Cryptography and SSL/TLS Toolkit

OpenSSL Bylaws

First issued 13th February 2017
Last modified 20th December 2017

This document defines the bylaws under which the OpenSSL Project operates. It defines the different project roles, how they contribute to the project, and how project decisions are made.

Roles and Responsibilities


Users include any individual or organisation that downloads, installs, compiles, or uses the OpenSSL command line applications or the OpenSSL libraries or the OpenSSL documentation. This includes OpenSSL-based derivatives such as patched versions of OpenSSL provided through OS distributions, often known as "downstream" versions.

Users may request help and assistance from the project through any appropriate forum as designated by the OpenSSL Management Committee (OMC). Users may also report bugs, issues, or feature requests; or make pull requests through any OMC designated channel.


Committers have the ability to make new commits to the main OpenSSL Project repository. Collectively, they have the responsibility for maintaining the contents of that repository. They must ensure that any committed contributions are consistent with all appropriate OpenSSL policies and procedures as defined by the OMC.

Committers also have a responsibility to review code submissions in accordance with OpenSSL project policies and procedures.

Commit access is granted as a result of a vote by the OMC. It may be withdrawn at any time by a vote of the OMC.

A condition of commit access is that the committer has signed an Individual Contributor Licence Agreement (ICLA). If contributions may also be from the employer of an individual with commit access then a Corporate Contributor Licence Agreement (CCLA) must also be signed and include the name of the committer.

In order to retain commit access a committer must have authored or reviewed at least one commit within the previous two calendar quarters. This will be checked at the beginning of each calendar quarter. This rule does not apply if the committer first received their commit access during the previous calendar quarter.

OpenSSL Management Committee (OMC)

The OMC represents the official voice of the project. All official OMC decisions are taken on the basis of a vote.

The OMC:

  • makes all decisions regarding management and strategic direction of the project;
  • sets and maintains all policies and procedures;
  • nominates, elects and removes committers and OMC members as required;
  • ensures security issues are dealt with in an appropriate manner;
  • schedules releases and determines future release plans and the development roadmap and priorities;
  • maintains all other repositories according to the policies and procedures they define.

Membership of the OMC is by invitation only from the existing OMC following a passing vote. OMC members may or may not be committers as well. If an OMC member is also a committer then all rules that apply to committers still apply.

The OMC makes decisions on behalf of the project. In order to have a valid voice on the OMC, members must be actively contributing to the project. Note that there are many ways to contribute to the project but the ones that count in order to participate in the OMC decision-making process are the ones listed below.

OMC members may become inactive. In order to remain active a member must, in any calendar quarter, contribute by:

  • a) Having authored, or been recorded as a reviewer of, at least one commit made to any OpenSSL repository (including non-code based ones) and
  • b) vote in at least two-thirds of the total votes closed in the first two months of the quarter and the last month of the preceding quarter.

The above rules will be applied at the beginning of each calender quarter. It does not apply if the OMC member was first appointed, or became active again during the previous calendar quarter. The voting requirement only includes those votes after the time the member joined or was made active again.

If an OMC member remains inactive for one calendar quarter then they will no longer be considered an OMC member, but will be listed as an OMC Alumni. OMC Alumni have no access to OMC internal resources (including email lists) but may request a vote at any time to reinstate their membership in the OMC.

Any OMC member can propose a vote to declare another member inactive or remove them from OMC membership entirely.

An OMC member can declare themselves inactive, leave the OMC, or leave the project entirely. This does not require a vote.

An inactive OMC member can propose a vote that the OMC declare them active again. Inactive OMC members cannot vote but can propose issues to vote on and participate in discussions. They retain access to OMC internal resources.

OpenSSL Software Foundation (OSF)

The OpenSSL Software Foundation represents the OpenSSL project in legal and most official formal capacities in relation to external entities and individuals. This includes, but is not limited to, managing contributor license agreements, managing donations, registering and holding trademarks, registering and holding domain names, obtaining external legal advice, and so on.

Any OMC member may serve as a director of OSF if they wish. To do so they should send a request to any existing OSF director.

OpenSSL Software Services (OSS)

OpenSSL Software Services represents the OpenSSL project for most commercial and quasi-commercial contexts, such as providing formal support contracts and brokering consulting contracts for OpenSSL committers.

Any OMC member may serve as a director of OSS if they wish, subject to certain contractual requirements. To do so they should send a request to any existing OSS director.

OMC Voting Procedures

A vote to change these bylaws will pass if it obtains an in favour vote by more than two thirds of the active OMC members and less than one quarter votes against by the active OMC members. A vote that does not change these bylaws will pass if it has had a vote registered from a majority of active OMC members and has had more votes registered in favour than votes registered against.

Only active OMC members may vote. A registered vote is a vote in favour, a vote against, or an abstention.

Any OMC member (active or inactive) can propose a vote. OMC Alumni may only propose a vote to reinstate themselves to the OMC. Each vote must include a closing date which must be between seven and fourteen calendar days after the start of the vote. Votes to change these bylaws must be fourteen calendar days in duration.

In exceptional cases, the closing date for non-bylaw changing votes could be less than seven calendar days; for example, a critical issue that needs rapid action. A critical issue is hard to define precisely but would include cases where a security fix is needed and the details will soon be made public. At least one other active OMC member besides the proposer needs to agree to the shorter timescale.

A vote closes on its specified date. In addition, any active OMC member can declare a vote closed once the number of uncast votes could not affect the outcome. Any active OMC member may change their vote up until the vote is closed. No vote already cast can be changed after the vote is closed. Votes may continue to be cast and recorded after a vote is closed up until fourteen days after the start of the vote. These votes will count for the purposes of determining OMC member activity, but will otherwise not affect the outcome of the vote.

All votes and their outcomes should be recorded and available to all OMC members.

Leave of absence

An active OMC member or committer may request a leave of absence from the project. A leave of absence from the OMC or committer shall suspend inactivity determination for the specified role. All access to OMC or committer resources shall be suspended (disabled) and the OMC member shall be excluded from voting and the committer shall be excluded from reviewing or approving source changes. On return from a leave of absence, the OMC member or committer will be deemed to have become active as of the date of return.

All of the following criteria must be met in order to qualify as a leave of absence:

  • a) the member must request via email to the OMC a leave of absence at least one week in advance of the requested period of leave;
  • b) only one leave of absence is permitted per calendar year;
  • c) the leave of absence must specify the date of return from the leave of absence;
  • d) the length of the leave of absence shall be a minimum of one calendar month and shall not exceed three calendar months (one quarter); and
  • e) the leave of absence applies to all the roles within the project (i.e. both OMC and committer if both roles apply).

Bylaws Update History

The following changes have been made since the bylaws were first issued 13-February-2017.

  • 20-December-2017. Added Leave of absence section.