Frequently Asked Questions

We have assembled a set of FAQs to provide an overview of OpenNTF . We would be happy to hear from you if you have additional questions – both to provide you with the answers if we can, and to flesh out our FAQs. Please send any questions to IP-Manager at openntf dot org.

General Questions

Q: What is OpenNTF?

A: OpenNTF is a development community devoted to getting groups of individuals all over the world to collaborate on open source applications. OpenNTF also provides a framework for the community so that the open source applications may be freely distributed, using widely accepted licensing terms. The goal of OpenNTF is to increase the quality and quantity of templates, applications and samples that are shared by the community.

OpenNTF provides source code building blocks, templates and running examples that facilitate rapid application development - particularly, but not exclusively for the Notes and Domino platform. By making code assets on the OpenNTF website available under the Apache License V2 and the GPL 3 licenses, individuals are able to create derivative works with worldwide re-distribution rights that are royalty free.


Q: What is OpenNTF’s Vision?
A: The Mission of OpenNTF, Inc. is to support the open source projects hosted at openntf.org. OpenNTF provides the framework for the community to develop open source applications which may be freely distributed. OpenNTF is formed exclusively as a non-profit trade association, as set out in section 501(c)(6) of the Internal Revenue Code (the “Code”).

OpenNTF is devoted to:

  • Enabling groups of individuals all over the world to collaborate on applications and release them as open source;
  • Providing a framework for the community so that open source applications may be freely distributed, using widely accepted licensing terms;
  • Increasing the quality and quantity of templates, applications and samples that are shared by the community.

Q: How are you organized?
A: OpenNTF Inc is an incorporated nonprofit that groups together software vendors, consultants and others with an interest in collaborating on software applications. The relationship among the members is defined in a Members Agreement executed by each of the Members. OpenNTF is governed by a Board of Directors. A technical committee owns the technical infrastructure and other technical aspects of OpenNTF. More committees may be created as needed.
Q: What is the history of OpenNTF?
A: OpenNTF was launched in 2002 by people from the Lotus Notes/Domino community. In May 2009, it was reorganized as an un-incorporated Alliance - with a Steering Committee representing 9 companies. In 2011, the Steering Committee decided to reorganize OpenNTF as a nonprofit corporation, which was established on July 21. A Board of Directors for the new corporation will be elected in October 2011 to replace the Alliance Steering Committee.
Q: What kinds of organizations have joined OpenNTF ?
A: Any company can join the OpenNTF.. The inaugural steering committee members were chosen from the founding Alliance Members, A complete list of the current members can be found here.

Q: Can you describe the Board of Directors in more detail?
A: The Board of Directors is responsible for the strategy of OpenNTF and its finances. Nine corporate Directors are elected by all members (ie corporations) for two year terms. Three additional Directors are elected by the OpenNTF Contributors. No family of companies may have more than one corporate Director. Every year approximately half the corporate Directors and all the Contributor Directors are elected. The chair is elected by the members of this committee.

Membership Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How much does it cost to become a member of OpenNTF ?
A: There is no fee for joining OpenNTF . However, all prospective members are expected to indicate their willingness to make a contribution to the efforts of the organization. These contributions could be assets, existing software or other IP, participation in software development, or other services. Our goal here is to be inclusive – and keep barriers to membership low.

Q: What if, for some reason, we can’t make good on our promised contribution?
A: We do not require a legal commitment that binds you to making the contributions.

Q: What are the benefits of membership?
A: Organizations who are members of OpenNTF are eligible for to be represented on the Board, elect the members of the Board, listed on the OpenNTF site, and may contribute to the direction and policies of the organization. Members’ name and logos are also displayed on the OpenNTF Membership Page.

Q: How do I actually become a member?
A: It is quite simple.
  • Simply execute the Members Agreement and send the executed copy IP-Manager at openntf dot org or fax to +1 845-491-7347.
  • We will process your application. If there are any questions, we will get back to you. All membership applications are voted for approval by the Steering Committee at the next scheduled meeting. Meetings take place once or twice a month, so the approval process may take as much as a month.
Q: Do I need to be a member to download the software?
A: No. Anyone who agrees to the OpenNTF website Terms of Use may download any software. The software on OpenNTF.org is organized into Projects and the Catalogs. The projects sections contains all of the software and also acts as the working location. Software that has gone thru a review process and approved by a Committer appears in the Catalogs. There is a catalog for each license type; Apache License Version 2.0 and GNU GPL.

