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From Scott Wilson <>
Subject Re: IP Clearance - transferral or licensing of copyright ownership?
Date Thu, 22 Sep 2011 10:36:51 GMT

On 22 Sep 2011, at 11:20, Robert Burrell Donkin wrote:

> Hi Sander
> I'm glad you asked these questions here: asking well researched
> questions is the best way to improve our process and documentation
> but just for the record, the legal-discuss list[1] is the right place
> for projects to ask almost all questions about copyright (being
> public, it's not appropriate for some sensitive issues)
> On Wed, Sep 21, 2011 at 10:27 AM, Sander van der Waal
> <> wrote:
>> I'm trying to get my head around the IP clearance process and
>> specifically about what happens to the copyright ownership during that
>> process. Although IP clearance gets discussed once in a while on this
>> list I couldn't find a clear answer in the archives on this specific
>> point.
> In general Apache prefers to license with no change copyright ownership.
>> When a project with a pre-existing code base joins the incubator, does
>> the copyright of that code base get transferred to the ASF or will it be
>> licensed to the ASF?
> Almost always through a license
>> Reading through the IP clearance guide [1], it mentions the Software
>> Grant Agreement (SGA) and going to the text [2] it states that it is a
>> License Agreement to grant a license to the ASF. Also the CCLA [3] and
>> the ICLA [4] are license agreements. I interpret that to mean that the
>> copyright ownership remains with the licensor and only a license is
>> granted.
> That is my understanding
> IMHO an explicit explanation of these point would improve the
> documentation. It'd be great if someone contributed an improved
> version :-)
>> On the other hand, the ASF general FAQ states that the copyright of ASF
>> projects is owned by the ASF, more specifically "The members own the
>> code" [5].
> It is the collective copyright that is owned by Apache
> Projects are composed by a selection process undertaken by the PMC
> from a variety of contributions. Each contributor owns the copyright
> in their patch but the creative act of composition entitles Apache to
> claim collective copyright for the final work. This collective
> copyright claim is noted in the NOTICE. The header for each document
> should acknowledge that Apache has licensed (from the original
> contributions) the rights required to offer the document to the public
> under the Apache License, Version 2 but almost always will not contain
> a copyright claim.
> If the documentation is missing this explanation then it'd be great if
> someone contributed an improved version :-)

This is a really good explanation - thanks Robert!  I'd been wondering the same thing as Sander.

>> Also the IP Clearance template [6] has a check that says
>> "Check and make sure that the papers that transfer rights to the ASF
>> been received." But it seems that the SGA and *CLAs are just license
>> agreements and don't include a transferral of rights? I must be missing
>> something obvious here but I'm not sure what.
> Copyright licenses grants the licensee rights otherwise restricted by
> copyright law. "Transfer" might be taken to mean "exclusive" so
> "assign" would be a better choice.
> But this could be phrased more more clearly and explained explicitly.
> It'd be great if someone contributed an improved version :-)
>> Going through a few NOTICE files of projects doesn't really make it
>> clearer, because some only specify the ASF as copyright owner and others
>> specify in general terms that it "includes software [originally]
>> developed at X".
> The standard NOTICE should include note both the collective copyright
> and that Apache developed the software
>> I know copyright ownership might not be a big deal to many here, but we
>> are dealing with many open source projects where the project lead has
>> a very strong sense of ownership over the code. Besides educating them
>> about the issues I want to make sure I get the facts right.
> Thanks for taking the time to frame good questions :-)
> The documentation here in the Incubator is developed by the community
> for the community. The best podlings change the Incubator more than
> the Incubation process changes them. Karma is earned here at Apache
> through contribution.
> The documentation needs improvement in this area. I'd be glad to
> review patches and work with anyone would could find some cycles to
> contribute. Anyone want to start by diving in with suggestions?
> Robert
> [1]
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