OSGeo FAQ

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This was a development copy of the OSGeo FAQ and has been superceeded by the official version (http://www.osgeo.org/content/faq/foundation_faq.html).

Structure and Governance

What is the Open Source Geospatial Foundation?
The foundation, or "OSGeo" for short, is an independent nonprofit legal entity established to support the needs of the open source geospatial community. The foundation will serve as an organizing body, a public technology commons, a development community manager, and event sponsor. Once fully established, the foundation will provide a legal and administrative framework to better support the ongoing development and promotion of open source geospatial data and technologies.
What is the legal form of the foundation?
The foundation is a membership-based corporation incorporated under the laws of the State of Delaware, USA. The foundation was expressly incorporated as a not-for-profit corporation, and intends to apply for tax exempt status under Section 501(c)(3) of the United States Internal Revenue Code so that financial contributions will be tax deductible in the United States.
Who owns/controls the foundation?
The foundation is a non-profit entity and has no shareholders. Thus, nobody "owns" the foundation. However, the foundation does have voting members who, like the shareholders in a for-profit company, elect the foundation's board of directors. The board of directors, acting together, manages the affairs of the foundation.
Who are the members?
The membership is composed from users, supporters, promoters, and developers of open source geospatial software. Becoming a member is as easy as joining the site and contributing to the foundation goals. Beyond members, there are currently 45 voting members [add link to membership roster].
Can I become a voting member?
Beyond selecting the initial voting membership of 45 members, details of the membership process have not been determined. However, all members of the open source geospatial community are encouraged to participate in foundation mailing lists, committees, and projects. Voting membership is not required for most forms of participation.
Can an associate member have any influence?
Yes! First, a non-voting (i.e. associate) member can do everything a voting member can do, except vote in board elections. They can be members of committees and vote on them. They can speak up, and contribute in every other way. The foundation aims to be a do-acracy, and so the way to have influence is to do things! Ultimately, of course, the foundation will only succeed in its mission if the entire community gets involved -- so please don't hesitate! We need your help! In line with the do-acracy, those who contribute to the foundation goals will be recognized in the future with voting memberships.
Who are the board of directors?
The Board of Directors was elected in two separate passes. Five directors were nominated and elected during the Chicago meeting in February 2006. Four additional directors were nominated pursuant to the Proposed Board Election Procedure and elected on March 18th to form the full board of 9 directors. This board will be in charge for one year. After this period the first five seats on the board of directors will be up for nomination and election again. Until then the Proposed Board Election Procedure must be formalized, stabilized and approved.
Is the foundation controlled by Autodesk?
No. Autodesk has provided generous support (legal, organizational and financial) to help establish the foundation, but only three members (including one board member) are from Autodesk. MapGuide Open Source, initially contributed to the foundation by Autodesk, is only one of eight initial foundation projects.
What are the detailed rules of governance of the foundation?
The foundation's governance model is still being developed, but it is expected that the foundation will emulate certain features of the governance models employed by other successful open source projects such as Apache. Individual foundation projects are expected to be governed by their own Project Steering Committees (PSCs), which will be appointed by the foundation's Board of Directors.

Open Source

What is Open Source Software?
Open source software is software where the source code is made available under a license that allows the modification, amd re-distribution of the software at will. The precise definition of open source software used by the foundation is the OSI's Open Source Definition, and a variety of additional information can be found at the Open Source Initiative web site.
Is the foundation against commercial software?
No. Open source software is commercial software. Much open source geospatial software is used in commercial projects by for-profit companies offering a variety of services. Free and open source software is quite compatible with commerce. Perhaps you were thinking of proprietary software?
Is the foundation against proprietary software?
No, the foundation promotes and supports open source software, it is not against anything. In fact, open source geospatial software is often used inside proprietary software.
Does OSGeo support "Open Source Software" or "Free Software"?
Sometimes a distinction is made between "Open Source Software" and "Free Software". "Open Source" is thought to emphasize the technical benefits of developing software with the source available for use with a set of guarantees. "Free Software" emphasizes the importance of the freedom to use, modify, and redistribute the software, and the societal benefits of those same guarantees. The foundation uses the name "Open Source" in its title and in some of its communications for clarity and simplicity's sake, but it considers both the social and technical aspects of Free and Open Source software important.

Projects Joining the Foundation

Please see The official [FAQ] (web) and the Incubation_FAQ (wiki).

Participation

What can I do to get involved?
Visit the OSGeo web site. Join the main foundation discuss list. Check out the Volunteers Needed. You don't need to be a programmer.
How can I contribute code?
The governance model currently being formulated will define the legal and related issues concerning how code will be accepted into foundation software projects. Individual Project Steering Committees will determine the criteria for accepting contributions within this broader legal framework. In the meantime, you are encouraged to participate on the mailing lists for the foundation projects.
Does the foundation need money?
The foundation will be soliciting organizational sponsorships in the coming months. Once some organizational and financial details are worked out it will also be possible for individuals to make tax deductable (if in the USA) donations. However, contributions of time for commmittee work, development, documentation, testing, user support, and advocacy are the preferred form of contribution from individuals. Some countries have tax exempt organisations with similar goals to OSGeo that may be candidates for donations or that are willing to receive donations for OSGeo.