Q: Does software made available by OpenNTF contain cryptography?
A: In some cases software made available by the OpenNTF may contain cryptography. Where such is in the Catalog, has been classified as Export Commodity Control Number (ECCN) 5D002 by the U.S. Government Department of Commerce, Bureau of Export Administration and deemed eligible for export from the United States of America under License Exception Technology Software Unrestricted (TSU) for both object code and source code.

The Abouts for modules with cryptography contain information about the specific algorithms, key sizes, and other important information that may be required to obtain additional export control classifications and approvals.


Submitting Code to Projects

Q: How can I submit code?
A: First register on the OpenNTF.org website as a user.
Second, you need to become a Contributor. To do this you can either:
  • Print out and execute the Individual Contributor License Agreement (“ICLA”), and send us a copy (send a scan to IP-Manager at OpenNTF dot org or fax it to +1 845-491-7347)
  • Or, have your employer print out and execute a Corporate Contributor License Agreement (“CCLA”) and send us a copy. The corporate version of this agreement can cover several employees at once.
Third, create a new project or contact an existing project owner to add code to their project.

Q: What License can I use?
A: We require that all Projects be licensed under Apache 2.0 or one of the GPL3 family of licenses (see IP/Licensing below).

Q: Are there other rules that I need to follow?
A: The details are in the IP Policy – but briefly you should include a copy of the license you have chosen in the root directory of the zip, and also put a Notice file that mentions contains your copyright, and lists any 3rd party code that you may have included along with information on the license for that code. If you have included 3rd party code – the licenses for that code should also be in the root directory.

Q: This last part sounds complicated. Can I get advice on how to handle this?
A: Sure – contact IP-Manager at OpenNTF dot org

Project Management

Q: OK – I have started a Project. Can I give write permissions to others?
A: Sure – You can give write permissions to those who, like you, have covered by an ICLA or CCLA.

Q: I am moving to a new job – and someone else has volunteered to continue on as Project Lead. How do I transfer the Project Lead Permissions to that person?
A: Send a note to the IP-Manager, copying the proposed Project Lead, stating that you would like to transfer the Project Lead permissions – and let us know why you need to do it. The new Project Lead must be covered by an ICLA or CCLA.

Q: I would like to remove permissions from a member of our team – as there have been some issues. How do I do that?
A: These cases are always difficult. Send information on the problem to the IP-Manager who will work with the Steering Committee to resolve the problem. Note that the write permissions for OpenNTF projects are allocated by the Steering Committee and may be revoked at the Steering Committee’s discretion.

Q: Can I remove my Project and/or Release?
A: This is a tricky issue – as at OpenNTF we want to ensure long-term availability of OpenSource code. You can send a note to the IP Manager requesting removal of the code, however, the decision whether to carry out the request will be made by the Steering Committee. Factors influencing the decision will be whether the code is available in another project, or whether there is a legal issue with the code.

Q: I have started a Project – but it tells me that my release is an Incubator Release that others can’t see. What gives?
A: We have a set of conditions that you need to fulfill before others can see your Releases. First, all the Contributors must be covered by ICLAs or CCLAs. Also, you need to ensure that you include the appropriate software license and Notice files as described in Contribution Process. The Release page will allow you to check off these tasks when you have done them – giving you a % Complete rating. Once you reach 75% Complete, your release will be made Visible to the world.

Releasing Code to Catalogs

Q: What are the Catalogs?
A: The Catalogs contain code from the Projects that have been through OpenNTF’s release process.

Q: Why do you have a release process – and what is it?
A: Open Source organizations (and indeed any proprietary software company) often have a mechanism whereby certain checks are done before code is “released”. This includes making sure that third party code is handled according to the licenses under which it was received, that the licensing info is packaged properly and that we are following appropriate export control laws. The actual steps that we take are described in the OpenNTF Contribution Document. Note that although we do follow a certain process, the code is still being provided without warranty of any kind, and is subject to the disclaimers in the Terms of Use and the licenses associated with the code.

Q: What is a Committer – what do they do?
A: Committers are the only Contributors allowed to write into the Catalogs. They are people who are quite involved with OpenNTF – and have the trust and respect of the community.

Q: How do I become a Committer?
A: Committers are normally elected by a vote of the existing Committers (although the Steering Committee may appoint them as well.) So, to become a Committer, simply send a request to the IP Manager – who will then arrange an electronic vote of the existing Committer community.

Q: How do I get my code released?
A: The Project Lead should send a request to IP-Manager at openntf dot org requesting that the project be put through the Release process. OpenNTF will then assign a Committer to help with the release. There are more details on this in the OpenNTF Contribution Process.

