back to article The Audacity: Audio tool finds new and exciting ways to annoy contributors with a Contributor License Agreement

The saga of the Audacity takeover continued this week with the announcement of a Contributor License Agreement (CLA) by the project's new owners. Contributors to Audacity will be expected to sign the agreement in order to give code to the project. "The purpose of the CLA," stated the explanation, "is to provide future …

  1. quxinot

    Sounds like he's desperately trying to drive people away from it.

    Again, please put an article out with the new name when it gets forked, so we can switch over.

    1. b0llchit Silver badge

      Sounds like he's desperately trying to drive people away from it.

      No, he is are trying to appropriate (steal) other people's work without compensation. Then, he can take the code base private and put it on the balance sheet as immaterial property. The last step is to sell other's work for a profit by squandering the company to whoever and cash out.

      1. Baggypants

        Like those other devious thieves that use CLAs such as Apache Foundation, python, Canonical, Fedora, Openstack and the Free Software Foundation?

        1. b0llchit Silver badge

          It is all about trust.

          MUSECY SM LTD has in its 9 month or so of existence not proven to be trustworthy, Quite contrary, the recent frustrations in the community have shown a significant lack of trust and the company has done/published some very stupid things.

          The organizations you mention have a very different history. While I would not contribute to all of them, most I deem trustworthy enough to trust them to uphold the best interest of the software they are the guardians of.

        2. timrichardson

          You make the mistake of thinking all CLAs are the same. The Canonical CLA for instance commits to never remove the contribution from the licence that it was submitted under, and it commits Canonical to always publishing your contribution under that licence. Since GPLv2 and v3 are strong ("viral") copyleft licences, I think this must make it impossible to move to a non copyleft licence in many cases.

          The Audacity CLA has no such restriction. You keep copyright, but the licence you grant by accepting the CLA removes all the meaning of your copyright. Audacity can relicence it at will. This is what MongoDB did. There is some more at the Wikipedia CLA article.

          Note that the Fedora agreement (

          /wiki/Legal:Fedora_Project_Contributor_Agreement) does not provide *any* relicensing rights at all

          "Q. Does this mean that Fedora will always relicense my contributions from $MY_LICENSE to MIT?

          A. No. If you put a Free license on your contribution, we will use it under the terms of that license. If you put it under a non-Free license, we won't use it at all. Only unlicensed contributions where the copyright holder is the Fedora contributor qualify for the "default licensing" clause. "

          You can generate good CLAs using including with options to protect copyleft integrity.

          1. DrXym Silver badge

            Canonical actually had sneaky underhanded plans for their CLA.

            Their graphical stack Mir (which was a bit like Wayland - a lightweight display/input framework) used it so they could modify the source and not divulge their changes while competitors who used Mir would have to do so under GPL3 and therefore lose that advantage.

            So they basically weaponised GPL3, crippling their competitors and people weren't happy about it.

            That is probably why nobody even knows what Mir is any more.

            The same thing could happen to Audacity if they are not careful. Someone will fork from a point before all this shenanigans, the developer community will follow and Muse / Audacity will be left questioning the wisdom of their changes.

            1. 142

              Frankly, I think a much more likely outcome is that a new, better, open source audio editing program comes to the fore, rather than a successful fork.

              Audacity's good, but it's not that great.

              1. heyrick Silver badge

                "Audacity's good, but it's not that great."

                It takes time to create a fully blown application. Far simpler to fork it, provide your own CLA that pledges to always keep it GPL and open and hasta la vista Muse...

          2. cdrcat

            They could allow CC0 the same as Rack does

            As per


            To accept a contribution, all authors of the contribution need to either

            * declare the patch under the CC0 license.

            * complete a copyright reassignment form.

            * perform the work under a paid agreement.


      2. nematoad Silver badge

        "the ability to use the Contributions in any way"

        Yes. it looks that way, doesn't it?

        I've heard of customer lock-in but contributor lock-in?

        That's a new one on me and it seems to me as if this character really doesn't get the "Free. Libre and Open Source bit". The only part that has got through is the "Free" wherein he is free to take other people's work and use for his own ends.

