GitHub's new ToS: Do we have a problem?


Just FYI: I came across a very interesting and disturbing article by Joey Hess (via LWN) on the new Terms of Service of GitHub. I really can’t say which impact that might have on our project, but if I understand it correctly, GitHub hosted projects are under an implicit BSD-like license right now if one accepts the new ToS. As RT is GPLv3 this is a problem.

Kind regards,

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Indeed very interesting. Here’s another discussion

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Reading the terms of service myself, it’s nowhere near as scary as that article makes it sound.


Reading through the Joey Hess article, there is this statement:

I contacted Github about this weeks ago, and received only an anodyne response. The Free Software Foundation was also talking with them about it. It seems that Github doesn’t care or has some reason to want to effectively neuter copyleft software licenses.

I did an internet search and could not find anything released by the FSF that addresses the new github TOS. There is this page, but it was written in April 2016: GNU releases ethical evaluations of code-hosting services — Free Software Foundation — Working together for free software

And there’s this: GNU Ethical Repository Criteria Evaluations - GNU Project - Free Software Foundation - again the review date was April 2016, at which time github received an F because github uses non-free javascript for parts of the github functionality.

I am not a lawyer and don’t have any clue what any of the verbiage in the new github TOS actually means.

Many websites that display content submitted by others have a TOS that addresses the ability to actually display such content, and all such TOS seem to me to require that the user assign to the website the right to do whatever they want. So I’ve always just hoped that an actual lawyer might state that my interpretation of such TOS verbiage is incorrect.

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I also just took a cursory look through section D, in particular one of the sections called out is D.7:

To the extent such an agreement is not enforceable by applicable law, you grant GitHub a nonexclusive, revocable, worldwide, royalty-free right to (1) use the Content without attribution strictly as necessary to render the Website and provide the Service; and (2) make reasonable adaptations of the Content as provided in this Section. We need these rights to allow basic functions like search to work.

Which seems to read as simply a means for operating the service in a way that won’t require an attribution everywhere a project gets mentioned (search results). It seems reasonable and not as egregious as the blog author might have you believe?*

* I feel this may be a non-issue at the moment, but I reserve the right to withhold judgment until such a time as I may be shown to be incorrect in this assumption. At such a time I will then re-evaluate the conditions of my thinking about this in a manner that befits the new information that may come to light and require my attention.


You’d hope github would make a statement, as free software is the reason why they were so successful.

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There’s an interesting followup by Joey here: what I would ask my lawyers about the new Github TOS

Hi all,
so, is there a recommendation regarding what to do with potential contributions to RawTherapee? Should I put everything on hold until this is sorted out? The situation seems “muddy” enough that someone might want to ask a lawyer… does RT as a project have links with some free software association that could provide advice? E.g. the FSF or the Software Freedom Conservancy?

I got no mail from github about the new ToS. Also they didn’t show me new ToS or asked me to agree to new ToS when I pushed or logged into the web interface. So, for me currently nothing changed.

I’m not sure they agree, unfortunately. From section P of their ToS:

We reserve the right, at our sole discretion, to amend these Terms of Service at any time and will update these Terms of Service in the event of any such amendments. We will notify our Users of material changes to this Agreement, such as price changes, at least 30 days prior to the change taking effect by posting a notice on our Website. For non-material modifications, your continued use of the Website constitutes agreement to our revisions of these Terms of Service.

Maybe they consider this “non-material”?

That would mean each time I use git push at command line I have to look for new ToS?

Edit: Found this somewhere in the web :wink:

So while we may modify this agreement at any time, we will notify users of any changes that affect your rights and give you time to adjust to them.