Organisations that start free software/open source projects sometimes find themselves in a position where they need to loosen their relationship with the project in order to allow it to mature and to live up to its full potential.
Valuable contributors from the outside may need to be able to get more responsibility. The community may be asking for an open and trustworthy governance model for clearing and assigning copyrights to be more future proof.
Others want to contribute in other ways — for instance by donating money. But to whom? What about taxes? Scaling up a project often means a lot of additional overhead, and several unknowns that suck up time.
Maybe you are considering starting a separate foundation. That has worked for many projects, and will continue to do so in the future. If your project has very specific requirements, it may be the best way to go. But not every project can afford the time and cost involved.
Having ones own full-blown legal entity solves some issues, but may create new ones. Such as responsibilities which can become somewhat of a burden - like filing quarterly taxes, publishing annual reports or obtaining charitable status to make donations more attractive.
For something given away without the intention to make money, the 'opportunity cost' in lost hours that could be spent on the project can be pretty high.
Luckily, there is more than one way to go about. We believe we can offer a more simple solution that will allow many projects to not waste time and start discovering what is out there in the world for them to achieve.
[The Commons Conservancy] is the result of people questioning the need for having a separate legal entity per project. It is designed as a shared legal infrastructure designed for multitenancy, which can be reused by open source/free software projects at no cost. It is not a panacea but aims to solve a number of issues people normally start foundations for pretty well - and arguably in some cases does a better job. It is a very nimble and flexible solution, allowing eligible projects to benefit without setup cost or a lot of arguing over details.
Unlike other organisations you may have looked at, we do not handle money directly. We believe that this makes things a lot easier and safer. You can of course receive donations, but this is handled through specialised and established charities.
How many foundations created this year will be around in twenty years from now? What will happen to their assets? We aim to stick around, and because of our unique model — we can.
No, really. Our (entirely forkable!) framework will offer you some pragmatic and novel solutions when your community would end up in technical or other disagreements. The choice of course remains yours.
The foundation strives for a fair and balanced global information society in which individuals can collectively scrutinise, reconfigure and improve upon the technology and informational resources they depend on; and to make that technology and those resources secure, reliable, transparent and inclusive and to enable human innovation at the widest possible scale, with the express intention to strenghten the individual in their humanity and to enable them to participate in all facets of modern life -- whether social, cultural, economic, private etc. -- under conditions of their own choosing, and in full understanding of and control over its workings, and all that relates to the beforementioned or could be beneficial ot it, all in the broadest sense of the word.
The official Netherlands language version from the statutes is:
De stichting heeft ten doel een eerlijke en gebalanceerde informatiesamenleving waarin individuen in staat zijn om de technologie en informatiemiddelen waarvan ze afhankelijk zijn alleen of samen met anderen te onderzoeken, in te stellen en te verbeteren; en om die technologie en informatiemiddelen veilig, betrouwbaar, transparant en inclusief te laten zijn en daarmee de menselijke innovatiekracht op de grootst denkbare schaal mogelijk te maken, met de uitdrukkelijke intentie om het individu in zijn menswaardigheid te versterken en in staat te stellen om te participeren in alle facetten van het moderne leven - op onder meer sociaal, cultureel, economisch en persoonlijk vlak - onder zijn eigen voorwaarden, en met volledige begrip en controle over de werking ervan, en al hetgeen met vorenstaande verband houdt of daartoe bevorderlijk kan zijn, alles in de ruimste zin van het woord.
The stichting has no concept of profit or even money, and aims to be recognised as an "Algemeen Nut Beogende Instelling" (nl. for Public Benefit Organisation) in the sense of article 5b of the "Algemene wet inzake rijksbelastingen" of the law of The Netherlands.