Taking care about licensing within a free software project means to care about the code that comes into the project. There are several things a project should take care of there, one of them is a clear policy for submitting code.
Such a policy should inform a willing code contributor upfront about the constraints if she/he adds some sourcecode, software or other material(s).
WordPress does not have such a policy right now, it’s missing in every aspect. A user can just sign up for wordpress trac and start uploading code. This might be code he/she is not allowed to redistribute and WordPress is not either then. This is a serious issue. Before writing those lines I’ve checked not only the code submitting process but all linked documentation documents in codex. None of them contains a single word about licensing, about what happens when code is given, the constraints. Even WordPress’ License, the GPL, is not a topic there.
That’s really a big problem, because after code has made it in, it’s very hard to find out for every contribution if the needed rights were given or not. Just think a moment about that.
So let’s take a look how that could be done. A simple real life example. A very easy and well known variant is the text / edit submission form in wikipeadia, before any submit you can read a clear submission policy that states everything important incl. the license:
[…] You irrevocably agree to release your contributions under the CC-BY-SA 3.0 License and the GFDL. […]
So it’s clear with which intention and under which conditions contributions were given. For software projects this can be more complicated, especially if this grows into something big. This is about Legal Matters. This goes that far (and beyond) that some projects require their contributors to sign agreeements prior to let them submit their code.
That would be far away from what we have since years in wordpress.org. A first start would be that a contributor can actually read about the license first.
If you know of other good examples or have suggestions, feel free to leave some comments.
Update: I thought it would be of use to ask for for comments in the wp-hackers mailinglist as well and did post there: On Submitting Code – WordPress Hackers mailinglist