Developers from Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan & Syria can’t contribute to US based open source projects?

Unless they choose not to tell where they are from. To tackle the issue Fedora project has adopted the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy for contribution.

I am aware of situations where Open Source companies based out of US can’t offer free software to those countries which are in US’s embargo list, but something interesting popped out today when FESCo debated the issue whether Fedora should allow ‘contribution’ from such countries. Fedora’s sponsor Red Hat is a US based company and thus has to adhere to US laws so it’s tricky whether they can use the free software contribution from embargoed countries or not.

A ticket was created by lkundrak asking:

It has come to my attention that a sponsor suspecting contributor’s residence due to his nationality might exclude him from participating in the project. I’m wondering whether it’s encouraged, discouraged, mandatory or forbidden that sponsors try to determine contributor’s nationality and area of residence. If it’s not discouraged or forbidden, I’d like to be aware what reliable means of determining the location and nationality should we use. I’d like to find out a reliable way to find out whether a piece of third party open-source code can be included in Fedora, taking the country of origin restrictions into account.

lkundrak seek advice from FESCo to suggest “changes to contributor’s documentation so that next time we know in advance and make no mistakes.”

The issue was triggered when a developer from Sudan, named Mohammed Isam, wanted to get involved with Fedora development. Petr Šabata said that while he would love to sponsor Islam he would have to check with Fedora legal as Sudan is in the Sanctioned list. Mohammed Isam added that he doesn’t live or work from Sudan; he was based out of Quatar.

Today FESCo made a decision about it. The solution is – ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell.’ FESCo recommends that “Sponsors (or any other contributors) in Fedora should not make any effort to determine a contributor’s nationality, country of origin, or area of residence.”

But there can be cases where the nationality of the contributor is revealed then they have to ‘tell. “If a potential contributor independently (and explicitly) reveals their nationality, country of origin, or area of residence, and that nationality, country of origin, or area of residence is in one of the export restricted countries, then they are required to bring that information to the attention of Fedora Legal ”

In case of Mohammed Isam, Fedora Legal team cleared the he can contribute.

There are quite some open source projects based out of US, what will they do? We will talk to some projects and update the story.

About Swapnil Bhartiya

A free software fund-a-mental-ist and Charles Bukowski fan, Swapnil also writes fiction and tries to find cracks in the paper armours of proprietary companies. Swapnil has been covering Linux and Free Software/Open Source since 2005.

25 thoughts on “Developers from Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan & Syria can’t contribute to US based open source projects?

  1. Shows the value of a “Chinese Wall” of separation between for-profit firm and non-profit NGO, and a similar API wall between an operating system and a particular app. Of course, the more recent conversation shows self-serving FUD from a Legal Dept.

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