Wind of changes

Happy new year to everyone! We are considering a few important changes regarding Orfeo ToolBox. We believe these changes will have a very positive impact on our open source software, however we would like to ensure that you (the Orfeo ToolBox community!) are fine with them. We therefore set up a dedicated page on our wiki (also note the ongoing wiki cleanup), so as to gather your feedback. If you would like to make a comment or suggestions, please write it on the wiki page in the appropriate discussion section. Hereafter are the three major changes we envision.

Changing license to Apache v2.0

For quite some time now we have been considering a change of license for OTB, to adopt the Apache v2.0 licence. The rational for this change is as follows :

Copyleft is a very good protection for open-source software in general, since it ensures that it will remain open, but in our remote sensing world it can also lesser the dissemination of our software. Many time we heard of situations were OTB was considered by institutions or private companies for their projects and has been wiped off the table because they (or their clients or partners) wanted to distribute the resulting software under different terms. Sometimes, costly ad-hoc technical designs are used so as to include OTB in the project while distributing it under those required terms. We could argue that this is a matter of convincing everyone that copyleft is not harmful and that OTB is worth the price, but in the mean time OTB get less audience than deserved … From a practical point of view it could do no harm to simply change the license to a more permissive one. This might help to develop OTB usage and eventually get more people involved in contributions.

Setting up a proper Contributor License Agreement

Why ? Because we see and welcome more and more contributions from our users. Without any other agreement, those contributions are implicitly made with the same license (i.e. CeCILL v2) while copyright is retained by the contributor. With an increasing number of contributions, the project might become a ship impossible to stir, for instance in the event of a necessary change of license to an up-to-date one (yes licenses have bugs too !), we would require to ask the permission of every contributor (for now still possible … but it might turn impossible if one of them simply vanishes). What does the CLA state ? There are actually two options : asking for a copyright transfer, in which case the project owner will own all copyright and thus will be able to take future actions for it, or asking for the appropriate authorizations to take those actions while retaining copyright for the contributor. We prefer the second option, because there is no reason why anyone contributing should give away her copyright. What we would like to ask is for the right to relicense the whole software (including contributions) into an equivalent or more permissive license (this will guarantee that the code remains OSS), if the PSC of the projects decides to. A CLA of course requires paperwork and signature (and in case of corporate contributions, the company should sign it too), but again it is worth the price, as it will also convince potential users that the software is free of copyright infringements. Here are the individual and company CLA of ASF for instance. We would like to apply it to any significant contribution (i.e. not for typos or very small patches).

Setting up a Project Steering Committee

Until now, the project has been informally stirred by people at CNES (Manuel, me, and Jordi or Emmanuel before us). Of course, we are always discussing technical details and orientations with the dev team at CS as well as with the otb-developers list, but with the increasing interest and contributors, we think it is time to set-up an official steering committee, with publicly identified people, rules and decisions. We would like this steering committee to be open to any participant, and new members would be accepted by existing ones following those public rules.

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