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From Sander van der Waal <>
Subject IP Clearance - transferral or licensing of copyright ownership?
Date Wed, 21 Sep 2011 09:27:53 GMT
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 

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? 

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 

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]. 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.

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". 

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.



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