I own a GitHub organization in which I licensed the projects under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International Public License to which I expect contributions from other contributors. However, the organization is not registered as a company. I found that I will have to enter the agreement on behalf of the organization.

Here is how a registered company (e.g., Microsoft) introduce the parties to the agreement:

This Contribution License Agreement ("Agreement") is agreed to by the party signing below ("You"), and conveys certain license rights to Microsoft Corporation and its affiliates ("Microsoft") for Your contributions to Microsoft open source projects. This Agreement is effective as of the latest signature date below.

I am using Microsoft's CLA to write my organization's CLA. How do I refer to myself in the agreement as such that it holds as per the law? Should I include my home address to specifically refer to the 'Siddharth Venu' that lives in that particular address?

My jurisdiction is India - Tamil Nadu, in particular.

  • "I own a GitHub organization ... However, the organization is not registered as a company": so what is it registered as, if anything? What I'm trying to get is whether there is in fact any legal entity here other than yourself to whom contributors could actually license their copyrights, since if there isn't, the CLA should recognise this.
    – MadHatter
    Commented Apr 9, 2020 at 9:16
  • It is registered under my personal GitHub account. There isn't any legal entity. Nothing more, nothing less. Commented Apr 9, 2020 at 9:18
  • 1
    Then the CLA should licence the copyrights to you; there is no other body in whom this control can vest.
    – MadHatter
    Commented Apr 9, 2020 at 9:19
  • @MadHatter is there a particular legal speak for that? Apologies for being so naive, but I haven't come across a CLA which licenses the copyright to a person, so I don't know how do identify myself. For example, if I just mention my name "Siddharth Venu" and there are hundreds of others of the same name, won't that be pretty inaccurate? How to identify myself exactly? Commented Apr 9, 2020 at 9:27

1 Answer 1


When you write

I own a GitHub organization in which I licensed the projects

you are mistaken. In most legal systems there is more to creating a body with legal personhood, to which licences can be assigned and which can exercise those licences, than simply making up a cool name. You don't necessarily need to register a limited-liability company; your local jurisdiction is likely to have rules for creating other kinds of body.

But until you've followed them, the project, and any property (tangible or intangible) assigned to it, are in fact owned by you. Your CLA should reflect that by simply listing you (full name, address) as the entity with whom contributors are making an agreement.

Edit in response to comments: if your address changes, you should update it on your CLA for new signers, but you haven't changed identity: the intention of those who signed the CLA with your old address on was still to make an agreement with you, so those won't need to be revisited.

You also ask

Does this mean I ... personally own the code other people contribute to my organisation

No. A well-written CLA merely clarifies the terms under which contributors make their contributions; some also permit re-licensing. If your CLA actually assigned ownership of the copyrights, it would be a Copyright Transfer Agreement rather than a Contributor Licensing Agreement. There is some evidence that CTAs are an even bigger turn-off for contributors than CLAs (full disclosure: I wrote the linked article).

Incidentally, you should probably try to pick a more open-source-friendly template than Microsoft's CLA.

  • Does this mean I own all the organization's projects, and if the CLA says so - I personally own the code other people contribute to my organisation? Commented Apr 9, 2020 at 9:38
  • And what happens if my address changes? Does that make the agreement void? Do I have to update the agreement and have all the previous contributors sign it again? Commented Apr 9, 2020 at 9:53

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