        What's that ringing noise? Fork coming up I reckon.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        GPL doesn't prohibit the sale of GPL'd software though.

        I could sell copies of Audacity if I wanted to.

        It sounds to me like this move is to create a clearer chain of responsibility. I may be daft and naive though.

        1. MacroRodent


          > GPL doesn't prohibit the sale of GPL'd software though. [...]

          True, and that is much how many open source companies work, although the value they provide is support. "Make a deal with us, then we provided copies of the software and respond to your support tickets".

          What you cannot do is sell a copy of GPL'd software and also prohibit resale, or giving it away, or add any other restrictions. You also must commit to providing the source code for the software in usable form. (Not on paper or clay tablets).

          > It sounds to me like this move is to create a clearer chain of responsibility. I may be daft and naive though.

          No. The aim is to increase ownership, not responsibility. The company wants to be able to relicense new versions of Audacity on different terms than GPL.

          Fork time.

      4. LDS Silver badge

        "No, he is are trying to appropriate (steal) other people's work without compensation. "

        That's what open source is about, isn't it? That's what led Stallman in the first place to promote it. Otherwise he would have simply paid someone else's work.

        1. Adair Silver badge

          Re: "No, he is are trying to appropriate (steal) other people's work without compensation. "

          'That's what open source is about, isn't it? That's what led Stallman in the first place to promote it. Otherwise he would have simply paid someone else's work.'

          No. No. And no. You have not done your homework. Stallman was/is not at all interested in 'stealing other people's work' - that was exactly what he was/is opposed to: the corporate theft of the work of those who provide the fruits of their labours gratis for anyone else to use, as needed.

          You don't have to buy into that way of providing software - nobody does, but equally nobody has any right to prevent others from doing so if they choose.

          If you don't like the licence Libreoffice or the GIMP are provided under then don't use the software; write your own or 'buy' the right to use some propitiatory alternative.

          Whatever you do you are going to have to 'pay' in some form - just find the 'price' you are prepared to pay.

          1. Adair Silver badge

            Re: "No, he is are trying to appropriate (steal) other people's work without compensation. "

            'propitiatory' - totally the wrong word, should be 'proprietary' - obviously! :-P

    2. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Check out Freenode for the expected success of this land grab.

    3. Ian Johnston Silver badge

      Since similar damage is being done at Musescore, I expect/hope that will fork as well.

  2. Paratrooping Parrot

    Getting rather annoyed

    I used to follow Tantacrul's videos on YouTube, but this kind of behaviour of ruining Audacity is getting rather annoying. Is this some kind of plan to drive people away? I am disappointed with him.

    1. cornetman Silver badge

      Re: Getting rather annoyed

      Agreed. Some great videos on UI design fail. This move seems a little unnecessary. People get very touchy about CLAs.

      Sounds like they are getting into monetisation mode, which isn't necessarily bad per se, but they are taking code that others have built and possibly intending to manipulate it in ways that those contributers would not like. The excuses given seem a little weak.

  3. steelpillow Silver badge

    "Is that a tuning Fork we hear?"

    Darn, I hate it when the reg hacks are ahead of me.

  4. jason_derp

    For real?

    "policies or technical processes that make it difficult or impossible for Audacity to exist on them while it is licensed solely under the GPL (v2 or v3)."

    Okay. Oh wait, that's it?! Who the hell uses Audacity on an iPad?! "I'm really into mixing my audio and stuff. Lot's of satisfaction in it. Come over and I'll show you my elegant and understated teak tablet stand that holds the tablet that I do all my work on. Unparalleled experience."

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: For real?

      Presumably on the iPad/iPhone someone somewhere would be getting lots of money for it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: For real?

        Well yeah. Apple.

  5. tonique

    Perhaps an Audacity fork could be called Community or Empathy.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Or perhaps Modesty. The collective noun of Modesty users could be an annoyance.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "Or perhaps Modesty"

        Modesty Blaise always fought for people against those who wanted to grab unfettered power.

