Brussels / 3 & 4 February 2018


Too young to rock'n'roll (and to contribute)

Issues with minors (children) contributing to FOSS projects

Young people obviously are big users of technology. While this carries its own legal questions, wanting children to be creative and maybe contribute to technology is a really difficult topic. Licences, hosting terms of service, contributor agreements - all these legal documents are made by adults, for adults, and minors often struggle to be able to agree them, even with parental consent. We want to look at what the issues are and raise awareness for the importance of contributions by children.

For many developers, contributing to open source projects is a trivial thing to do. Fire up GitHub, fork that project, do some changes, commit, push, create pull request - done! Also, for most project maintainers, getting contributions looks as easy - jsut have someone log in to GitHub, fork,… and so on.

But everyone of us also knows that most of the time, we do not care too much about analysing the terms we submit to. As a contributor, we don't really care about the project's licence as long as it is free, and as a maintainer, we expect contributors to do exactly that. Same goes for the terms of use of our favourite Git hosting service, translation tool, you name it.

One thing that makes things very easy for adult developers is that we are legally able to accept just about anything that might be written in such terms - but at least one subgroup of developers can't: children younger than a certain age limit.

  • All US based websites are legally forced to prohibit registration by people younger than 13 years (simply put)
  • German children are not allowed to accept any terms that cut legal rights they normally have

If any free software project has children as a target group, we (the people at Teckids e.V.) strongly believe it should make contributions by minors as easy as its usage. This involves caring about all legal documents that might get in the way.

In this podium, we would like to raise some awareness and discuss experiences, ideas, possibilities, and the like in order to make the FOSS world a good place for everyone, independent of their age.


Photo of Dominik George Dominik George
Photo of Niels Hradek Niels Hradek