The Audacity: Audio tool finds new and exciting ways to annoy contributors with a Contributor License Agreement

Is that a tuning Fork we hear?


The saga of the Audacity takeover continued this week with the announcement of a Contributor License Agreement (CLA) by the project's new owners.

Contributors to Audacity will be expected to sign the agreement in order to give code to the project. "The purpose of the CLA," stated the explanation, "is to provide future flexibility in altering (ie, uplicensing, dual licensing) for the entire Audacity project, not just the parts of the code that we have written ourselves."

The audio tool is currently licensed under GPLv2 and plans are afoot to update the licence to GPLv3. However, in defence of the CLA, Audacity cited platforms such as Apple's App Store that have "policies or technical processes that make it difficult or impossible for Audacity to exist on them while it is licensed solely under the GPL (v2 or v3)."

Hmm. It is certainly possible to get code into the App Store without going all-in with a CLA – products such as the open source Nextcloud seem to have found ways to deal with Apple's needs.

Paid-for services, but Audacity itself still free

While insisting that Audacity would remain free and open source, the company noted that separate paid-for cloud services would probably be turning up in the future. It was, however, at pains to point out that a paid version of the product itself was not on the cards, nor were locked features that would require the wielding of a payment medium.

While the concept of a CLA is not alien to the open-source community, it is new to Audacity. Failure to grant MUSECY SM LTD (Audacity's new owner) "the ability to use the Contributions in any way" will result in those contributions being pulled from the platform.

Suffice to say, this has not gone down well with all contributors. Some described the Apple-related excuse as "BS" while others commented: "What you are doing is basically the antithesis of what Open Source stands for, and what allowed Audacity to be the open source success that it is."

Unlike the company's botched telemetry announcement, the CLA has "only" attracted just under 300 thumbs-down clicks and it has been left to Audacity's new owner, Martin Keary (aka tantacrul) to gather feedback. "The CLA was always going to be an issue many contributors would find unpopular," he said.

The Register asked Keary for his take on the reaction to the CLA, but he told us he had nothing to add. ®

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