    2. 2+2=5 Silver badge

      > Perhaps an Audacity fork could be called Community or Empathy.

      It's a pity "Raspberry" is already taken as that is a sound-related word that adequately expresses the community's feelings.

  6. DarkwavePunk

    Peculiar move

    You'd think they'd let the original kerfuffle die down before doing anything more drastic. Are there any other good similar tools out there? I'm not adverse to paying (as long as that means "I bought it, it's mine" rather than some subscription bollocks).

    I'm probably fine with my current version of Audacity* but I'd rather like to stick two fingers up - not that anyone will notice - to this sort of tomfoolery that seems to be becoming ever more prevalent in Open Source projects.

    * Reminds me, I really should lay down the multi-track of a ukulele through a distortion pedal.

    Too many of these --->

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Peculiar move

      "I really should lay down the multi-track of a ukulele through a distortion pedal."

      Or maybe just lay down for a bit ... On the other hand, I once attached four acoustic pickups to a outdoor steel stair-rail at an office building and broke out my sticks. The harmonics were more interesting than you might think ... I could actually play a tune on it :-)

      1. Will Godfrey Silver badge

        Re: Peculiar move

        There is a stair well in a hotel in Mainz with a metal handrail. It makes the most delightful (and long) boing. Sadly I didn't have a microphone with me at the time.

    2. Aussie Doc
      Thumb Up

      Re: Peculiar move

      Depending on precisely what you want to do after you've had your lay down, of course, you may want to check out Reaper.

      Not affiliated at all but, like you, I'm happy with my version of Audacity but had a play with Reaper and it seems to be a quite useful, cross-platform piece of software.

      I'm sure your ukulele would sound just great.

      1. NATTtrash Silver badge

        Re: Peculiar move

        " may want to check out Reaper."

        THX for this! Had a look, but it looks that this would be more something for a (semi) professionals, or very enthusiastic audiophiles. Thing of Audacity of course is that it is pretty sophisticated, with a low entry level still making it accessible for all the "less involved" (Let's do a quick record/ normalisation/ convert/glue pieces of audio together...). After all, that has been one of the powerful points of Audacity...

      2. H in The Hague Silver badge

        Re: Peculiar move

        "Depending on precisely what you want to do after you've had your lay down, of course, you may want to check out Reaper."

        Yup. I used to use Cool Edit/Adobe Audition. But my very old version (perpetual licence) doesn't run nicely under Win10 or work with 32 bit files. So I had to replace it. Quickly narrowed the choice down to Audacity and Reaper. Eventually decided on Reaper. Only just started using it but it seems very well designed and versatile. Bit of a learning curve but they have some good videos on the site. Very cheap for what it does: USD 60 for personal use, USD 225 for commercial use.

        Audition also wrote audio CDs. So have to get new software for that, which doesn't try to rearrange my tracks in a silly way. Any suggestions?

        And here's one for the weekend -->

        1. Mast1

          Re: Peculiar move

          Moved to Linux Mint 20 recently and brought my legit copy of CoolEdit across. Works under Wine and also in 32 bit audio mode. And no "Contact your software vendor for an updated version".

          20 year old software that does as much as I need and does it well: I feel that I owe something to the original author for keeping me away from Audition.

    3. Kane Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Peculiar move

      "Reminds me, I really should lay down the multi-track of a ukulele through a distortion pedal."

      Username checks out.

    4. RvdP

      Re: Peculiar move

      We used to use Audacity (ca 5 years ago and back before) - and thought it was nice. Then we tried Reaper and there was no comparison - we've bought a (full) license. Their discounted license for personal use and the educational uses allowances are cheap and cool. Its in a different league to audacity and bloomin good (IMHO): not as good as some stuff if you pay thousands, but then 60 bucks is not thousands...

      I agree that trying to monetise a gpl thing "after the event" sucks - but where people have put in a heck of a lot of effort to develop something and want paying for that it seems fair to me. If the tool is usefully way better than the gpl stuff, then chips should and will fall where they do.

