Programme Forking

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Title: Programme Forking
DRACC: 0008
Category: Regulatory
Scope: Global
Authors: Leenaars, M.A.G.J.; Šuklje, M.
Date: January 2017
Copyright: The Commons Conservancy

This document is part of the DRACC series, see DRACC "Introduction to DRACC Series" for an explanation. You can reuse it under a "Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International" license.

The Programmes within [The Commons Conservancy] each serve a diversity of users with different backgrounds and requirements, and these are likely to become more heterogeneous and divergent over time as usage spreads. Differences in opinion regarding the vision, focus and strategy within a Programme may occur, and in general are vital to allow for creativity, diversity, specialisation and may help maturing.

Rather than letting internal differences get in the way of actual development, with a strong dependency on the same resource essentially locking diverging interests into a single Programme, Programmes are encouraged to allow Shared Asset Forking. In the context of this document, the terms Shared Asset Forking and Shared Asset Fork will mean that a Programme is split into multiple Programmes, and each such descendant SHALL be entitled to independently use shared intangible assets -- such as copyright, trade marks, patents, databases, integrated circuit layout design and the like -- (or a subset of these) of the original Programme.

It bares noting that all Free/Open licenses allow creating modifications, composite/derivative works and similar re-uses of the assets -- including forking. Nothing in this document precludes anybody from forking the Programme based solely on the Programme's outbound license(s).

Shared Asset Forking is especially relevant in the case of software patents, since one or more of the descendants of a Programme may at a later stage Graduate (see DRACC "Graduation") into a separate legal entity while others remain inside [The Commons Conservancy]. There are a number of other situations where sharing assets through a Shared Asset Fork can be the most reasonable and practical solution, e.g. for resolving significant internal differences of opinion or "incompatibilité d'humeur".

For some types of assets (such as trade marks) the choices to be made during Shared Asset Forking may be more complex, but not impossible provided that there is a shared will to move forward. Unique to [The Commons Conservancy]'s Shared Asset Forking, and in contrast to normal license-based forking, is that the different descendants of a Programme can agree to continue to share assets after the Shared Asset Fork is effectuated -- essentially removing barriers for continued collaboration across Shared Asset Forks.

The actual procedure for deciding when and how to Shared Asset Fork is defined by each individual Programme itself in its statutes and regulations. A Programme MAY for instance delegate the Shared Asset Forking procedure to its governance body, or define a bottom up procedure (possibly involving trusted third parties acting as arbiter) to allow its community to initiate a Shared Asset Fork pending certain conditions, or even disallow Shared Asset Forking. There may also be provisions on how to deal with indivisible assets such as domain names, such as a shared landing page explaining the differences. [The Commons Conservancy] aims to have provisions in all its common procedures to allow for mutual ownership of assets across Shared Asset Forks. This document describes the process which MUST be followed in a Shared Asset Forking scenario (in this precise order):

  1. When a Programme wants to allow a Shared Asset Fork it SHALL initate the Public Consultation (see DRACC "Public Consultation").
  2. As soon as the Board of [The Commons Conservancy] receives the request for Public Consultation, a copy of any and all online or other archievable intangible assets from the original Programme SHALL be archived by [The Commons Conservancy] with the help of the original Programme to mark the starting state of the post-Shared Asset Fork Programmes. Where possible, software necessary to maintain said assets SHOULD be included.
  3. If the Public Consultation is favourable the Shared Asset Fork is formally effectuated.

For the purpose of contribution of assets to the new Programmes, existing agreements with contributors referencing only the original Programme SHALL be interpreted as extending to all Shared Asset Forks (given that these are all possible "futures" of the original Programme as referenced in those agreements, and in accordance with the statutes and regulations of that Programme) until these are replaced by new agreements with diferent conditions.