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GitLab Moves to DCO, Stands to Gain Debian and GNOME

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GitLab Moves to DCO, Stands to Gain Debian and GNOME

The dominant Git management repository tool recently migrated from the industry-standard CLA to a DCO license. See what effect this will have on the industry.

· DevOps Zone ·
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GitLab, the Git-based management tool used by 2/3 of all enterprises, recently announced the direction to migration away from what has been the industry-standard Contributor License Agreement (CLA) and adopt the Developer Certificate of Origin (DCO) license. 

This announcement was paired with the news that both Debian (the universal operating system) and GNOME (Linux desktop environment) are planning to host their open-source projects and communities on GitLab.

What's the Difference?

The DCO has probably one of the most basic web-pages I have seen in quite some time.  The license terms are quite relaxed, and submit the following terms upon use of the  git commit -s  command:

  • The updates within the commit adhere to the same license agreement as the underlying project.

  • The work is the submitter's original work.

By contrast, the industry-standard CLA agreement was put into place well before Git technology was invented and poses the following stance:

  • The submitter's rights are often discarded in favor of the rights of the underlying project.  In some instances, the submitter's rights can become non-existent.

  • By making contributions under the agreement, you still own your contributions, but the underlying project's license agreement allows licensing of your work without your consent.

Industry Impact

The biggest impact of the change from CLA to DCO is with those who spend their time and efforts contributing to open-source projects.  Under the CLA, developers likely did not realize they were giving up their rights to own and contribute to open source code - simply because the CLA's were often long and difficult to comprehend. 

Conversely, developers who took the time to read through CLA's often walked away from such initiatives - not wanting to lose ownership over the aspects they contributed to projects.

From a project perspective, those projects on GitLab now will employ the DCO license model, which should attract a larger degree of developers - who realize they are no longer giving up their rights to the creative content they contribute.  This, in turn, should yield better solutions employed within the projects themselves - leading to better solutions.

Existing GitLab Projects

GitLab has already started the process of making the necessary adjustments to transform from the CLA to DCO license.  For existing users of the GitLab service, no changes are required and the change will be transparent across both the Enterprise and Public service offerings.


The greatest technology investment is always the expenditure in human capital.  Corporations and start-ups have realized this fact for decades.  It comes to no surprise that open-source communities and projects are making this realization as well.

With this understanding is the conclusion that the licensing model needs to change in a segment where a majority of the content is essentially donated by captivated software engineers.  Otherwise, the most-skilled developers understand the value of their experience and contributions - less interested in foregoing rights to their original work.

I applaud GitLab for making the change from CLA to DCO and believe that it is only a matter of time before either a) more projects migrate to the GitLab service or b) other Git-based management tools follow GitLab's lead in their licensing approach.

Have a really great day!

gitlab ,debian ,gnome ,devops

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