Q: How can I get more information?
A: Read through the OpenNTF Contribution Process document. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact the IP-Manager at openntf dot org.

Q: What do I do if my code contains cryptography?
A: Let the IP Manager know - so that we can get your code classified. Open Source encryption code is normally deemed eligible for export from the United States of America under License Exception Technology Software Unrestricted (TSU) for both object code and source code - and we can arrange for that exception.

Make sure to include About files for code with cryptography that contain information about the specific algorithms, and key sizes.


IP / Licensing

Q: Why have we changed the IP Policy, wasn’t it OK the way it was?
A: OpenNTF takes IP issues seriously. Our goal is that software posted at OpenNTF is free of IP issues. OpenNTF’s previous policy was to accept contributions made under any license whatsoever, including contributions with no specified license. So, this meant that anyone using the code would have to have the license and code analyzed to ensure that he or she was getting the required rights to use the code. And code without licenses meant, from a legal point of view, that the downloader had no clear right to use the code at all.
So, what we are trying to do is to simplify the licensing under OpenNTF – and limit ourselves to the following commonly-used OSI-approved open source licenses:
Q: Why do I have to sign the Individual Contributor License Agreement (“ICLA”) or have my employer complete a Corporate Contribution License Agreement (“CCLA”)? We didn’t have to do this before.
A: We want to be sure that everyone contributing to OpenNTF provides us the rights that we need to make the software available – and we need to ensure that the contributors do indeed have the rights to provide the code to us. The ICLA and CCLA serve to remind everyone that software copyright and intellectual properties issues are important and must be take seriously.

This form is a standard open source approach – the agreement itself is a modified version of the one that the Apache Foundation uses.

Q: What is the difference between an ICLA and a CCLA?
A: ICLA’s can be signed by individuals – to indicate that they have the IP rights to provide their submission to OpenNTF. When employees are making contributions to OpenNTF on behalf of their employer, the employer can sign the CCLA and cover all the contributing employees. This means that those employees do not have to sign an ICLA.

Q: The Apache Foundation has one license – the Eclipse folks have one license – why doesn’t OpenNTF stick to a single license for licensing our code?
A: There are two reasons for this. First, some submissions include pre-existing components that are under one license or another, which prevent those submissions from being licensed under a non-compatible license. So, if we had only permitted Apache, for example, we would have excluded any submission that included GPL-licensed software. Second, there were segments of the OpenNTF community that specifically favored Apache and other segments that favored the GPL family.

Q: Why were these licenses chosen?
A: These licenses are all well known, OSI approved, and widely accepted. Apache tends to be preferred by the corporate community, while GPL has followers in the Open Source community. GPL has certain provisions that impedes the use of GPL-licensed code in proprietary software products.

Q: What are the main differences between Apache and GPL?
A: Briefly, Apache is a “permissive” Open Source license that permits licensees to use the code in their own products, including proprietary products. GPL, on the other hand, is a “copyleft” Open Source license that imposes certain requirements to license any “work based on the [GPL-licensed] Program to also be made available under GPL”. You can find more information on this issue here.

Q: What about other licenses?
A: OpenNTF is willing to entertain requests from those who wish to post software under another license. But there needs to be a good reason, such as:
  • There is a component that came with a specific license, and you don’t have the rights to change it:
  • For some reason, you may only license the software under a specific license.
In these situations, please email IP-Manager at openntf dot org to request advice.

Q: My submission includes a component that I got from Eclipse.org, under the EPL. What do I do?
A: EPL-licensed source must always be licensed under the EPL. So, we would recommend that you license your submission under the Apache License Version 2.0, but that the EPL-licensed component remain under the EPL. To do this, you must include a copy of the EPL in your zip file, and a note in your Notice file that mentions the name of the EPL-licensed component and the fact that it is under the EPL.

