If I start an open source project today and volunteers start to contribute, what do I need to consider tomorrow when the project makes money? If we establish a core team that receives a salary, are we put into a position where we would have to either remove outside contributions or pay for them? Is it a common scenario for an open source project to have a core paid team while still accept outside contributions? For example:

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    How did you get the idea that you can't take unpaid contributions when you pay your core team?
    – Philipp
    Nov 16, 2016 at 2:47
  • I guess a better way to ask the question is what do I have to consider when choosing an open source license or anything else from a legal standpoint? Or are these apples and oranges? Nov 16, 2016 at 2:56
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    To me this question is too broad. The fact that there is a paid core team does change anything in terms of license or CLA. Many large open source projects have such paid core teams (Linux, Firefox, etc.) and they can have very diverse licenses. Most do have CLA but some do not.
    – Zimm i48
    Nov 16, 2016 at 8:32

1 Answer 1


Generally, it's a very good idea to have a contributor license agreement. Depending on your project license, the contributors might explicitly or implicitly be giving you a license to the code they contribute, but you want to be extra explicit there.

Some companies just use what is called a DCO, or Developer Certificate of Origin, like this one, to make sure that the contributor is really authorized to make the contribution: http://developercertificate.org/. But a CLA usually includes similar terms, so use the CLA.

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