perlpolicy - Various and sundry policies and commitments related to the perl core
This document is the master document which records all written policies about how the Perl 5 Porters collectively develop and maintain the Perl core.
What follows is a statement about artistic control, defined as the ability of authors of packages to guide the future of their code and maintain control over their work. It is a recognition that authors should have control over their work, and that it is a responsibility of the rest of the Perl community to ensure that they retain this control. It is an attempt to document the standards to which we, as Perl developers, intend to hold ourselves. It is an attempt to write down rough guidelines about the respect we owe each other as Perl developers.
This statement is not a legal contract. This statement is not a legal document in any way, shape, or form. Perl is distributed under the GNU Public License and under the Artistic License; those are the precise legal terms. This statement isn't about the law or licenses. It's about community, mutual respect, trust, and good-faith cooperation.
We recognize that the Perl core, defined as the software distributed with the heart of Perl itself, is a joint project on the part of all of us. From time to time, a script, module, or set of modules (hereafter referred to simply as a "module") will prove so widely useful and/or so integral to the correct functioning of Perl itself that it should be distributed with Perl core. This should never be done without the author's explicit consent, and a clear recognition on all parts that this means the module is being distributed under the same terms as Perl itself. A module author should realize that inclusion of a module into the Perl core will necessarily mean some loss of control over it, since changes may occasionally have to be made on short notice or for consistency with the rest of Perl.
Once a module has been included in the Perl core, however, everyone involved in maintaining Perl should be aware that the module is still the property of the original author unless the original author explicitly gives up their ownership of it. In particular:
Patches may be applied by the pumpkin holder without the explicit cooperation of the module author if and only if they are very minor, time-critical in some fashion (such as urgent security fixes), or if the module author cannot be reached. Those patches must still be given back to the author when possible, and if the author decides on an alternate fix in their version, that fix should be strongly preferred unless there is a serious problem with it. Any changes not endorsed by the author should be marked as such, and the contributor of the change acknowledged.
The version of the module distributed with Perl should, whenever possible, be the latest version of the module as distributed by the author (the latest non-beta version in the case of public Perl releases), although the pumpkin holder may hold off on upgrading the version of the module distributed with Perl to the latest version until the latest version has had sufficient testing.
In other words, the author of a module should be considered to have final say on modifications to their module whenever possible (bearing in mind that it's expected that everyone involved will work together and arrive at reasonable compromises when there are disagreements).
As a last resort, however:
If the author's vision of the future of their module is sufficiently different from the vision of the pumpkin holder and perl5-porters as a whole so as to cause serious problems for Perl, the pumpkin holder may choose to formally fork the version of the module in the core from the one maintained by the author. This should not be done lightly and should always if at all possible be done only after direct input from Larry. If this is done, it must then be made explicit in the module as distributed with Perl core that it is a forked version and that while it is based on the original author's work, it is no longer maintained by them. This must be noted in both the documentation and in the comments in the source of the module.
Again, this should be a last resort only. Ideally, this should never happen, and every possible effort at cooperation and compromise should be made before doing this. If it does prove necessary to fork a module for the overall health of Perl, proper credit must be given to the original author in perpetuity and the decision should be constantly re-evaluated to see if a remerging of the two branches is possible down the road.
In all dealings with contributed modules, everyone maintaining Perl should keep in mind that the code belongs to the original author, that they may not be on perl5-porters at any given time, and that a patch is not official unless it has been integrated into the author's copy of the module. To aid with this, and with points #1, #2, and #3 above, contact information for the authors of all contributed modules should be kept with the Perl distribution.
Finally, the Perl community as a whole recognizes that respect for ownership of code, respect for artistic control, proper credit, and active effort to prevent unintentional code skew or communication gaps is vital to the health of the community and Perl itself. Members of a community should not normally have to resort to rules and laws to deal with each other, and this document, although it contains rules so as to be clear, is about an attitude and general approach. The first step in any dispute should be open communication, respect for opposing views, and an attempt at a compromise. In nearly every circumstance nothing more will be necessary, and certainly no more drastic measure should be used until every avenue of communication and discussion has failed.
Social Contract about Contributed Modules originally by Russ Allbery <email@example.com> and the perl5-porters.