with such that other companies can learn and implement similar policies.

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