17

There are two issues here: Managing copyright and licensing of the company's contributions in a legally rigorous way, including corporate agreement to the project's CLA, if any. The use of a single company account to interact with the project, used by multiple employees. Copyright ownership of the code is completely separate from the display name of the ...


16

This is a legitimate issue that's come up various times in the past on various open source projects. The way it's typically handled is by not accepting external contributions into your repository unless they sign an agreement either transferring their copyright interest to you or, at the very least, explicitly waiving their right to disagree with your ...


15

Harmony Agreements explain the differences quite well. Essentially, the difference is that with a CLA the contributor retains the copyright; with a CTA the organisation becomes the copyright holder. A CLA such as this one includes a permanent, irrevocable, free (gratis) license grant to the organisation so that they can always use the code you provide them....


14

What is it for? Many companies that open source their code want to keep control over the software. The CLA helps for that. Also it can be used for some legal issues. Usually it demands, that you guarantee you violate no rights of others if you contribute to the project and that you transfer the rights to the project-owner, while you get the guarantee your ...


13

We have run into this problem in libpng. We addressed it by putting any contributions that insist on keeping their own copyright, or are under a different open source license, into a "contrib" directory, which has its own README.txt: This "contrib" directory contains contributions which are not necessarily under the libpng license, although all are ...


12

Licenses only matter if there is a conflict between programmers. If programmers don't get in any conflict or dispute, then you can be as informal as you want and everything will go fine. According to The Federalist, "If men were angels, no government would be necessary." But men aren't angels, and that's why licenses exist (to serve as the "law" that guides ...


12

This depends in part on what the CLA requires, but it may be possible. Do you have the ability to reuse the submission at all? In general, it's understood that contributions to an open source project are offered under the same license as the project at large. In particular, the text of Apache License 2.0 makes this explicit: Submission of ...


11

No. Just no. Firstly, this has nothing to do with a CoC. If it was possible for developers to de-license code after release last month, then it's possible this month; if it wasn't possible last month, then it isn't possible this month. I'd argue, at least in my home jurisdiction of England and Wales, that it's not possible, because of promissory estoppel, ...


10

Some GPL projects require explicit copyright assignment, not merely licensing, of contributions. Copyright assignment is a bigger deal that licensing, and perhaps can't be arranged by an Apache style 'if you contribute it you are X'ing it' clause, where Apache fills in 'license' for X and a hypothetical alternative fills in 'assign'. According to the Why ...


10

The software would still be free even if every single contributor withheld their copyright. Copyright assignments and CLAs are mechanisms that make certain legal operations easier, like enforcement or relicensing. They are not fundamental to free or open source software. Consider if the project maintainer had found a compatibly-licensed piece of code and ...


10

Many projects do this, typically with the help of a CLA (Contributor License Agreement). Possible reasons for doing this (there might be more): The project owner can change the license without having to ask every contributor for permission. This includes multi-licensing. And it would even be possible to make it proprietary. The project owner can legally ...


9

A contributor license agreement can do several things: A CLA can require contributors to transfer copyright of all contributions to the legal entity (person or corporation) responsible for your project. For example, the GNU project requires all contributions to have the copyrights transferred to the FSF. Without this provision, you cannot enforce copyright ...


9

This is indeed a better position to be in. Copyright assignment means you lose all your rights. You no longer own the work in the eyes of the law and have no legal force over it; Canonical instead owns it and can do as they wish with it. The Harmony CLA states (ยง 2.1.a): You retain ownership of the Copyright and Patent Claims in your Contributions and ...


8

There seem to be two separate questions here: must Copyright Assignment Agreements be physically signed and if not, will an implicit agreement suffice? Firstly, in jurisdictions with the legal framework for recognising digital signatures - which is at least the US and EU - there appears to be nothing peculiar to a CAA that requires physical paper and ...


8

This situation is one major strong point in comparison to closed source software. While nobody can claim the copyright anymore and therefore the license must be kept unchanged, the software can still be maintained and developed, as this is one basic right gained through open source. It may even happen the same developers work on it. It isn't exactly the ...


