[ros-users] A note about OSRF & OSRC

Brian Gerkey gerkey at osrfoundation.org
Fri Sep 16 21:09:57 UTC 2016


As some of you may have seen already, we recently announced [1] a
collaboration with the Toyota Research Institute (TRI) [2]. To make that
possible, we created a for-profit subsidiary of OSRF called the Open Source
Robotics Corporation (OSRC). You can also read all about it in our public
release [3]. This arrangement will improve the quality, scope, and
long-term viability of ROS and Gazebo, and we want to offer some direct
answers to questions that may arise:

Q: Aren’t for-profit organizations bad for open source communities?
A: Not necessarily; nor are non-profit organizations necessarily good. The
implications of being a non-profit vary from country to country, but it is
primarily a preferential tax status that is granted in exchange for
constraints on what kinds of business activities are allowed.

Q: Are ROS and/or Gazebo going to become proprietary?
A: No. We will continue to improve, distribute, support, and maintain ROS,
Gazebo, and other projects as permissively-licensed open-source software.
OSRF will continue to own copyright on open source code developed at OSRF
and OSRC.

Q: Why did you create a for-profit subsidiary?
A: Because, generally speaking, revenue from for-profit companies cannot
constitute a major part of the funding portfolio of a non-profit
organization in the United States. We want to be able to work directly with
companies, such as our recently-announced collaboration with TRI, without
endangering the non-profit status of OSRF (it is classified under US tax
law as a 501(c)(3) public charity). Therefore, we had to create a
for-profit subsidiary.

Q: Is there precedent for this arrangement?
A: Yes, many open-source projects have followed similar paths. For example,
the Firefox browser and Thunderbird email client are developed by the
Mozilla Corporation [4], which is owned by the Mozilla Foundation. As
another example, most contributions to the Linux kernel now come from
employees of for-profit companies [5]. Similar statements could be made
about numerous open-source projects backed by for-profit companies, such as
Chromium, Ubuntu, Qt, and many others.

Q: Why now?
A: Over the past few years ROS and Gazebo have gradually transitioned from
software solutions used largely in R&D and academic settings to ones that
are core to commercial robotics companies. Although this specific
opportunity for collaboration with TRI was a catalyst for the creation of
OSRC, we had long anticipated making this transition once there was
sufficient commercial adoption of ROS and Gazebo.

Q: So how did OSRF exist thus far?
A: The vast majority of OSRF's funding thus far has been in the form of
grants and contracts from government agencies (e.g., [6], [7]), with a much
lesser amount coming from corporate and individual donations. We are
grateful for those funding sources, and we look forward to continuing to
work with those stakeholders. But we believe that the future of support for
both our team and the broader community will come from the burgeoning use
of our tools in industry.

Q: I / my group / my company would like to collaborate with you. Is that
A: Absolutely! We are here to support the global robotics community. Please
contact us at info at osrfoundation.org.

We are happy to continue this discussion. If you have questions or
concerns, please send them to comm at osrfoundation.org.

- Your friendly neighborhood open source robotics team.

[2] http://www.tri.global
[4] https://www.mozilla.org/en-US/foundation/moco/
[7] http://www.osrfoundation.org/haptix-simulation-of-prosthetic-devices/
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