      Please do share the uke (via some death metal pedal) stuff when you get a moment. Might even take me further than the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain's vershun of Shaft....

  7. JWLong


    I pulled my own fork and stuffed a copy to deep storage.

    I'm done with this shit of monetizing everything.

    Time to buy more deep storage and go on stealing spree.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Forking Hell

    Is it cheeky to fork Audacity? Can I suggest 'Effrontery,' perhaps? Or 'Pluck,' maybe?

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge

      Re: Forking Hell

      GPLv2 always enables forks (at least for the original code).

      As long as you keep it open source, you can distribute modified source+binaries all you want.

      'Audacity' is such a cool name, though.

      Possible new names:

      * Bedazzled

      * Cacophony (ok that's being used but I mentioned it anyway for laughs)

      * Personal DAW

      * SoundWorkStation (or SoundWS or similar)

      probably would have to google for other similarly named things [I already rejected several 'cause they were being used, but that's how it is with trademarks and stuff]

    2. MacroRodent

      Re: Forking Hell

      Just for fun, Googled(tm) for "audacity forks", the top result was this:

      FOSS Audacity? A bit unimaginative, but works.

      1. tonique

        Re: Forking Hell

        The Audacity logo says "Audacity ®", does this mean the logo is a registered trademark or the name? I can't find whether the latter is true.

        1. MacroRodent

          Re: Forking Hell

          True, looks like it is:

 "The name “Audacity” is a registered trademark."

          So any fork has to find a different name. Same thing as LibreOffice is now the name of the OpenOffice fork (OpenOffice being nearly a dead project, but still clings on to the trademark).

    3. zuckzuckgo Bronze badge

      Re: Forking Hell

      > Can I suggest 'Effrontery,' perhaps? Or 'Pluck,' maybe?

      And the founders of the new fork could be Mother Pluckers.

  9. FuzzyTheBear
    Thumb Down

    First freenode ..

    now this .. what's next ? some people seem inclined to destroy all they touch.

    1. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: First freenode ..

      The free world was noticed by capitalists. They tried to crush it. That didn't work. They tried FUD. That didn't work. They tried perverting standards. That didn't work. They tried legislating. That didn't work. They tried throwing bogus patents. That didn't work. So now they're getting random people to buy into stuff in order to break it. They will learn about the concept of forks, and possibly get to actually read what the GPL says, when they realise that this won't work either.

  10. Aussie Doc

    Come on. Really?

    "The CLA was always going to be an issue many contributors would find unpopular,"

    Is that how they're going to respond to every issue now?

    Telemetry? Was always going to be unpopular.

    CLA? Was always going to be unpopular.

    Paid content? Was always going to be unpopular.

    Cloud based subscription? Was always going to be unpopular.

    ...rinse and repeat but I'm seeing a pattern here but can't quite put my finger on it.

    If only people who wanted quality, free, open source software could somehow have indicated that some things would be unpopular.

    Who's really calling the tunes ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  11. gnasher729 Silver badge

    Two problems with the App Store: 1. Apples TOCs state that the end user pays not for the software but the license. Since GPL doesn’t allow charging for the license, GPL licensed software must be free. 2. If a copyright holder demands that his software shouldn’t be on the AppStore then Apple doesn’t get involved in this and doesn’t allow the app in the AppStore. That has happened.

    Otherwise there is no problem adding a “download source code” button to an app.

  12. DrXym Silver badge

    This thing is definitely going to fork

    I'm sure all these new things are coming from Audacity's new corporate overlords but they are absolutely setting up the product to be forked.

    1. FuzzyTheBear

      Re: This thing is definitely going to fork

      Ill be first to switch to the fork. Time to show the corporates ( exactly like what happens to freenode ) that if you piss off the users they will simply go away. So many examples of forks that turned out for the best that i can't understand why corps sabotage the software in the first place. In open source , money is not the game , users are , then comes money. They are doing it the wrong way around.

      1. ThatOne Silver badge

        Re: This thing is definitely going to fork

        > i can't understand why corps sabotage the software in the first place

        Because they don't understand the open source world, and they really don't care to learn about how it works. All they see is some bearded hippies giving away popular software for free, so they think they can just step in and start asking money for it. It's as simple as that.