Q: My submission includes a component that has a BSD License.
A: The BSD license is compatible under the Apache license by following these rules:
  • License your submission under Apache License Version 2
  • Include the license text for both the Apache and BSD licenses in your zip file
  • Include a reference to the BSD-licensed component in the Notice file, indicating that it is licensed under BSD.
  • If you wish to include BSD-licensed software in a GPL-licensed project, the process is a little different. From Section 7 of the GPLv3 you will see that the conditions of BSD-licensed code can be included. So the rules are:
  • License your submission under GPL
  • Make sure that the BSD – licensed code retains the copy of the BSD within the code. (If it isn’t there, either insert it with the code, or in the root directory of the zip file)
  • Include a reference to the BSD-licensed component in the Notice file, indicating that it is licensed under BSD. (This is not required by GPL – but makes life easier for those who need to understand the full licensing implications of the code).
Q: How do I handle code from blogs, forums and wikis?
A: The problem with blogs, forums and wikis is that often there is no clear indication of any license. So, many attorneys would take this to mean that the reader has no right to use the code at all. If there is a license, then you need to check if it is compatible with the license for your project. (Some of the Creative Commons licenses are not compatible. Feel free to discuss this with the IP Manager.) If there is no license, then one approach is to email the author, indicating that you are planning on using his blog/forum/wiki as a base for a portion of your open source project, and if he or she is OK with that. Hopefully you will receive an affirmative reply – which you should keep. You can then indicate in your Notice file your use of the blog/foru/wiki “with permission of the author”.

Q: Where can I get more information on the Apache License, including the list of all the licenses that are compatible with Apache.
A: Apache has a very good website on this topic.

Q: I have a problem. My software includes a GPLv2 licensed component from an open source process which had too many contributors to get all the permission's required to move it to GPLv3. And, since GPLv2 code cannot be released in a GPLv3 project (see http://www.fsf.org/licensing/licenses/gpl-faq.html#AllCompatibility) what do I do?
A: We do not want to let these licensing issues get in the way of releasing good code. Please get in touch with the IP-Manager-GPL at openntf dot org – so that we can work out what to do.

IP Complaints

Editorial: As mentioned earlier, OpenNTF takes IP issues seriously – and will work closely with the holders of IP rights to ensure that their rights are respected

Q: I believe that one of the Projects in infringing on my IP. What can I do?
A:. If you simply want to discuss the issue with us, feel free to send an email to IP-Manager at openntf dot org. However, if you are quite sure that there is an infringement, then you need to follow the process that has been established by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act in the US. That process is described here. Basically you send an official notice to us. We will then disable access to the material. However, we will permit the person who posted the original material to “file a counter notification”. If a counter notification is filed, then the material will be replaced unless a court action is filed to prevent it. There are time limits involved here – so best to ready the Notification Process carefully. Again – this is the process that we have to follow to comply with the DMCA.

Q: I believe that one of the Projects in infringing on a Patent – do I follow the same process?
A: Basically. The process described here covers both suspected copyright and patent infringement.

Migrating Heritage Projects to the OpenNTF Catalog

This set of FAQs has been written to help OpenNTF Contributors update their contributions so that they can be included in the OpenNTF Catalog. We encourage you to first read the IP Policy FAQ’s – which explain some of the underlying issues about OpenNTF’s approach to IP and open source licensing.

Q: Why should I migrate my project to the Catalog?
A: The OpenNTF Catalog has a clear and consistent IP Policy – which we expect will make OpenNTF submissions more appealing to users, and certainly more acceptable to their employers’ IP attorneys.

Q: What happens if I don’t migrate my code?
A: Nothing. However, we expect that over time, most of the interesting submissions will be released to the Catalog.

Q: How do I migrate my code?
A: In many cases, it is as easy as becoming a Contributor (i.e. executing an ICLA or CCLA), and ensuring that your code is licensed under one of the approved licenses (Apache, GPLv3, LGPLv3, AGPLv3), and sending a note to the IP Manager asking for your code to be reviewed.

Q: Sounds easy – but what is the catch?
A: You are right – there is a catch. For open source projects, people often use code from other open source projects. If your project is licensed under Apache, then any third party component you use must be under a license that is compatible with Apache. These other components must be listed in a Notice file (in the root directory), and their licenses should be placed in the root directory (or may be embedded in the code for GPL-licensed projects). If your project includes code from a blog, forum or wiki, please see here.

Q: I have been a Contributor to OpenNTF for some time. Do I still have to sign an Individual Contributor License Agreement before I can resubmit the code?
A: Yes – we need to ensure that we do have the necessary IP rights to all the code that is submitted to the Project and Catalog repositories.

Q: My earlier submission was made under the Academic Free License – which is no longer permitted. What should I do?
A: This depends on whether your code is 100% your own or not.

If the code was 100% your own, which means that you wrote every single line, and did not include anyone else’s contributions or code fixes, and did not include any other component (open source or not), then you can simply resubmit the submission under one of the OpenNTF-approved licenses.
  • Otherwise, you will require the written permission of each contributor to your submission to resubmit under one of the four recommended licenses.
  • Feel free to contact the IP Manager to discuss any question you might have.