Today we published the Optaros Free and Open Source Software Policy. This policy defines our expectations on how Optaros employees work with the open source community at large. Think of this as our analog to the Debian social contract both with our employees and the free and open source software community at large. (I appreciate it doesn't go as far as the Debian social contract, however, as a consulting services company our customers may sometimes require us to do work in ways that we can't simply publish, and we need to keep a foot in both the free and the open source worlds.)
While it reads in slightly heavy-handed legal English, the intent is to present it in terms any enterprise developer or enterprise lawyer can understand. There is a huge amount of intellectual property FUD cycling around the industry since the SCO Group started its legal dispute with IBM. We wanted to reduce the discussion back to a very simple idea — as a business you have software assets for which you are responsible and what you choose to do with them for the best overall benefit to your stakeholders will depend upon the business you are in. We have a breadth of development experience and business experience in this space and wanted to give people a place to start having better discussions based on business pragmatism rather than fear.
We published the policy under a Creative Commons license. We want people to be able to create their own such policies in this space and re-use the parts of our policy that make sense to them without asking permission.
The one part of the policy that will be discussed a lot I'm sure is the section on our community commitment of time to community projects. First, we recognize that free and open source software forms the building blocks of the solutions Optaros develops for our clients. So we need to give back. Second, every consultant has "bench" time (a.k.a. "beach" time depending upon one's point of view) when they are not working for a client. From the business's point of view we would love to have everyone billable all the time, but it simply never works out that way. Likewise, we can't guarantee in advance that we know how much time a consultant can give back. So we have taken the approach that when an employee isn't working on a customer project, they will be working on free and open source software projects that interest them. Think of this as our Google 20% project. The comments on Chris's post (and Joe's) are right — it's about culture and we want to set the culture at Optaros early.
I appreciate this policy may not go far enough for some in the community, but I think it's a great start as open source software spreads itself deeper into the enterprise, and I look forward to comments and discussions.
Update (30-Jun-2005): Here are Dave Gynn's views on the policy. (He also works at Optaros.)
Update (1-Jul-2005): Groklaw has kindly posted our policy and some commentary here. There's an ongoing discussion at Groklaw.