Request for clarification on how a contribution to gcc can be made

Tobias Burnus
Mon Dec 13 17:57:00 GMT 2010

On 12/13/2010 07:27 PM, Thomas Klein wrote:
> It's not clear to me at which point the FSF is trusting an individual
> (or organization or company) and why it is mistrusting an individual per
> default.

My understanding is that the FSF wants to own the code completely,* 
which allows it to re-license the code, e.g. to use comments of GPL code 
for generated sections in FDL-licensed documents (or some application 
like that). In order to do so, the FSF needs a copyright transfer 
agreement of either an individual or of a entity/company for all its 
employees. If the patch is small and trivial enough to be not 
copyrightable, it can be included without copyright agreement. I think 
typically patches below 10 lines are regarded as obvious.

> Is there a way to suggest a code changes.

Fill a bugreport - in doubt (no licence agreement but nontrivial patch) 
do NOT attach a patch. (If you do, you / copyright law might make it 
more complicated to create a patch, which might be included.)

> What kind of paper work is required for small code changes and what for
> huge code changes.

Trivial _and_ small patch: None. Otherwise, the normal licence agreement.

> If a potential change is reviewed and accepted by a maintainer, who has
> to commit the change and when are they made.

Well, usually the reviewer does the commit after approval. (It helps to 
state that one does not have commit rights - otherwise, it is assumed 
that one has it.) If there has not been a review - or no committal after 
approval: Simply ping the patch. Usually, patch review is relatively 
quick - but sometimes one needs several pings.

Regarding the copyright assignment procedures: I also found it a bit 
complicated and inconvenient, but I can understand the FSF. In any case: 
The GCC follows this procedure and, thus, one currently needs to adhere 
to it. If one only needs a signature of oneself (no employer such as the 
university or research institution), the procedure can be relatively 
quickly: One sends in (by email) a small form, FSF sends then a form via 
mail ("snail mail") to you, which you sign and send back. Then you get 
the counter-signed form as PDF. In my case, the procedure took about 10 
days, which is relatively quick. In unlucky cases (slow FSF, slow mail, 
lost forms, form wandering upwards the hierarchy at your employer) it 
can take months.


* While the FSF wants to own the code completely, you keep also the 
rights on your code (except for allowing the FSF to also own the code) - 
which means you can still integrate it in, e.g., closed source software 
under whatever licence. In special cases, the FSF also accepts not to 
own the code - but those are special cases, which need to be explicitly 
discussed with the FSF.

More information about the Gcc mailing list