Building an open source Uniface community and some of the legal stuff you need to think about

Starting an open source software community is quite a time consuming job. I admit, I may have slightly underestimated it. One of those thing I never calculated was the legal part of a community. One of them is the intellectual ownership…

We all know the importance of open source software and their communities. Can you image how the internet would look like without the products of Apache and OpenSSL? Perhaps you are unaware of them. Almost half of all websites around the world are served by Apache software. And secured websites use the technology of the OpenSSL community.

Like Apache and OpenSSL, we are building open source products too. If you want, you can participate in them. This mean open source products are the result of the work and thoughts of several developers. This gives us 3 problems

1. intellectual ownership

In most countries in the world the employer of the developer has the intellectual ownership of his/her ideas and work. Unless the developer is self-employed, in that case the developer is the owner.

Using an open source product without the explicit permission of all developers of that particular product is a crime. But asking this permission is impossible. The user doesn’t have this information. I believe no one has this information. Hence, developers could have worked together on a single piece of coding, who is the owner in that case? Let’s hope the community.

2. agreement between community and user

On the other side, the community delivers a product to the ‘world’. An open source license is more or less an agreement between community and user. Since the contributors of the community are the owner, is the community, as an organisation, entitled to deliver? No

3. contributor (in)dependency

What if a contributor of the community decides to quit? His/her intellectual work is or can be an essential part of the product(s). Without any arrangements this would be the end of the entire community. That’s not what we want.

Contributors License Agreement

This is why we have something that’s called a Contributors License Agreement (CLA). In this agreement the contributor and community agree that the contributor is the owner of his/her work, but that the community is entitled to use it without any fee or warrenty.

We want all contributors (and his/her employer) to sign this agreement. Only then we, as a community, can do our job: deliver all Uniface developers a set of tools to create state of art software solutions.


At this point we are still working on our own environment. You are free to follow our progress:

There is a rich Uniface community, Please visit that website for all questions about the product.

Want to learn more about Uniface? Please visit the Uniface website.