Business continuity policy

Note: docassemble is licensed under the MIT License. This policy does not modify that license or create any contract.

docassemble is expected to continue to be maintained so long as there is interest in using it.


Loss of main developer

To date, the vast majority of the work on docassemble has been undertaken by the lead developer, Jonathan Pyle. If Jonathan Pyle were to be longer able to maintain docassemble, there would be a risk that docassemble would no longer be maintained.

There are reasons to expect that docassemble would continue to be maintained in the absence of the lead developer. Since the docassemble source code is available in its entirety on GitHub, anyone in the world could step in and maintain it at any time. It is possible that someone would maintain it because:

  • Software developers have contributed pull requests in the past.
  • Documate and use it.
  • Large law firms and corporations use it.
  • The non-profit Merlin Legal Open Source Foundation could receive and distribute funds for the continued development of docassemble.

Competitor projects

If another open-source project emerges that users think is better than docassemble, users may drop docassemble and go to that product. If such a competitor emerges, Jonathan Pyle would seek to improve the features of docassemble to compete with the other product.

Loss of a key dependency

docassemble has a number of essential dependencies. If one of the dependencies was to stop being maintained, or if the license changes so that new versions cannot be used, this could impact the viability of the docassemble project.

While docassemble relies upon many significant dependencies, most have alternatives. For example, if PostgreSQL stopped being maintained, MariaDB could be used. If Flask stopped being maintained, Django could be used.

Other packages, like the pattern package, are important but would likely function well for many years without updates.

Most packages that docassemble uses are popular, which increase the likelihood that they will be maintained, or forked for maintenance purposes.

Because the dependencies are open source, it often takes little work to fork a project and update its code. For example, in February 2020, the flask-kvsession package contained some outdated code and the maintainers of the package had not updated the code. It took a matter of minutes for Jonathan Pyle to fork the code on GitHub, make the necessary changes, and then post the forked version on PyPI so it could be a dependency for docassemble.

One of the key dependencies that is a niche package and that does not have any known alternatives is python-docx-template, which is used for assembling DOCX files. If the package were not to be maintained any longer, this would pose a problem for docassemble. However, the package is lightweight and to a significant extent is a wrapper around other, more widely-used packages (jinja2 and docx). The project could be forked and maintained.

Another risk is that technologies that today are open could be closed in the future. The PDF specificiation, for example, is currently open, which allows for open-source third party code to do form filling in PDF files fairly easily. But new versions of the PDF specification may use proprietary code that prevents open-source software from filling PDF fields.

There is a similar danger that a future version of the Microsoft Word file could be proprietary and not interoperable, unlike the current DOCX format. However, Microsoft is currently investing significant resources in open-source, so these would seem unlikely.