EasyCLA is an Automated, Efficient, and Flexible Tool for Managing Contributor Agreements and Repository Access

By March 13, 2020Blog

By David McBride, Release Manager, Linux Foundation Networking

Last year, at the Open Networking Summit (ONS) North America, the Linux Foundation announced Community Bridge, “… a new platform created to empower open source developers..” Community Bridge is a suite of tools that enable individuals and organizations to engage with open source projects.

One of the tools in the Community Bridge suite is called “EasyCLA.” As you’re probably aware, a CLA, or Contributor Licensing Agreement, is standard practice for establishing licensing and distribution rights in open source projects.  EasyCLA is a tool for managing contributor agreements and software repository access simply and efficiently.

I recently had the opportunity to lead the effort to onboard the LFN project, OPNFV, to EasyCLA.  In this post, I’d like to share a little bit about what I learned.

Prior to EasyCLA, managing CLAs involved paper forms, scanning, multiple email exchanges and human-to-human interactions.  EasyCLA eliminates all of these transactions and minimizes waiting time before developers may start committing their code, while at the same time providing organizations with direct control over which employees may commit code to the project.

Employees are enabled to commit code by means of a “white list” that is created and maintained in the EasyCLA application by the organization, through a designated “CLA Manager.” The white list may be specified very precisely with individual email addresses, or more broadly with domain names.

There is some variation in CLAs, from project to project.  So, if the tool is too rigid, then the number of projects that are able to use it is limited.  Fortunately, EasyCLA is adaptable to variations in agreement process and format.  

For example, OPNFV does not actually use a CLA, at all.  Instead OPNFV uses what we refer to as an “Authorization Form.”  OPNFV also has some differences in how it treats member organizations vs. non-member organizations.  Fortunately, the product engineering team was able to quickly adapt EasyCLA to OPNFV’s unique process and format.

Once each organization identifies a CLA Manager, then the product management team adds their credentials to EasyCLA, and sends an email instructing them how to access EasyCLA and set up a white list. Generally speaking, the CLA Manager will also need to digitally sign a CLA or Authorization Form. The entire process generally only takes minutes to complete.

So, how do developers experience EasyCLA? Developers, whose email address matches the white list, will be asked to acknowledge their association with the organization the first time they attempt to commit code.  Individual contributors, who are not contributing code on behalf of an organization, will simply be directed to EasyCLA to digitally sign an agreement, then they will be able to begin contributing code.

If a developer’s email address does not match the white list, then they will be prohibited from committing code and will receive an explanatory message. The developer may then contact their CLA manager to resolve the issue.

To summarize, EasyCLA offers many advantages over the old way:

Efficient – No more paper forms or email exchanges. The agreement may be signed and developer access may be enabled through a single tool in a matter of minutes.

Direct Control – Organizations may add or remove developers to the project simply by updating the white list, which they manage through their own CLA Manager.  The white list may be specified by individual developer, or by domain. Changes to repository access take place almost immediately.

Flexible – The tool is easily adaptable to variations in CLA process or format.

EasyCLA is a welcome addition to Community Bridge and is enabling developers and organizations to minimize the amount of time spent with licensing agreements and repo access, and to spend more time writing code and developing technology.