8

That's not true that a public domain dedication won't protect you, for instance the Unlicense is a public domain dedication but still includes a limitation of warranty. In GitHub's choosealicense.com list of suggested licenses, this is the only license that is more permissive than MIT. The only difference with MIT is that no attribution is required (people ...


8

Of course not. A CLA says (paraphrased) "code I write belongs to you". Employment contracts say (either explicitly or implicitly) "code I write belongs to you". No problem there. (What might be a problem is having a CLA with Company A and then going to work for Company B in the same field. But there would be ways to sort it out).


8

(a) if I am correct about GPL's original "motivation" No you are not correct about the motivation for creating the GPL. To quote Richard Stallman, the father of the GPL license: My work on free software is motivated by an idealistic goal: spreading freedom and cooperation. I want to encourage free software to spread, replacing proprietary ...


7

Update, based on new Terms of Service: If a GitHub repository specifies a license, that's the default license for contributions. Here's Section D.6 from GitHub's current Terms of Service: 6. Contributions Under Repository License Whenever you make a contribution to a repository containing notice of a license, you license your contribution under the same ...


7

This is best answered by people who distribute a software under MIT license and require their contributors to sign a CLA. For instance, Github Inc. distributes linguist under MIT but still requires contributors to sign a CLA. They give their reasons here: https://cla.github.com/ How does a CLA protect a project? If the owner of a contribution decides that ...


7

"inbound=outbound" might not require any extra procedures. If a someone contributes to a project that is clearly under some license, you can assume in good faith that they have the right to publish this contribution and that they implicitly agree to the license. To remove any question of doubt for projects on their platform, the GitHub terms of service ...


7

Meanwhile the Software Freedom Conservancy published a statement which explains it quite well https://sfconservancy.org/news/2018/sep/26/GPLv2-irrevocability/ The answer is: no. As a summary: By contributing to the Kernel you agreed to the license: "by modifying or distributing the Program (or any work based on the Program), you indicate your acceptance of ...


7

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 ...


7

The author of a work and the copyright holder of the work don't need to be the same entity. An example of this is music - a song is written by an artist, but the copyright on it may be held by a distributor. We still credit the artist with creating the song. When an employee writes code as work for hire, the employee is still frequently recognized as the ...


6

In other words: What should I point out in my CLA? Do I need any other contract with the contributor? What are the typical pitfalls to watch out for? In order to offer both licenses, you would need to be and stay the primary or sole copyright holder. You would effectively need a CLA where contributors grant you enough rights to relicense using both licenses ...


6

You need to ask the maintainers of the project you want to contribute to what exactly they expect from you. Different organizations have different standards regarding what they consider a legally binding agreement to a CLA. It can range from writing "I am OK with that" on an IRC channel to printing out the CLA, hand-signing it and sending it by snail mail.


6

The signed-off line does not indicate the author but who authorized the commit to enter the project's repository. It has primarily nothing to do with who committed or pushed the commit. Commonly it's used to indicate who did the review (that doesn't mean being the author, just the person who allows the commit to enter the repo or endorse the pull request.) ...


5

From Opensource FAQ:- For more about contributor agreements in general, and some examples, see civiccommons.org/Contributor_Agreements. See also the Project Harmony, "...a community-centered group focused on contributor agreements for free and open source software (FOSS)." At How to Accept Code and Documentation Contributions Legally you can find CLA ...


5

The first option is possible, but with a risk. The risk is, one of the old contributors you couldn't find anymore (or his inheritor) comes out of the hiding and sues the project for violating his copyrights. If you assume this risk is small you could proceed with option 1. Option 2 and 3 are obviously less risky and probably preferable though. EDIT: As ...


5

You could charge the paying customers a small extra fee of a few percent for open source development. You can argument that without the community and their contributions the software would not exist in the current state and you want to pay back all the effort being put in. And while one user maybe can't afford to spend thousand dollars to get a feature ...


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