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Open sourcing our site policies and new changes to our Terms of Service

You’re invited to watch, fork, and collaborate on GitHub’s Terms of Service and other site policies. Back in March we open sourced our Balanced Employee IP Agreement. The feedback from the community has been amazing. Not only have you given us comments and suggestions to make the agreement better, we’ve also heard anecdotes of other companies taking inspiration from it.

Now we’re continuing to harness the power of open source by opening up our site policies in a new working repository, github/site-policy. Here you can view, comment, and suggest changes to our site policies—or fork a copy to adapt for your own site. Along with this new repository, we’re also posting changes to our Terms of Service for public comment.

Why open source site policies?

Save time and money. Although essential for any online service, site policies can be time intensive and expensive to create. We hope that by opening up our privately and publicly vetted policies, your startup will be able to cut down on some of those legal fees.

Improve and iterate. Iteration makes things even better. With the help of our community, we can improve on and build policies that work best for everyone. We welcome your issues and pull requests.

Comment on new changes. Changes to our site policies can have a huge impact on you. The new repository is the perfect way to let us know how. Whenever we have significant changes, we’ll post them as a pull request. From there, you can see the updates and easily leave comments or feedback.

Give it a try: comment on changes to our Terms of Service

To get you started, we have a new set of changes to our Terms of Service and Corporate Terms of Service. Feel free to look them over and try out the new Site Policy repository to share your input. Please follow our Contributor Guidelines, and let us know if you see anything you think should be different—whether it’s a missed typo or a rule that might have implications we haven’t thought of.

An overview of changes to our site Terms

We’ll leave comments open until 5:00 pm PST Friday, July 28. Then we’ll take a week to go through your comments and make changes to improve the Terms. We’ll enact the new Terms on Monday, August 7.

Sound interesting? Check out the github/site-policy repository to learn more, and share your feedback. We’d love to hear if our project is useful to you in creating foundations for your own business.

Work/life balance in employee intellectual property agreements

At GitHub, we recognize that running a great business over the long term requires a measure of “work/life balance” – and that includes recognizing that developers and other knowledge workers have creative lives outside of work. Whether that free time creativity involves contributing to open source projects, art, or activism, we want to encourage our employees, not put up legal barriers. We’ve codified this approach in our employee intellectual property (IP) agreement. We’ve made this agreement reusable and have open sourced as the Balanced Employee Intellectual Property Agreement.

By making the agreement an open source project, we hope to lower barriers to and learn more about innovation in this space. The project FAQ includes further background on related law, policies, and projects. Pull requests are welcome.

If you’re in the tech industry, you’ve probably come across some version of an employee IP agreement before. Typically they assign control over your creativity to your employer, to the extent law allows – sometimes even after you’ve left a job, through non-compete covenants. These agreements and underlying laws impact worker mobility, innovation, and regional competitiveness. Most non-compete covenants are not enforceable in California, which researchers have long cited as a key reason the computer industry took off in California instead of another contender such as Massachusetts.

GitHub’s employment agreement goes a bit further than the California default (and applies to employees outside of California). If you’re a GitHub employee, you maintain control over your creation unless it is something “you create, or help create as its employee or contractor” and it is “related to an existing or prospective Company product or service at the time you developed, invented, or created it” or “developed for use by the Company” or “developed or promoted with existing Company IP or with the Company’s endorsement.” It doesn’t matter whether you’ve used company equipment or not.

Sound interesting? We’re always hiring, or we would love to see you start taking the same approach at your company. Check out the repository to learn more.

New GitHub Terms of Service are in effect

Earlier this month, we gave you a preview of our Terms of Service update, and we asked for feedback from our community. You responded overwhelmingly! Thank you so much, everyone who sent us feedback. We heard you, and we have edited the Terms accordingly. The new Terms of Service are now effective!