        Trying to understand strange cultures is weakling stuff: Real (business)men just exploit those freaks!

  13. Jonjonz

    It has been a good run

    I have used Audacity for years. It's a wonderful open ended swissknife type audio editor.

    But all good things eventually must come to an end. Take one look a this new owner's other products and the future of Audacity is clear.

    The free version will only have a few of the most basic functions. To get the good stuff, one will have to subscribe so the more powerful functions are only available via the cloud.

    So I guest I will be using the current version from now on or until a new version of Windows breaks it eventually.

    1. ThatOne Silver badge

      Re: It has been a good run

      > The free version will only have a few of the most basic functions. To get the good stuff, one will have to subscribe

      Yes, the always popular "freemium" system, where you're conned into thinking you get software for free, but actually you only get an semi-inert demo of it...

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Audacity alternative

    I see Goldwave is still going after 25 years ( I'd recommend it to anyone looking for a 'prosumer' audio editor. Does all the stuff you'd expect - recording, filters, batch mode etc. I used to use it a lot before moving on to CoolEdit (before it was swallowed by Adobe and became Audition). In fact I may still have a licence somewhere..

    It's $19 and there's a free fully functional time-limited trial version. Windows, iOS and Android only though.

  15. heyrick Silver badge

    The GPL says...

    " You may not copy, modify, sublicense, or distribute the Program except as expressly provided under this License. Any attempt otherwise to copy, modify, sublicense or distribute the Program is void, and will automatically terminate your rights under this License."

    Surely forcing people to sign a CLA such as that being proposed will terminate their rights to use the source by being in direct contravention to what the GPL specifies?

  16. theloop

    I can't believe the audacity of the new owners

    ber-dum pshhh

  17. Grease Monkey Silver badge

    I think I can see what's happened here.

    Somebody hasn't done their due diligence when buying the project. It looks like they thought they were buying the whole codebase and they only found out that they haven't bought what they thought they'd bought after they've signed on the dotted line. If that is the case then this is just a way of trying to grab the bits they don't own without forking out any extra for the privilege.

    I'm not sure this will give them the reaction they want, it only takes a couple of popular addons to be removed and the platform will hemorrhage users. Especially when there are so many free alternatives around. And using the Apple App Store as justification seems like a strange justification. It's not like Garage Band isn't hugely popular.

    I'm not an audacity user. I prefer a DAW to have MIDI sequencing. With such a major omission I'm always surprised that Audacity is considered the leading free DAW. I have however tried Audacity and it just isn't as good as some people claim. Or rather it isn't better than a lot of the alternatives. And that is where they could fall down. Start scaring users away and they are going to move to other platforms and then start telling their friends how good their new platform is.

  18. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

    New book

    "How to lose friends[users] and alienate people"

    Co written by Martin Keary and Andrew Lee

  19. aqk

    TL;DR ... and I'm not a lwyer or somebean-counter nerd.

    However I use Audacity sometimes for, things.

    So can anyone explain WTF this to do with me? In 100 words or less?

    1. Adair Silver badge

      I only wear my sweatshirt occasionally. They tell me it's made by kids sold into slavery by their desperate parents. WTF does that have to do with me?

      Okay, so far as we know Audacity is not coded by slaves, but anyone who can't see the parallel clearly lives in an irresponsible moral vacuum.

      Whether or not we choose to install and use <arbitrary software> is our responsibility; which includes taking notice of the back-story to that software if/when that information is available to us. If the circumstances surrounding the software don't bother us then at least have the moral courage to own that choice - including saying, "As far as I am concerned how they produce this shit (or make it available) has fuck all to do with me! Hey, Mum, get off your lazy arse and bring me another beer!"

    2. ThatOne Silver badge

      > So can anyone explain WTF this to do with me? In 100 words or less?

      Time to start looking for a replacement, unless you are willing to start paying a subscription, uploading your files to their cloud and generally relinquishing control of them.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022