Your feedback

We received nearly 100 comments on our proposed Terms of Service changes. A few clear themes emerged:

  • Positive feedback: Nearly a third of our feedback was very complimentary. Thank you for taking the time to let us know how much you liked the changes.
  • Fixed typos: About a tenth of the comments were from users spotting typos. Thanks, we fixed those! (Oops!)
  • Refined license grant: We got a good bit of feedback about our license grant section. We certainly understand your concerns, and we’ve reworded it to narrow the grant and to explain exactly why we’re using what we’re asking for.
  • License agreement for contributors: We also got some feedback about the license under which you contribute to others’ repositories. We split that into its own section and clarified the language in it.

Several users asked us to provide a diff of the new Terms compared with the old Terms. We weren’t able to, because we wrote the new Terms from the ground up; they were not an iteration of the old Terms. However, we are happy to provide a diff between the February 7 draft and the final draft. Please take a look at the changes you inspired!

The new Terms of Service

Of course, the things you liked about our new Terms are still there. You’ll still find:

  • Plain English terms: The Terms are still easy to read, with a table of contents for easy navigation, as well as a short summary of each section so you know what you’re getting.
  • Acceptable Use policy: Our Acceptable Use policy is much easier to read than it was before, and if you want clarification on how we approach that policy, please see our GitHub Community Guidelines.
  • GitHub Pages terms: We’ve got understandable, clear terms for GitHub Pages.
  • Advertising on GitHub: Advertising is not prohibited on GitHub, but it is heavily scrutinized because we don’t want to become a spam haven. Our Terms now describe the kind of advertising that GitHub allows.

What this means to you

The new Terms of Service are in effect as of today, February 28. You can accept them by clicking the broadcast announcement on your dashboard or by continuing to use GitHub. Again, thank you so much to our user community! You’ve helped us make our Terms better. Please let us know if you have any questions about the new Terms, or if we can help you going forward.

New GitHub Terms of Service

We’re in the process of updating our Terms of Service, and we’d like to get your input on the draft of our new Terms.

Why the change?

In short, our current Terms of Service agreement could do a better job of answering your questions about how our service works. We’ve heard your feedback, and we’re updating our Terms to make them less ambiguous and easier to read so that you know what you’re agreeing to.

An overview of the new Terms

In general, this update lets us do a better job of putting our current business practices in clearer terms for our users. Some of the changes you’ll find in the new Terms of Service:

  • Reading the Terms: You’ll find a table of contents, as well as a summary of every section in plain English.
  • Acceptable Use: We have clarified our Acceptable Use Policy, including our policy on scraping and misuse of GitHub Users’ personal information.
  • Ownership of Content: We don’t claim any ownership rights to the content you upload to GitHub. What’s yours is yours. In the new Terms, however, we have added an explicit license to clarify our right to store and serve it without violating your rights.
  • Default Contributor License: To address growing confusion over licensing and contributions to others’ projects, we added a simple default contributor license. If it does not suit your needs, you may add your own Contributor License Agreement to your repository.
  • GitHub Pages terms: We have clarified our rules regarding GitHub Pages.
  • Advertising on GitHub: Advertising is not prohibited on GitHub, but it is heavily scrutinized because we don’t want to become a spam haven. Our Terms now describe the kind of advertising that GitHub allows.

Taking action

We want your input. Please look over our new Terms, compare them to our old Terms if you want to, and tell us what you think via the new Terms of Service contact form. Let us know if you see anything you think should be different, whether it’s a typo we missed or a rule that might have implications we haven’t thought of.

We’ll leave comments open until 5:00pm (PST) Tuesday, February 21. Then, we’ll take a week to go through your comments, make whatever changes will improve the Terms, and we’ll enact the new Terms on Tuesday, February 28.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Introducing GitHub’s Inform and Act

To honor our commitment to inclusion, we are launching Inform and Act, a site dedicated to showcasing the work of organizations and projects that promote the free movement of people and ideas—those things that make progress possible. Going forward, we will use this site to communicate our position on social issues and point you to actions you can take to support those most affected.

Our first set of actions is in response to the recent executive order on immigration. We have chosen to support the US Muslim community through a gift of $25,000 to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). Please join us and donate to CAIR CA while getting involved in one of the open source projects featured on the site.

Ideas for projects and organizations to feature? Email


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